By Elisa Jordan
Say the words “Old Hollywood” and the images that come to mind are sultry women, well-heeled men, smoky restaurants and swanky cocktail lounges. Los Angeles has always catered to the rich, famous and glamorous but for those who want an authentic Old Hollywood experience, there are still several places that date back to the Golden Era (sans the cigarettes). These places are still as elegant as when they opened and remain popular because of their cocktails, décor, service—and privacy. Many establishments will ask guests to leave at the first sign of a camera so an evening out will be strictly paparazzi-free. Step foot into any one of these old-school operations and you might swear you see Clark Gable or Walt Disney out of the corner of your eye.
The Polo Lounge at The Beverly Hills Hotel
The Beverly Hills Hotel is so entrenched in Beverly Hills culture and history that the city built up around the hotel, not the other way around. The hotel opened its doors in 1912, when the area was still primarily lima bean fields. The theory behind the new resort was simple: superior accommodations, quality service and high-end food and drinks would attract a following regardless of the location.
This proved correct and soon moneyed guests began making their way to the hotel. By 1914, the city of Beverly Hills was incorporated. In 1919, the king and queen of the movies, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, purchased a lodge above the hotel and established Pickfair, the first movie star estate. Following their lead, the Hollywood elite flooded to Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Hotel became a focal point of the new community.
The hotel currently remains firmly at the center of Beverly Hills society and its Polo Lounge has long been viewed as a premiere venue for meals, cocktails and closing million-dollar deals. The Polo Lounge caters to all kinds of culinary desires, include regular meal times, afternoon tea, jazz brunches and, of course, a full bar.
Chateau Marmont first opened in 1929 with the intention of serving a glamorous community as an upscale apartment building. The Stock Market crash later that year brought those plans to an abrupt end when the nation plunged into the Great Depression.
Instead, the Chateau (as locals call it) became a luxury hotel. Because the rooms were designed for long-term stays, kitchens, restaurants and bars were all at guests’ disposal. Those amenities, coupled with a famously discrete staff, catered to the very wealthy and very famous, who soon learned they could easily hide within the Normandy- style walls without the prying eyes of the media.
During Hollywood’s Golden Era, Columbia Pictures’ studio head Harry Cohn reportedly told his actors, “If you’re going to get into trouble, do it at the Chateau.” Countless celebrities over the decades have followed that very sound advice. To this day, Chateau Marmont is a prime location for intimate meals and high-end cocktails.
The Tam O’Shanter
The Tam O’Shanter was opened in 1922 by Lawrence Frank and Walter Van de Kamp, founders of Lowry’s and Van de Kamp’s Holland Dutch Bakeries. (The Tam O’Shanter is still family owned.) The original building was designed by Harry Oliver in the Storybook style, a whimsical type of architecture reminiscent of cottages found in fairy tales.
The interior is equally fantastical inside with its English and Scottish décor, such as flags, medieval crests and coats of arms. In the early years of Hollywood, this section of Los Angeles was home to several studios, including Vitagraph, the Mack Sennett Studios (home of the Keystone Cops) and the up-and-coming Disney Studios.
Walt Disney and his animators were such frequent guests that some joked Tam O’Shanter was the studio commissary. Many believe the restaurant’s design had a significant aesthetic influence on much of his work, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Table 31 is said to be Walt’s favorite spot and guests can request it but it’s a good idea to ask in advance when making a reservation to ensure its availability. In addition to its rich and ongoing Hollywood history, the high-end pub is known for its prime rib, full bar and C.C. Brown’s Hot Fudge.
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