Beverly Hilton: Star gazing

STAR HOTEL: The hotel entrance.
STAR HOTEL: The hotel entrance.

The Beverly Hilton is as glamorous as a black lace Armani Couture dress on award night.

Even its address - at the intersection of Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards - breathes mystique, legend, 24-carat-gold star power.

Opened in 1955 by Conrad Hilton, great-grandfather of Paris, it has been the backdrop to many an A-list caper down the years.

GLITZ AND GLAMOURl The famous Aqua Star Pool.
GLITZ AND GLAMOURl The famous Aqua Star Pool.

Its International Ballroom, for example, has hosted the Golden Globes every January since 1961.

It was here in 1958 that the Rat Pack stormed the stage in a booze-fuelled hijack calculated to put some swing into the proceedings; here in 2003 that Lara Flynn Boyle wore that tutu; and here in 2011 that Ricky Gervais caused a collective intake of breath with a gag about Scientology.

It was also in this hotel, two years ago this month, that Whitney Houston was found dead - in the bathtub of Room 434.

HALLS OF FAME: The rooftop at the Beverly Hilton.
HALLS OF FAME: The rooftop at the Beverly Hilton.

It's difficult not to remember the details as I pad around the 46 square metres of my Wilshire Tower Studio Suite, a sanctum of caramel-toned luxury, and its bathroom, in particular, with its expanse of marble, swivel TV and shower so cavernous it feels like a room in its own right.

If internet lore is to be believed, her bathroom looked just like this one. (In the days after the tragedy, Room 434 was stripped of its furnishings, including the bath, and has only recently been put back on the inventory.)

Luckily, there are plenty of things to see here to distract one from thoughts of a morbid bent - such as a peep inside the suitably magisterial, US$5000-a-night presidential suite (three rooms, including a library, over 170 square metres), vacated only that morning by Barack Obama himself; a tour of the Stardust Room where Ben Affleck shot a scene in his 2013 Oscar-winning Argo (the one where they do a costumed reading of the script for the fake film with lots of scantily clad Princess Leia types in attendance). Beyond the French doors, a beautiful terrace looks to the Hollywood Hills and that sign.


More remarkable, perhaps, than the ballroom (how on earth do they all fit in here?) is the nearby ladies' bathroom, a pink-marble, Italianate Bermuda Triangle from which various actresses over the years have famously failed to return to their seats in time to collect their gongs - Renee Zellweger, for instance, in 2002, for Bridget Jones's Diary.

Designed by Conrad Hilton's second wife, Eva Gabor - sister of Zsa Zsa - it contains a beautiful but unsettling room of mirrors, the better for coiffed-to-the-hilt celebs to examine their toilette from every angle. It's impossible to be here and not imagine the various charged encounters that must have taken place in it over the years. Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor? Jennifer Aniston and ... (gasp!) Angelina Jolie?

If only these walls could talk.

Later, after a jetlag-soothing soak, I head downstairs just in time to find Stephen Fry conferring with the concierge in rich, erudite tones. He's here, I discover, with other members of the cast to promote the imminent release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I make my way past the hotel's 24-hour gym to its poolside restaurant, Circa 55.

As I surrender to a plate of seared Skuna Bay salmon, I admire the beauty of the Aqua Star Pool, the largest heated pool in Beverly Hills and the scene of countless parties and "dive-in" movie nights. It's surrounded by 36 tropically inspired cabana rooms; I can almost hear Doris Day and Rock Hudson at play in the shallows.

The starburst is a recurring motif at the Beverly Hilton. Playground-sized ones adorn the roof, football-sized ones have been woven into the deep-plush carpets and itty-bitty gold ones are embossed on the crisp, white card I find on my pillow inscribed with tomorrow's weather forecast and a feelgood bon mot. I climb between Egyptian cotton sheets and swim quickly down towards sleep.

Is it my imagination, I manage to wonder briefly, or can I really hear the faint singing of a company of dwarves?

The writer was a guest of My USA.


GETTING THERE My USA offers flights to Los Angeles.

STAYING THERE Accommodation at the Beverly Hilton Hotel can be booked through the My USA website.