I have to preface these comments by saying I grew up very near this hotel, and have many ancient memories of fishing in its "trout ponds" in the back of the property; this nostalgia was our reason for choosing to stay here, not its touted proximity to Universal Studios. The ponds were a series of little pools maybe six inches deep teeming with ravenous fish; for a fee you would rent a "fishing pole" (a stick of bamboo with a bit of monofilament attached and a hook), the attendant would bait it with what we thought was a lump of snot (actually it was liverwurst) and you the doughty fisherman plunked it into the water -- and WHAM, you got a strike in about three tenths of a second. It was very exciting for a little kid in 1962, I can tell you that, especially one who had never seen much outside of Studio City. The attendant would then unhook the fish, which the hotel's restaurant would gut and cook for you if you liked, or wrap it up to take home.
I didn't know it back then, but apparently the place had a reputation as a "star's hang-out" where the likes of John Wayne or Clark Gable would go to get away from the glare of the bright lights and the crowds. How a place could be famous for being discreet is rather a mystery, in fact it was probably mostly PR blather, but so was/is most of Hollywood's fame.
Well, John Wayne and the trout are long gone of course (apparently the big earthquake in '71 did in the trout ponds; unfiltered cigarettes, the Duke) and though there are still "ponds" out in back, they're just ornamental additions to the paths, bridges, gazebos and other decor designed for wedding parties to use. Indeed, there was a huge wedding while we were there (more on this, below) since half the hotel complex is devoted to auditoriums, dining rooms and other areas for big social functions.
The grounds are nicely laid out, if a bit on the twee side, and there is a huge old Olympic pool which was seeing use even though it was October and not exactly sunny out. There are two buildings to the hotel, the old "original" two story wing (I use the quotes because it wasn't the first hotel built on this site, but it's the oldest standing) and the newer tower. We were housed in the tower, which I thought was remarkably unexceptional.
In fact, it was noisy. At least four or five toilets and showers were quite audible from our room, everybody along the huge corridor let their doors close with a disconcerting SLAM, footsteps came and went outside & overhead, and then the people in the adjacent room started, by the sounds of it, to remove the wallpaper by rubbing it off with huge pieces of broken furniture. I was literally poised to pound on the wall or call the management once or twice, and the noises stopped just before I did ... and then started up fifteen minutes later. It was so odd my wife and I couldn't help looking at each other and laughing. Then it all stopped exactly at 10 pm, and we slept well enough when we turned in a bit later, but it sure was weird.
The next evening, a bagpiper suddenly started honking and squawking outside (murdering, of all tunes, "Danny Boy"!) followed by a very enthusiastic and well-amplified Latino preacher sanctifying at great length the vows between some happy couple ... followed by a mariachi orchestra belting out a lively medley of Mexican folk tunes. Our sliding glass door and curtains were shut, and yet it was like we were a part of the show. There must have been a break for chow, but soon came the disco dancing! Thumpa-thumpa-thumpthumpthump, right through the floors and the walls.
Again, it all shut down by the time we went to bed, but whoosh, what a hot spot.
Check-in and check-out were very easy, and the staff was quite professional. The big restaurant provides an extensive room service menu, if you like that kind of thing, and there is also a breakfast/lunch café that looked OK though we didn't eat there. Besides the "old Hollywood" thing the place does have a pleasing kind of retro feel to it, and I am glad to say I have finally stayed there after visiting it for over 50 years. But I don't feel particularly drawn to return now that I dunnit.
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- Also Known As:
- Sportsmen`s Hotel Los Angeles
- Sportsmens Hotel Los Angeles