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New Yorker looks at LA's Ambassador
While we are madly in love with LA, we do have a little crush on New York. So when this week’s copy of the New Yorker arrived, we were thrilled to find a piece by Dana Goodyear on LA’s own Ambassador Hotel and one of its pioneering architects, Paul R.Williams. The hotel, which closed in 1989, has been the subject of a massive financial, cultural and ethical tug-of-war between the LAUSD, who own the land and plan to raze it to build a school, and a number of preservationists, most notably LA Conservancy, who want to have the historic site saved and restored.
The Ambassador’s history reaches back to its splashy 1921 debut in the burgeoning LA society. A who’s who of Hollywoodland’s brightest stars danced under the palm trees of the Cocoanut Grove, Academy Awards were handed out in a half-dozen ceremonies in the Ballroom, it’s where Mrs. Robinson seduced a certain Graduate, and, in 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated there by Sirhan Sirhan. More recently, a number of the 500 rooms and empty halls have been used for filming shows like Six Feet Under, earning the hotel the nickname The Ambassador Studios.
The LAUSD, who bought the site at 3400 Wilshire Boulevard in 2001, have plans to tear the building down in order to build a state-of-the-art school to accommodate up to 4000 local kids. In addition to the $76.5 million pricetag on the property, the school board has spent over $100 million fighting for the land, right on the hot heels of the Belmont fiasco.
Last fall the Kennedy family broke their silence and spoke up in favor of the LAUSD, claiming there was no need to save the site of RFK's death, and that the slain politician would have been in favor of the best interest of the neighborhood's disadvantaged kids. But preservationists and assassination buffs bit back, claiming that the land should be declared a historical landmark, and that the infamous pantry should be saved as a crime scene. But this week's New Yorker article opens up a new angle: contributing designer Williams' role as one of the first African-American designers in LA, whose signature touch added undeniable class to the site's coffee shop, Embassy Ballroom and bungalows.
While many hope that an enormous new school facility will be a beacon on the blighted landscape by 2007, many others, most notably LA Conservancy big-name board member Diane Keaton and her team of preservation advocates, hope the site will have its chance to stand and be restored to its original glory. Meanwhile, the once grande dame of Hollywood's golden age sits, decades in decay, awaiting its fate.