Iconic Restaurant: The Terrace at the Sunset Tower Hotel
BY JEN JONES DONATELLI
The Terrace opens onto Sunset Tower’s pool
Even after almost 20 years, the movie The Player is still widely considered requisite viewing for anyone working in Hollywood. Shot at an Art Deco hotel then known as The St. James Club, one memorable scene depicts Tim Robbins being pitched a movie poolside by Dean Stockwell and Richard E. Grant. Fast-forward to 2012, and that same hotel is now called the Sunset Tower, the place industry insiders still flock to on a daily basis.
The setting? The Terrace restaurant, an elegant, mellow, indoor/outdoor space that acts as the daytime yin to the more formal Tower Bar’s evening yang. On any given day, you might spot power players including director Bill Condon or Paramount Pictures Corporation chairman and CEO Brad Grey taking meetings alongside such actors as Kate Bosworth and Johnny Depp. “It’s very much like a club,” says Cynthia Campos-Greenberg, president of Anthem Entertainment and a frequent patron at The Terrace. “The scene is powerful in the most gracious way—nobody draws attention to [himself]. You might, however, get asked for a cigarette, and it’s usually by someone who will shock you because [he’s] so famous.”
An Attention to Detail
So what’s the draw for these boldface names? Some might say the panoramic views or prime Sunset Boulevard location. Others might point to Vanity Fair’s annual Oscar party, which is held at The Terrace and has certainly upped the Sunset Tower Hotel’s cache in recent years. Still others might cite the hotel’s rich history, as the building was once home to Frank Sinatra, Howard Hughes, and John Wayne. (Hollywood lore has it that Elvis proposed to Cybill Shepherd in the hotel’s driveway while she was staying there with Peter Bogdanovich.)
But owner Jeff Klein says the hotel’s attention to privacy is what makes it a mecca for LA’s glittering elite. In a town filled with tabloid headlines and spotlightseeking wannabes, the Sunset Tower Hotel and its patrons are content to fly under the radar—and that’s just how Klein likes it. “Some hotels are geared toward everyone noticing everything, but here, it’s extremely subdued. There’s nothing ‘in-your-face’—no loud music, halfnaked people, tight-fitting clothes, or fire pits,” says Klein. “Certain people may not ‘get’ us, and that’s cool. I love it because [the hotel] sort of selfselects and organically screens out who belongs here and who doesn’t.”
Those who do stick around find that Klein and his staff will go out of their way to reward their loyalty. He tells the tale of one Vanity Fair cover starlet who was too reclusive to leave the hotel but craved her favorite dessert from Animal—Tres Leches, Dulce de Leche—so hotel ambassador Tim Cunningham personally delivered it to her daily during her long-term stay. Then there was the fashion designer’s wife who insisted on fresh-squeezed watermelon juice several times a day. Cunningham bought a special juicer for The Terrace kitchen just to meet her needs. It’s all part of Cunningham’s rapt attention to detail, as he keeps meticulous records of frequent guests’ preferences (like Catherine Deneuve’s penchant for double espresso). “Half the time, our guests don’t even get a menu,” says Cunningham, once a concierge at The Peninsula. “I’ll go to the kitchen and tell the chef who’s here, and we’ll get a plate to them in minutes. It’s seamless.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DIANE CU
Fashion shoot: December 2013 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.