This week, I was invited to take part in a press event with Disney Animation that included a three-night stay at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. I’ll give the details about the movies and backstage Disney tour in other posts, but for now, let’s focus on the hotel, shall we?
First off, if somebody asks you to come stay at the Loews Hollywood and offers to pay for it, say “Yes.” In fact, say “Heck YES!” Which of course I did. It’s a beautiful and spacious building, which until a couple of months ago was part of the Renaissance Hotels chain; under Renaissance, it was owned by the developers who built the Hollywood & Highland complex but managed by a division of Marriott. According to comments I read online, the hotel is in need of a renovation, but I didn’t really see it that way; in any case, Loews will commence their renovation/upgrade in December, and I expect the results will be incredible.
As always, the point of this blog is finding ways to enjoy nice things while saving money. I’m still learning my way around that, so I missed an opportunity here; even when you’re getting something for free, there’s sometimes a way to make it even better. For example, if you get to stay at an upscale hotel on somebody else’s dime, the first thing you should do, as one of my fellow bloggers informed me, is join the loyalty club for that hotel chain before you arrive. The Loews club, YouFirst, would have upgraded my free room into a free suite, and that’s just for starters. Always join the club, especially if it’s free and most especially if you can take advantage of the benefits immediately.
Even though I didn’t get the room upgrade, I can’t complain. The bed was large and comfortable, with enough pillows to build a fort. All the necessary appointments were there, plenty of towels (in a nifty rolling cart that I’m shopping for; I want one in my bathroom), an ironing board and iron, so I could look spiffy when meeting Tim Burton at the premiere party for Frankenweenie, a desk, and floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on Highland Blvd. If your room faces north, you’ll have a view of the famous Hollywood sign.
The hotel staff was efficient, friendly and helpful. Preston’s, the spacious and comfortable restaurant, puts on an excellent breakfast buffet and prepares eclectic California cuisine for lunch and dinner. There’s a lounge downstairs that makes a pretty good martini, and the bartender will not look at you pityingly if you do a bad Bond impression while ordering it.
Of course, the experience of staying at a swank hotel does not end at the door; a large part of the experience is dependent upon what surrounds the hotel. In the case of the Loews Hollywood, stepping out the side door drops you right into the middle of the Hollywood & Highland shopping and entertainment complex, which has become THE tourist destination for Tinseltown; included in it are the Dolby Theater (home of the annual Oscar Awards); Grauman’s Chinese Theater (noted for the movie star foot- and hand-prints on display); Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum (the zenith of cheese); and a large number of shops and restaurants of all sorts. Down the block is the Pantages, and across the street is the Egyptian Theater, the Disney-owned El Capitan Theater, and the studio where Jimmy Kimmel tapes his show.
The stretch of Hollywood Boulevard in front of Hollywood & Highland is an ongoing nonstop festival of shilling, selling and weirdness. (I once walked out of the Pantages to find a Russian family performing on the street; it’s a little weird to see a 10-year-old Russian girl singing The Eagles’ “Hotel California” on a street corner.) You’ll see dozens of sometimes-desperate-looking people in costumes hoping to pose for pictures with you in exchange for a tip. The costumes range from very good to outright laughable; at the very worst you’ll perfect your ability to stare straight ahead and walk right past the panhandlers and hustlers trying to sell you something, which will serve you in good stead should you ever visit San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.
And of course Hollywood Boulevard includes the famous “Walk of Fame;” you can wander a couple of miles up and down the street reading off the names of movie stars, radio personalities, recording artists and the occasional producer or director. Some of them are pretty obscure, so if you do your homework, you can amaze your friends and family by pointing out his star and explaining who Sammy Kaye was. Pick out two or three such characters for each block and leave your friends astounded; do they know who Gregory Ratoff or Mauritz Stiller were? (For added fun, toss out the factoid that Stiller’s star originally had his name erroneously listed as “Maurice Diller” for several years; it was finally corrected in the 1980s.)
All of which is to say that I enjoyed my stay at the Loews Hollywood Hotel immensely. I never looked to see how expensive it is, but I’m sure I can’t afford it, unless I managed to get a great deal through one of the many online reservation agencies that promise huge discounts. If you manage to score a deal like that, you’ll love the place.