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May 15, 2012

The Beverly Hills Hotel Centennial

By Marnie Hanel | Hotel

The Beverly Hills Hotel Centennial
Courtesy “The Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows - The First 100 Years” by Robert S. Anderson, Official Historian for The Beverly Hills Hotel, publication date May 2012.

This week marks the centennial of The Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows. To celebrate the occasion, Robert S. Anderson, the hotel’s official historian, is releasing a 396-page biography of the hotel titled The Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows: The First 100 Years ($100). Anderson is the great-grandson of the hotel’s original owner, Margaret Anderson, and his unique perspective results in a stunning compendium of images and anecdotes.

The history of The Beverly Hills Hotel is the history of Beverly Hills itself. The resort opened in 1912; the city was founded in 1914. “Beverly Hills was built around the hotel,” says Anderson. “Only about 75 people lived on property and they needed 550 inhabitants to become a city, so [railroad magnate] Henry Huntington had his railroad crew camp out.” In 1926, Will Rogers was named the city’s honorary mayor, and the comedian cheekily accepted his new position on the front lawn of the hotel. “During his inauguration, Rogers said that Beverly Hills would do well because there are two swimming pools to every Bible,” says Anderson. “That comment got him thousands of letters addressed to ‘Will Rogers, Beverly Hills.’ That embarrassed the government into giving us our own post office.” 

Anderson’s book captures other moments, too. Marlene Dietrich smokes a cigarette in the Polo Lounge. Marilyn Monroe reclines in a swimsuit on the lawn. Faye Dunaway poses poolside with her Oscar for Network (1976). If Old Hollywood had a clubhouse, the “Pink Palace” would be it—and that was true even before it was painted pink. (Designer Paul Williams, creator of the hotel’s iconic logo, introduced the color in 1948.) The transformation of Beverly Hills from barren desert to lush Xanadu is a running theme in the book, and Anderson’s favorite image out of the 540 he curated captures that metamorphosis. “It’s a photograph looking west,” he says. “Where the swimming pool is today, there’s a tennis court. The landscape is bare and the grounds are filled with scrub brush. You can see the ocean.” BeverlyHillsCollection.com.