Monday, June 09, 2008
memories - ambassador hotel

The Ambassador Hotel here in Los Angeles holds a lot of memories for me. For one, I spent my 16th Birthday there in the famed Cocoanut Grove.Here we are below....This is a picture taken that very night....61 years ago.....! (How could it be? My Lordy.....that is a long time ago)
My mother, me, and my sister Gene....I know I have said many times that the movies saved my life....Why? Well, I could go into this darkened theatre and be transported to places that were beautiful and romantic and not my life. The movies allowed me to 'dream' and lose myself in this make-believe world. The Cocoanut Grove was part of that escape into another world. So celebrating my 16th Birthday there was like a dream come true for me, having fantasized about Hollywood and these very famous places like The Cocoanut Grove from the time I was probably eight or nine years old, when reading my beloved Movie Magazines---Modern Screen & Photoplay, etc.......


NOTE: Further down in this post there may be something that some people may find objectionable....I hope not, but, forewarned is forewarmed....

And many many MANY years later, I spent a good six years---give or take---belonging to the Ambassador Health & Tennis Club. But it wasn't the Tennis that attracted me...it was the Glorious Pool....! But back in 1947...well, it was the first time I ever came to Los Angeles.
We spent the whole summer here and funnily enough I took Tennis lessons that summer. But not at The Ambassador...No, it was at The Beverly Hills Hotel, with an Olympic Champion named Harvey Snodgrass who was 'the pro' at the Beverly Hills Hotel at that time......Anyway, The Cocoanut Grove was an iconic place, even back in those days....And as the years went on, after I moved her permanently in 1961, I saw quite a few fantastic performers there. Barbra Streisand, back in 1964 I think it was---that was something to behold....And Leslie Uggums, who was terrific too, among others. I recall the Ambassador had an Arcade on the lower level....what would be called The Basement, in a house....there was a Barbara Shop there, and a little Post Office, and a small Drug and Sundry Store and quite a few fancy clothing stores and a rather large Men's Room....more about that later....

It reminded me of The Arcade at the old Nautilus Hotel in Miami Beach
which was just down the road from our house there on North Bay Road.....I used to go to that Arcade to buy Juicy Fruit Gum and Comic Books and such....There was a similar "gift" shop in the Arcade at The Ambassador, too.....Newspapers, Candy, Gum, etc....plus little essentials that one might need when on a trip....


My dear friend Hanna, who just died, belonged to The Ambassador Health and Tennis Club, having joined around 1980-81. She was always inviting me to come down and swim.....I was always too busy, working on different projects....mostly my plays and shows of my paintings....!
But she kept after me and finally, one day, I decided in order to get her off my back about it and to shut her up telling me about how wonderful it was all the time, that I would go! All I had to do was bring my bathing suit. Well, she was right! She was more than right! It was absolutely wonderful....it was soooo fantastic that I joined the Club that day. This was a true Oasis in the middle of the city with one of THE Great pools, ever! Hanna was a member and her dear friend and mine too, Norma Connolly belonged, as well, plus these two lovely gentleman who were good friends of both Hanna and Norma. The guys had a Cabana which they had really fixed up and "decorated" with a kind of jungle wall paper....It was really fun....Here is a not very good picture of their Cabana, below. That's me and a man who's name I cannot remember...He was kind of a regular pool goer after a few years.....(I must say, none of the women liked him...lol.) You can kind of see the Jungle Wall paper....We had a lot of celebrations there at The Pool....Many Birthday Party's and July 4th gatherings, Labor Day, etc....it really was a fabulous place and I was never in better shape than during those years I belonged to The Pool, and I swam two miles a day, every day I could..... There we are.....Hanna and me! It was a Birthday of mine and her good friends Rojica and Ralph had come down to join us all in celebration....!

Ahhhhh to be 52 again.......Indeed, I turned 52 that year.....1983. I must admit I felt about 32, if I felt anything......We had so very many good times there....That's Hanna, in the pool, and Charley Berliner, residing in the lounge chair. By this time he had joined the pool, too. And had moved his offices into the Arcade of The Hotel. Here below are two really sweet pictures of Hanna and me. And this second one, taken almost at the same time..... When I think of all the wonderful times we all had there at the pool...I am so grateful to Hanna for keeping after me about coming down as her guest. Little did I know how really important this place would become to me, especially health wise....As I said, I had never been in such great shape nor felt better, too.Here above is darling Hanna with her dear Hungarian friend Rojica....Both are gone now. Hard to believe when you look at these pictures and see how alive and vital they both look! Here below is Hanna with 'the guys'.... Hanna, next to Bob...(He is gone now, too....) and in the background in sun glasses, Bob's partner, Sanford, and then Charley Berliner....As you can probably tell, there was a huge social aspect to our time at The Pool...and that was lovely, too..... Above, Hanna with Bob. They adored one another and he was one of the dearest men I've ever known. When he died, Hanna was inconsolable.....He had been like a rock for her in financial matters and in so very many other ways, too. A really great great friend to her. I believe this was my Birthday Cake.....And you can kind of see that Jungle Wall Paper in this picture above....The guys were so very generous and inclusive, too.....I remember being truly surprised that their Cabana was all decorated for my Birthday....It was very very sweet. Yes! It was definitely my Birthday Cake....! As I said, it was a lot of fun there at The Ambassador Health & Tennis Club.....Below, a cute picture of Charley and me.... Charley is an incredibly talented Set & Costume Designer...And we, in the past, have worked together on a couple of major projects. He designed the sets for two of my plays, "Nobody Safe Here" and 7 years later, "The Dressing Room".....Below, a sweet picture of Hanna with Sanford.... It is still so sad to think that Hanna is gone now, and sad too, that The Ambassador Hotel is no more. Torn down. Over. Kaput. The day the Pool Closed was a truly sad day for us all. And none of us ever found another place that could replace it. There just wasn't anything quite like it! And I looked, really hard! The swimming had been so very important to me and my 'well being'.....but there was nothing that could even come close to it. I did join a pool, but....it wasn't the same in any way, shape, or form. Even the size of that Ambassador Pool was not to be found. A sad sad end to one of the Great Hotels in Los Angeles...and maybe, the World. So much History.....Here above a picture of the 'tear down'.....This could make you burst into tears, couldn't it? After the demise of this once great Hotel was announced, we all were truly depressed by this incredible news. And one day, soon after that public announcement, Charley had been in the Men's Room there in the Arcade, and he said that I had to come see what someone had written on one of the tiles inside one of the stalls. He said, "Bring your camera..!" He stood guard while I went in and took this picture...I hope no one is offended by this....I actually thought it was quite poetic and a great tribute to a certain aspect of the Hotel that many of us no doubt never ever even thought about or considered.....It was obviously a great meeting place for one and all! Another view above of the terrible terrible end to a once very great establishment......So, let's see another shot or two or three, in better days, before I close out this post.......
The sign there in back of me......I took that sign home the last day the pool was open....I just wanted to have something that was a lovely reminder of those wonderful fun years at The Ambassador......



More To Come.......

















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46 Comments:
had this to say:

I really love these picures and feel like I'm in Old Hollywood. You are lucky to have taken and kept all of these pictures and I want to thank you for sharing them with us. And you looked great in the swimsuits!

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 1:05:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

That hotel and pool sounds like it was such a wonderful place, I can't think why they would tear it down! Your post tells me of such wonderful times spent with friends and I understand also the sadness that tinges this post. I can imagine the happy memories and mixed feelings looking at these photos brings. The pool may be gone but the memories and friendships were far more enduring.

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 2:12:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What lovely memories you have. I am still having a nosey through your archived posts - and love all the photos and stories you are sharing!

P.S. thanks for visiting my blog and for your great comments. I love hearing from you.

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 4:18:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

as always great photo's and great memories!!!

I was lucky enough to get into the Hotel ! It was the site of a Trek convention that DeForest was doing and it was my first trip to California (before I moved there)!! Grand, grand hotel for sure!!!

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 5:03:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Your memories are so wonderful to read about. Thanks for writing - oh to be 52 again - that's MY age now and sometimes feels old.

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 5:55:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

You both look fantastic! I love this trip down Memory Lane! What a beautiful and historical hotel, and much of your own personal history is there as well. I love that you spent your 16th birthday there (was it THAT long ago??) and have the photo to prove it!

Even the jungle wallpaper in the Cabanas was charming. I'm so sorry that Hanna's no longer with you. I'm sure you have wonderful memories of your dear friend and the beautiful places you frequented...like the Ambassador Hotel.

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 6:14:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Great pictures and it is sad that our country doesn't value history. You think of what is in Europe and how those buildings become their treasures but here, it's tear it down and onto the next. We aren't gaining for it. Funny about early 50s because I feel the same way. Who knew it would be that good. As for the photo for which you felt concern it might be offensive. It was just depicting another side to what is on the surface. Nothing offensive to me.

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 6:40:00 AM PDT 

Blogger VV
had this to say:

Okay, can I officially say I hate you? You look better in a swimsuit at 52 than I look at 44. I've soooo got to take better care of my body. *sigh*

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 6:48:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What wonderful memories of years gone by. I think that when someone we love passes on that the best way to deal with the grief is to celebrate their life.

You have done that, dear Naomi, -- celebrating Hanna's life -- by sharing your memories and wonderful photos of your years of friendship with her.

Along the way, you have given us a taste of the Los Angeles you knew in the old days and for that I love stopping by your blog!

You always have something of interest and always photos that I rush over to see. Please keep them coming...

You were quite the bathing beauty then - and yes, swimming is the best exercise for keeping in good shape. Your photos prove that.

Dear Hanna is gone but through you, never forgotten.

Norma Connolly (played Ruby on General Hospital for years) is also gone (1998) - another truly wonderful actress with a distinguished acting career long before General Hospital came along.

Naomi, you truly have had great friends in your life.

Thank you for sharing their memories with us.

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 7:41:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Trying again - blogger is acting up!

Reading your post makes me feel like I am in the midst of Old Hollywood.

What a beautiful and wonderful place to hang out - and just be - and such wonderful friends to enjoy it with.

You were a real "hottie" in that bathing suit!!! :)

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 8:59:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I am so sorry that they've torn it down, Naomi. You are such a good historian! I love seeing all your photos and the writing on the wall is both poignant and coarse at the same time (I am not offended....LOL)

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 9:36:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

You sexy beast you!!

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 10:14:00 AM PDT 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

Hi, Naomi, sorry about your electric. We too lost some power, but because of bad electrical storm. but only for a short time, what really gives me fits around here is Digital telephone, and cable all in one packages, The satlites do not like electrical storms. I was going to pick on VV about the number (44) she used. But just realized Im the one confused. Best keep the trap shut, Again thank you for sharing your memories. Did my e-mail to you come across? Think today is a good day to be at work, it must be 95 with 99 percent humidity. Way to hot for these parts, This nasty hot usally is saved for late July or Early August. Is September here yet.?

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 10:32:00 AM PDT 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

Sorry, forgot to sign the comment
Pat from NY.

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 10:32:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi, The hotel was really beautiful and I know you must have loved it there. You were a real "dish" at the age of 52, what beautiful legs. It will be hard not having Hannah around any more but you have lots of good memories of her and your other friends.

Have a good week, Naomi!

PS: Thanks for your sweet comments about Missy. I know how you would feel if Sweetie were gone.

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 10:33:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

WOW! I love the pictures. THe cabana looks so great. I love the wallpaper. I love how everyone looks so happy. You do have such a fantastic body.

THanks for sharing your memories with us.

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 11:53:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

A lovely story again and you really bring it to life. I won't ask what you were doing in the boys' loos to get that naughty epitaph!

Some superb pictures (again!).

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 12:28:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Love so much this post, Naomi! How many lovely memories and nice photos! Really you looked beautiful in the swimsuits! And the hotel was really great!

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 3:49:00 PM PDT 

Anonymous Lyn M.
had this to say:

From candles in the dark to a shining light on yesteryear..How perfect and wonderful were those carefree times for you and your dear friend Hannah when the most important thing in life was simply living it and tomorrow was a hundred light years away. Buried in the ashes of this grand hotel are indelible memories and even the hand writing on the wall speaks to the past. I simply loved this post.

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 5:07:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Truly truly a lovely walk down memory lane and I agreed with you that once a building is torn down we could only hold on to the memories.

You have such a wealth of knowledge, beauty and memories Naomi and by reading your wonderful it seems as though I was 'transported' to that era celebrating your 16th Birthday :D

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 5:24:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I always love walking down your memory lane dear Naomi - how pretty you are = and looked great in your swimsuit!! Just fun to see all the pictures - and to know everyone loved the hotel for many, many reasons. :)

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 8:03:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Such a bittersweet entry. I wish things didn't have to change so much. The old things were so classic as compared to today's fare. You look very sexy, Naomi in so many of those shots.

Makes me want to go to the pool right now!

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 9:15:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Thank you for sharing about a hotel that I never even knew anything about. What a beautiful building that was, America just doesn't have the history that European countries do. It's a shame, really, it's not because we couldn't have, it's because we're always tearing down and building new instead of preserving and archiving the old.

Boy, swimsuits sure were modest, weren't they? You looked great in them! :)

I love swimming so much, if I had been a member there, I would have been devastated and angry by the loss of "my" pool. Love the tile, too, have to say it's great that you preserved something someone wrote in there on film, weird that the real thing is now gone.

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 9:28:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

My god you looked great at 52 - that's why you did this post hey, to show off your fab body? *heehee*

The tile writing made me laugh. True.

A great post. I bet you no one else has recorded the history of that Hotel in its 'prime' like you have. How trendy would that hotel be nowdays with its jungle wallpaper etc., Very retro indeed.

I'm sorry you lost Hanna but great you can share your memories of her with us.

Monday, June 9, 2008 at 11:10:00 PM PDT 

Blogger PI
had this to say:

You and Hanna can say - with truth 'Didn't we have fun?' They can't take that away from you.
When you were 16 did you get magazines with Deanna Durbin and all her gorgeous wardrobe? I did:)
As for the graffitti - Oscar Wilde would have been proud.
Thanks for sharing Naomi.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 4:52:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi- I thoroughly enjoyed this post. This is great example of why blogs are so wonderful. A chance to share memories and stories with others. The Ambassador was a special place for many people-you're tribute is very special.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 6:08:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I love the Ambassador!! I have a love of old postcards, especially from that 1940's/50's/60's era, and the Ambassador Hotel was so plush and swish and Hollywood, I always wish I could have gone there! Oh I cannot believe what happened to it, too sad and too, too wrong. Your photos evoke such a fun, holiday, special feel, so glad you shared them with us!! Great memories I'm sure!!

I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend Hanna. Thinking of you.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 6:17:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

This place holds so many wonderful memories for you Naomi, I'm sure it was painful to see it torn down. I enjoyed seeing the pictures of you at 16 and all the others! I sure wish I looked that great in a bathing suit!

Swimming is great exercise. Too bad you couldn't find another place as nice as that one to swim at.

Great memories Naomi, and I know you miss Hanna so much still.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 7:46:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Ha! I think the wall writing was a nice tribute!

You certainly had some good times there. I love looking at your photos!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 10:14:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What a lovely tribute!! I really loved all the photos u shared with us, almost made me feel like I was there...what a great time u had there..anyone seeing those pics, can tell how much fun u had and how great your friends were....I also very much enjoyed the writting on the bathroom wall lol!!! So glad u posted it!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 12:48:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi, you're a rare blue sapphire. I loved reading your post because like all that you write it is so real. You write with such an open heart.....and touch me with the emotions behind the words you choose.....and the pictures you share.

You have many stars twinkling around you.......Hanna is one of them. She will always be there in your heart.....never far away.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 4:21:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

You haven't changed much!

It's sad when they rip down old buildings. They are doing that to build a lot of condos here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 6:53:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

My word, you were in fantastic shape! To think in those days there wasn't plastic surgery, or lipo-suction, that was 100% good health, good exercise!
I remember us talking about The Ambassador & am so glad you shared these pictures. Hanna had such a beautiful smile. You verbally described everything perfectly, the ambiance, every single thing about that place.
Looking at pictures with my mom is much the same, most everybody in her age range has passed. I can tell it's painful, but at the same time, I'm grateful to hear these wonderful stories.
ps... I was not the least bit offended. I found it poetic as well.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 8:30:00 PM PDT 

Blogger Mar
had this to say:

What great memories, Naomi, and what a pity that the hotel will disappear. But memories are stronger than life and you keep not only that place but your friends in a safe place in your heart. How lovely. And what great photographs of carefree summertimes...!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 12:08:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Brings back memories of the old Cabanas on the southside beach on long island. Some of my friends family's had them and decorated them as well. It was so neat to have a little house to go to after playing in the ocean. Those pictures all remind me of their parents and how they hung out around the cabana in lounge chairs, smoked, drank and had themselves a ball while we kids played and kept out of their hair.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 6:49:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

The pictures show what a great time you all had there at the pool How refreshing those days of swimming and talking and hanging out in the cabana must have been.
You look happy and vibrant, and I must say you wore those swimsuits quite well!
:-)
I also love how happy and smiley Hanna is in these photos. Looking at them probably makes you feel both sad and happy at the same time.
I haven't swam in quite awhile, and this post makes me eager to take a swim!! You can feel dead tired, then get in the pool and instantly feel revived. Swimming is such terrific exercise too.
It's sad to see such a historic place gone forever.
I'm glad you had lots of great memories there.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 1:36:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Okay, I so thought you were being funny when you said something below was objectionable, and then you showed yourself in a bathing suit. And I thought, oh Naomi, how could you say that!? lol And then the tile. lol

What a memory. How could they tear it down? Unbelievable. What a grand place that must have been. And it certainly didn't want for action! lol

~S :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 4:58:00 PM PDT 

Blogger srp
had this to say:

What a wonderful post! We could have used a pool of any size around here the past few days. Today was better, thankfully.

I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your dear friend. Life is so precious and short and we never really are prepared for a loss like this. Thinking of you at this time1

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 8:26:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Thank you for sharing this with us. You looked much better at 52 than I do at 36, so I can understand why you didn't feel that old, the swimming must have done the trick!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 9:21:00 PM PDT 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

The Ambassador was very special for me, too. The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, of which I was a member back in Florida, held its conventions there. The year I came to Hollywood, one of my clients took me to the big closing night banquet. I felt like Cinderella at the ball.

In subsequent years, I became more blase, but enjoyed arriving very early in the morning to watch the hotel staff shampooing the carpet, polishing the floors and relamping the chandeliers in the Grove and the other fabulous ballrooms. It had the wonderful ambience of that "Man That Got Away" scene in "A Star Is Born"

By the way, I also knew Norma Connelly--not well--but we were both on committees which met at her beauiful English brick "manor" in Hancock Park. She was a great lady, with a wonderfully passionate dedication to what she believed in.

As for that *)(^%$&) Rohmer, who fancies himself as the "man who built a hundred schools", he will instead be remembered as "Rohmer the wrecker" who destroyed the Ambassador and squandered the taxpayers money!!!!

Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 3:56:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Thanks for sharing these memories.

BTW, I concur with the comment above about your being a fabulous babe in the photos.

Not that you've stopped being one, by the way.

:)

Cheers.

Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 10:17:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Hi Naomi! The power of sharing in blogs where I'm able to enter your memories on the other side of the globe.

You're a great person and your friends show us that. Sad that the hotel came down and up rise another I presume.

Sorry about to read the power cut. Candlelight...returning to romantic days?! Happy day. Cheerio.

Friday, June 13, 2008 at 9:53:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What great photos and what lovely memories.

I first visited the hotel when I was much younger for a science fiction convention. Being such a movie fan I had always heard about the Cocoanut Grove and the entier history of the hotel.

During our weekend there I was so impressed by the hotel, the bungalows and yes, the huge pool. Even then (I think it was early 80s)the hotel had a great regal feel to it.

At one point I managed to find my way to the Cocoanut Grove, it was dark and I don't know if had been used lately, but it looked terrific and it didn't take much for me to imagine my favorite stars mingling, dancing, and drinking the night away.

I got a little lost and found myself coming through the kitchen area into a ballroom and wondered if that was where Bobby Kennedy had given his final speech. It was surreal, quiet and the hotel just felt like a living being.

I was so sad to hear it was going to be torn down. It was such a landmark, such a piece of Los Angeles history, and now its gone. But thanks to you, we can see it in happier days.

Thanks for the great pics and the wonderful posts.

Saturday, June 14, 2008 at 1:22:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Thank you so much for your wonderful post on my site.

I have read your comments on Jew Eat Yet (one of my favorite blogs)for some time now, and I'm not sure why, but only recently visited your site. I'll certainly make it a habit!

I can't believe I neglected to comment on your photo of the tile in the men's bathroom. I think it's terrific!

How many times has history been lost because we want a particular view of it. I don't mean to say people purposefully omit things ... or maybe they do for fear it may tarnish an image or not be what the public wants to remember.

However that tile shows a whole other part of the hotel that I was not aware of. It also shows that people are people regardless of the era in which they live. I'm glad you have that and I'm glad you shared it with us. It really is a testament to the diversity of the place and to the diversity of the clientele.

It's a great piece of history that could have been lost. I'm glad you saved it!

Saturday, June 14, 2008 at 2:13:00 PM PDT 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

Oh, what a magical place that must have been! It was so easy to see the joy and comraderie that your group shared. As you said, it wasn't just about the swimming. It was so much more than that. Wonderful memories being made with such special friends. And Hannah looked very special. I know how much you grieve her loss.
And HEY......don't you look tres chic! My goodness.....in those bathing suits, you look like a Parisian model! Great photos, Naomi. Thanks so much for sharing your story.
Terri
http://www.islandwriter.net

Saturday, June 14, 2008 at 5:19:00 PM PDT 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

OH PS........WHAT a shame that it wasn't possible to refurbish that place. God, it was a historical landmark! Shame on whoever decided to take it down!
Terri

Saturday, June 14, 2008 at 5:19:00 PM PDT 

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