[IMG:L]It’s a familiar tale in Hollywood: a glowing debut, days and nights of star-studded glamour, a slow decline, a shocking fall from grace, and just when everyone thinks the best days are behind, a sudden and spectacular comeback turns up the heat all over again. It’s not the phoenix-from-the-ashes-style resurrection of a once washed-up actor, however, that warmed hearts on Hollywood Boulevard: it was the return to glory of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which went from faded relic of a bygone era to the high-energy headquarters of the hippest clubhoppers in town.
But even when it had fallen into one-star disrepair, several guests remained faithful to its four-star origins, even from beyond the grave.
The Roosevelt was a scintillating sensation from the moment of its debut in 1927 when the word “Hollywood” was more than a catch-all term for the showbiz industry—its physical geography also promised an abundance of glitz and glamour. A high-profile conglomerate of movie movers and shakers (including silent stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, theater mogul Sid Grauman and studio chief Louis B. Meyer) established the hotel at the heart of Filmland as a luxurious stay-over spot for East Coast executives; two years later the hotel was the heart of Hollywood, hosting the very first Academy Awards ceremony in the Blossom Room.
The Roosevelt enjoyed a celebrated reputation for decades, until its beauty began to fade and the years of posh partying began to take its toll, and like the neighborhood around it, it slowly fell into disrepair, surrounded by a seedy collection of t-shirt shops for tourists and tattoo parlors for a scruffier breed of starlets. The place where Shirley Temple took her first tap dance lesson on the tile stairway, where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard canoodled in the penthouse, was nearly earmarked for destruction in the early 1980s, until a $12 million renovation restored at least a little of its earlier glory, like a little facework done to keep an aging actress in the game.
In parapsychology circles, renovation and remodeling are almost certain to unleash some lonely spirits who are agitated over the changes to their beloved haunts, and it comes at no surprise that the Roosevelt’s dead but undying aficionados were inarguably A-list.
[IMG:R]Two weeks before the 1985 reopening, an employee dusting off a full-length mirror in the manager’s office glimpsed the reflection of a beautiful blonde standing behind her, but when she turned around no one was there. Stranger still, the reflection remained. The mirror, it turned out, had hung in Suite 1200, where Marilyn Monroe had stayed for a stint in the mid-1950s (She also favored the poolside cabana 246.
The hotel may have held a fond spot in Monroe’s heart: in 1951, she posed for a toothpaste ad photo shoot sitting on the diving board at its opulent pool, shortly before her star ascended to legendary heights. When she received her coveted star on the Walk of Fame in 1960 it was just a block away from the hotel. But her memories may have also been more bittersweet, as she struggled with depression amid her bid for superstardom: psychics examining the mirror say they’ve sensed a deep reservoir of sadness seemingly trapped within. Monroe died, ever mysteriously, in 1962.
At the same time, the ninth floor of the hotel was proving troubling—reports of loud talking and call to the switchboard from rooms that proved unoccupied persisted; a hotel maid was pushed into a supply closet by invisible hands; and employees were avoiding Room 928 in particular, weirded out by a bizarre vibe within. A quick check of the register revealed the possible source: for three months in 1952, the notoriously troubled actor Montgomery Clift lived there while filming From Here to Eternity. The actor, who was tormented by personal demons and later became a pal of Monroe’s, died in 1966 following what was called the longest suicide in Hollywood history, a decade after a car crash disfigured his handsome face and shattered his already fragile psyche.
[IMG:L]A chilling cold spot frequently surfaced in the hallway where Clift used to practice playing the bugle for Eternity; guests in the area also reported a strange presence that seemed to be hovering close to them; and a woman staying in 928 felt a gentle hand on her shoulder as she lay in bed, only to roll over and discover her husband was fast asleep. An attempt to film in the room unleashed technical chaos, with the house lights extinguishing without explanation and film jamming in the camera. A professional psychic stayed in 928, waking in the middle of the night feeling trapped under the weight of a human body, and later he awoke again to spot a shadowy figure observing him from a nearby chair until it rose, looking all the world like Montgomery Clift, and disappeared as it passed into the bathroom.
Not all the ghostly encounters at the Roosevelt were with famous faces. There was the nervous tuxedoed man in the Blossom Room, the little girl frantically looking for her mother, the man in the white suit reclining against the piano, the intangible phantom swimmer in the pool at midnight, even whispers that Lombard’s shade still inhabits the penthouse, and many more.
But it was spirits of a different sort that came to define the Roosevelt after an even more extensive makeover in 2005, reconceived as a hipster haven with old school overtures by acclaimed designer Dodd Mitchell.
With a new vibe that was both trendy and tasteful, the hotel and its hot, hot, hot Tropicana pool bar and celeb-catering club Teddy’s scored with a new generation, including Scarlett Johansson, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Jake Gyllenhaal and a young Hollywood crowd whose cocktailing antics may have drowned out Clift’s bugling. The Hollywood Roosevelt returned as the centerpiece of a newly rejuvenated Hollywood neighborhood, and partygoing starlets and socialites alike can check their makeup and mini-dresses in Marilyn’s mirror, which now hangs in the hotel lobby by the elevator. Who knows--perhaps Marilyn will look back out at them.