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Coordinates: 34°03′35″N 118°17′50″W / 34.059646°N 118.297101°W / 34.059646; -118.297101 The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California was a landmark hotel and location of the Cocoanut Grove nightclub until demolished in 2005. The hotel was the site of the June 1968 assassination of presidential candidate, United States Senator and former U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

The Ambassador Hotel in 2004

Contents

Background

The Ambassador Hotel formally opened on January 1, 1921, and was located at 3400 Wilshire Boulevard, between Catalina Street and Mariposa Avenue, in the center of Los Angeles' Mid-Wilshire District. Designed by Pasadena architect Myron Hunt, the Ambassador Hotel was frequented by Hollywood personalities and luminaries of the world, with some taking up residence. From 1930 to 1943, six Academy Awards ceremonies were held at the hotel. Perhaps as many as seven U.S. Presidents stayed at The Ambassador Hotel, from Hoover to Nixon, along with heads of state from around the world. For decades, the hotel's famed Cocoanut Grove nightclub hosted the biggest names in entertainment, such as Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Liza Minnelli, Martin and Lewis, The Supremes, Merv Griffin, Dorothy Dandridge, Evelyn Knight, Perry Como, and Richard Pryor.

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1920s

During the Roaring 20s the Ambassador Hotel's Cocoanut Grove nightclub was the hotspot for people like Louis B. Mayer, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Howard Hughes, Clara Bow, Rudolph Valentino, Gloria Swanson, Anna May Wong, and others. It's been said that Joan Crawford would go there once a week and dance the Charleston, where she allegedly won 100 dance contests.

1930s

The 1930s saw the Ambassador Hotel's Cocoanut Grove as a splashy playground for such film legends as Norma Shearer, Errol Flynn, Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart ,Marlene Dietrich, Lana Turner, Gary Cooper, Loretta Young, and countless others. On February 29, 1940, the 1939 Academy Awards Ceremony took place in the Cocoanut Grove, with Bob Hope hosting.

1940s

The 1940s opened with World War II and the Ambassador Hotel did its part in the War Effort by hosting gala fundraisers within the Cocoanut Grove and when the war came to an end, the Cocoanut Grove became a retreat for servicemen, servicewomen, and many movie stars. In 1944, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association held the first annual Golden Globes ceremonies here.

The RFK shooting

In the pantry area of the hotel's main kitchen, shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968 and following a short victory speech in the Embassy Room ballroom of The Ambassador Hotel, the winner of the California Democratic presidential primary election, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was shot along with five other persons. Palestinian immigrant Sirhan Sirhan was arrested at the scene and later convicted of the murder. Kennedy died one day later from his injuries, while the other victims survived their wounds. During the demolition of The Ambassador Hotel in late 2005 and early 2006, portions of the area where the 1968 shooting took place were set aside and removed from the site. The portion of Wilshire Boulevard in front of the hotel has been signed the "Robert F. Kennedy Parkway"

After the death of RFK

The death of Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) coincided with the beginning of the hotel's demise, hastened by the decline of the surrounding neighborhood. By the 1970s, the gang and drug problems in the area near the hotel were already becoming severe, and worsened as time went on. Despite a renovation of the Cocoanut Grove in the mid-1970s, under the creative control of Sammy Davis, Jr., the hotel was unable to return to its former splendor, and was closed in 1989 to guests, but remained open for filming and private events.

Filming at the hotel

The hotel was a frequent site of movie, music video and television filming, having served as a location for such films and television shows as The Graduate, Pretty Woman, Apollo 13, Hoffa, Beaches, True Romance, Angel, Beverly Hills 90210', Scream 2, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Catch Me If You Can, Crazy, The Mask, Without You I'm Nothing, Forrest Gump, Crazy in Alabama, S.W.A.T., The Best Man, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Emilio Estevez's movie Bobby managed to film there in late 2005, even as the adjoining wing was being demolished. The Ambassador Hotel's Cocoanut Grove also played host to rock legend Roy Orbison and several rock performers in the 1987 TV special Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night. The Cocoanut Grove was recreated in the 2004 film The Aviator, but was not filmed on the hotel property. Several scenes from Disney's made-for-TV movie Tower of Terror were also filmed at the hotel.

Decision to demolish

From 2004 to 2005, The Ambassador Hotel was totally closed and became the focus of a battle between the Los Angeles Unified School District, who wanted to clear the site and build a school; Sirhan Sirhan, who, through his lawyer the late Lawrence Teeter, wanted to conduct more testing in the pantry where Robert F. Kennedy was shot; and preservationists (the Los Angeles Conservancy and the Art Deco Society), which wanted the hotel and its various elements saved and integrated into the future school.

Following much litigation, a settlement was reached at the end of August 2005, allowing the demolition to go forward in exchange for the establishment of a $4.9 million fund, earmarked for saving historic school buildings in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The demolition

On September 10, 2005, a final public auction was held for the remaining hotel fittings and work soon began on demolition of The Ambassador Hotel. On January 16, 2006, the last section of The Ambassador Hotel fell, with most of the demolition taking place in 2005, leaving only the annex that housed the hotel entrance, a shopping arcade, the coffee shop, and the Cocoanut Grove, all of which were promised to be preserved in some manner and used in the new school. A wake attended by hundreds was held for The Ambassador Hotel on February 2, 2006 at the Gaylord Apartments and adjoining restaurant H.M.S. Bounty [1], both part of a historic building built in 1924, directly across the street from the Ambassador; Diane Keaton, who was one of many who fought for the preservation of the hotel, was among the speakers at the ceremony.

Cocoanut Grove preservation

The Cocoanut Grove nightclub has been renovated a number of times before, destroying much of its architectural integrity, and it was promised that it would undergo yet another major transformation before emerging as the auditorium for the new school. Also promised was preservation of the attached ground floor coffee shop, designed by noted architect, Paul Williams.

Due to recent claims of poor structural integrity, however, the LAUSD is now planning to demolish most of the Grove, although the hotel entrance and east wall of the Grove are expected to be retained.

2006 – 2010

LAUSD plans to build Central Los Angeles New Learning Center #1 K-3 [1] and Central Los Angeles New Learning Center #1 4–8/HS [2]. LAUSD plans to open the K–3 facility in 2009 and the 4–8 and high school facility in 2010. The north side of the new school will suggest the original facade of the hotel and north lawns will remain much the same, as seen from Wilshire Boulevard.

The Los Angeles New Learning Center opened to students on September 9, 2009.

Preceded by
Biltmore Hotel
Los Angeles
Venues of Oscars
1943
Succeeded by
Grauman’s Chinese Theater
Los Angeles

See also

References

External links


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