Hijinks at the Hollywood Roosevelt

By Bob Vickrey
Special to the Palisades News

It happened just about the same time as our waiter was asked by several young tourists at the adjoining booth, “Can you tell us where we could find this Hollywood sign that everybody’s talking about?”

Upon overhearing the innocent question, I let out a laugh at the very moment I bit into my fried egg sandwich, which in turn, dislodged the runny egg from the rest of the sandwich and then mysteriously disappeared from sight. I checked my lap to see where the missing egg had landed, but decided it must have hit the floor instead. My dining partners had a good chuckle about my clumsiness, which I quickly blamed on the three teenagers who had disrupted the timing and intricate dexterity it takes to handle a sandwich that was almost six- inches thick.

After surveying the scene at the cabana area near the swimming pool at the Hollywood Roosevelt, the Pacific Palisades lunch crew elected to eat inside at the Café. Photo: Barry Stein
After surveying the scene at the cabana area near the swimming pool at the Hollywood Roosevelt, the Pacific Palisades lunch crew elected to eat inside at the Café. Photo: Barry Stein

Our monthly lunch club had decided to hit the old Hollywood Roosevelt landmark in our ongoing quest to visit classic restaurants and hotels in Southern California.

However, my wish to eat in the cabana area near the swimming pool was rather short-lived as we stumbled upon an under-thirty crowd busily cavorting around the pool that resembled a scene from Beach Blanket Bingo. We smartly decided to keep our shirts on and return to the air conditioned comfort of the 25 Degrees Café, adjacent to the hotel lobby, where the literal and figurative temperature was considerably cooler.

I was told that the Roosevelt had eight restaurants and bars, but after enduring a marathon of stair-climbing and becoming lost in a maze of dimly lit corridors, we simply opted for the café. Maybe someone had forgotten to pay the electric bill last month.

The café offered a very limited menu of burgersandsandwiches,butbythetimewe were seated, we were already starving and found our more discerning palates had long since deserted us. This time, our burger-loving Arnie Wishnick had really found his element, and we were more than happy to join him in lunching on simple comfort food.

The Roosevelt Hotel opened its door on Hollywood Boulevard in 1927, and is the oldest continually operating hotel in Los Angeles. It has gone through multiple renovations over the years, the latest in 2015—a $25 million redo of its 300 rooms and 63 suites. The 12-story hotel sits along the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is across the street from the former Mann’s Chinese Theater—now the TCL Chinese Theater.

The hotel is loaded with Hollywood history, and played host to the very first Academy Award presentation in 1929. The Gable-Lombard Penthouse is a 3,200-square-foot duplex with views of the Hollywood Hills—including that elusive Hollywood sign the three young tourists were hoping to see. (I’m guessing they could probably find less expensive vantage points to take in a view of the storied sign.)

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard once paid five dollars a night for the suite, which must have made the cost of a fried egg sandwich about a nickel. I tried to make myself feel better about my fiasco by imagining Gable ordering room service and awkwardly dropping his fried egg on the floor in front of the lovely Lombard. But somehow I simply couldn’t summon the image of the cool Rhett Butler pulling a “Bob Vickrey.”

After our server brought our bill, Arnie and I grabbed our smart phones to calculate the 20 percent tip while Barry did the numbers in his head. All three of us came up with a different figure, which just goes to show that Josh had the right idea all along when he took the opportunity to visit the loo.

When we were ready to leave, I reached into my shirt pocket for my glasses and found them covered with a coagulated, sticky yellow substance that had the suspicious appearance of egg yolk.

I cautiously peered into the pocket and discovered the missing portion of the egg that had mysteriously disappeared from my sandwich. I suddenly found myself a character in a Farrelly Brothers comedy, so move over Jim Carrey!

Once my lunch mates were through having their fun with my unique predicament, I decided that in the future I would be more observant if I sense an awkward moment about to happen. Like a good pool hustler, I’ll call the shot beforehand. “Stand back from the table gents: Yellow ball—side pocket.”

(Bob Vickrey is a longtime Palisadian whose columns appear in several Southwestern newspapers including the Houston Chronicle and is a regular contributor to the Boryana Books website.)

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