The Hollywood History of Hotel Bel-Air
BY MICHAEL VENTRE
Few hideaways in Southern California offer such a blissful combination of pastoral charm and understated opulence, which is probably why this former horse stable has become quite the hitching post for high-profile couples. Among those who have either staged their weddings or spent wedding nights there are Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, and Britney Spears and Kevin Federline. Elizabeth Taylor and husband Conrad “Nicky” Hilton Jr. lived at the hotel for a spell when they were first married.
Perhaps the most celebrated guest in the hotel’s history—and obviously that’s a mouthful, considering the list of world leaders who have spent time there includes Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher, and Prince Charles—was Princess Grace of Monaco, who was such a fixture, she got a suite named after her.
Grace Kelly stayed at the hotel frequently during her movie-star days—she slept there the night she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1955 for The Country Girl—and also after she became royalty of the official kind. She would show up in the dining room every day for breakfast rather than take room service, and when hubby Prince Rainier arrived for their first visit together, she made a point of introducing him to all the hotel’s employees.
Second on that list may be Marilyn Monroe, who lived at Hotel Bel-Air on and off for more than a decade during her marriages to Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller. Only six weeks before she died in 1962, Hotel Bel-Air served as the location for the famed three-day Bert Stern photo shoot; he prepared for the event by putting plenty of Dom Pérignon 1953 vintage Champagne on ice and spraying suite No. 261 with Chanel No. 5. Vogue magazine published eight pages of the shoot the day after Monroe died. In 2008 Stern and Lindsay Lohan paid homage by re-creating the sexy layout.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY © REX USA LTD (MONROE); © MARC WANNAMAKER/BISON ARCHIVES (TERRACE, AERIAL, POOL, MARTIN); JENNIFER BOGGS (GRACE KELLY SUITE); JOE SCHMELZER (ROOM SHOTS)
Fashion shoot: December 2013 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.