Hollywood Glamour Is Pandemic-Proof at the Polo Lounge (2022)

LOS ANGELES — Hollywood is down in the dumps. Oscar hopefuls like “King Richard,” “Nightmare Alley” and “West Side Story” have sputtered, and everyone knows that, studio spin aside, the Omicron variant is only partly to blame.

What about those stunning Spider-Man grosses? Sure, great, whatever — another superhero hit. It doesn’t change the fact that one storied studio, 20th Century Fox, vanished in 2019 and another, the venerable Warner Bros., is slashing theatrical output by almost half. Unless regulators do something unexpected, Amazon will soon swallow Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Streaming services are ending a moviegoing era.

“It’s over,” a glum film executive said at a holiday fete. “TV won.”

But there is at least one place where Hollywood feels undiminished. Step into the 88-year-old Polo Lounge — as a deluge of film V.I.P.s have done lately, defying a lingering boycott over its owner, the sultan of Brunei, and his enacting of Shariah law in his country — and return to a time when movies indisputably commanded the culture. Outside the Beverly Hills Hotel, which houses the Polo Lounge, change is washing through moviedom with terrifying speed. (Hollywood’s prize system, long a crucial promotional platform, is crumbling, with the near-abandonment of the Golden Globes on Sunday as only one example.) Inside the clubby Polo Lounge, however, very little has changed in decades.

It might as well be 1937, when Marlene Dietrich, wearing long gloves, could be seen dispassionately smoking a cigarette at the bar, her mink slung over a stool. “It’s one of the last surviving links to a time when movies still mattered,” said Terry Press, a former president of CBS Films and longtime patron.

What better place for Hollywood heavies to gather for what amounts to group therapy? And, perhaps, plot a counterattack.

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Hollywood Glamour Is Pandemic-Proof at the Polo Lounge (1)
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Regular visitors in recent months have included David M. Zaslav, the chief executive of Discovery, which is merging with Warner Media; Brian Robbins, the new kingpin at Paramount Pictures; Toby Emmerich, Warner’s movie chairman; Bryan Lourd, the Creative Artists superagent; and Jeffrey Katzenberg, a former studio chief who remains a formidable Hollywood string-puller.

Mary Parent, who produced “Dune” as vice chairman of Legendary Entertainment, and Casey Bloys, who reigns supreme at HBO and HBO Max, have conducted business there in recent months. Power lunchers have included Emma Watts, Paramount’s former production chief; Reginald Hudlin, an Oscar-nominated producer and director; and Lorne Michaels, the creator and executive producer of “Saturday Night Live.”

Not long ago, Jimmy Fallon, dutifully wearing a face covering, stood next to the grand piano on a Friday night and belted out “Sweet Caroline.” Jennifer Lopez and Jennifer Lawrence have been spotted. Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson dropped in for a bite the day after Christmas. Caitlyn Jenner had tried but was asked to leave for ignoring the dress code. (No “ripped denim.”)

As of early December, Polo Lounge revenue for the year was roughly 10 percent above the same period in 2019, according to Edward Mady, the hotel’s general manager. He added that the Polo Lounge had recently been receiving about 150 calls a day for reservations, with roughly 75 requesting one of nine patio booths.

“What boycott?” Mr. Mady said.

In 2014, Mr. Katzenberg, Jay Leno, Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John and others led an entertainment-industry boycott of the property after its owner, the sultan of Brunei, imposed Shariah law in his country, making gay sex and adultery punishable by stoning. Hollywood mass-shunned the Polo Lounge, which was at first deserted and then bounced back as a popular spot for Beverly Hills Ladies Who Lunch. (“Betsy! Betsy!”)

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By 2017, many luminaries had returned. The entertainment industry enjoys a public snubbing, but it also has a short attention span. President Trump, elected in 2016, prompted outrage on so many fronts in liberal Hollywood that remembering to be mad at the Polo Lounge was difficult.

And people wanted their salads. The most popular one at the Polo Lounge is the McCarthy, famous for its price ($44) and for being chopped so finely that one could almost drink it with a straw.

A-listers may have returned, but none were eager to be quoted in this article. An email to Mr. Katzenberg, for instance, was forwarded to a spokesman, who responded, “He is actually unreachable on vacation at the moment so won’t be able to participate.” Others declined because they did not want to make themselves a target for activists. Several cited the awkward optics — cooing over an ostentatious watering hole at a time when more studio layoffs are on the horizon.

Protesters have not given up. In 2019, George Clooney wrote an opinion piece calling for an expanded boycott. (He did not respond to a query on whether his position had changed.) In October, one of the most ardent proponents of a boycott, James Duke Mason, wrote a new letter to the sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, demanding the revocation of his kingdom’s “draconian laws.”

“The boycott has been and still is firmly in place,” Mr. Mason said by phone. “It’s a matter of values. Is your McCarthy Salad really more important than human rights?” Mr. Mason added that he and several associates intend to redouble their campaign against the hotel and its sister Dorchester Collection properties in 2022. (Mr. Mason comes from a show business lineage; his parents are Belinda Carlisle and Morgan Mason, a former agent and producer.)

Dorchester Collection, the London-based hotel company owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, responded with a statement: “We operate autonomously and embrace our longstanding values of inclusivity and belonging.”

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In some ways, the Polo Lounge is perfectly positioned for life during the pandemic. It has a large outdoor dining area adorned with Brazilian pepper trees, roses and magenta bougainvillea. Studio offices have been mostly closed since March 2020, so moguls who would normally conduct business meals on their lots have needed a place to go; many live within walking distance. Mr. Zaslav has been intermittently staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel; he is renovating a historic estate four blocks away.

The Los Angeles power-restaurant scene has also been shaken up. Chateau Marmont closed its restaurant to the public when the pandemic started. (It has also had boycott issues.) The Palm was sold, prompting the departure of its charismatic torchbearer, Bruce Bozzi. For some, the Peninsula still has the stench of Harvey Weinstein, who, his accusers said, used the cover of work meetings there to sexually harass and assault women.

San Vicente Bungalows, a red-hot private club that opened in 2019, has filled much of the gap. It is known for a diverse and young Hollywood clientele (and for its treacly maître d’hôtel, formerly of the Sunset Tower).

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But the Polo Lounge still ranks. In mid-December, Mr. Robbins, who took over Paramount in September, was deep in a breakfast discussion with Hannah Minghella, a senior executive at J.J. Abrams’s production company. Mr. Lourd occupied a booth nearby, partly concealed by a wall of white poinsettias. The restaurant’s director, Pepe De Anda, who started at the Polo Lounge in 1986, tended to an important-looking woman wearing a head scarf at Table 6, a relatively secluded spot where Marilyn Monroe preferred to sit.

Hollywood has lost some of its glamour to budget cuts and corporate consolidation, not to mention the pandemic. But the Polo Lounge — where avocado toast runs $36 — oozes the same extravagance it did in, say, 1998, when 57 million people watched “Titanic” sweep the Academy Awards. (Last year, the Oscars attracted 10.4 million viewers, beneath “The National Dog Show.”)

Near the Polo Lounge hostess podium, menus have recently been on display from Christmas dinners in the distant past, when moguls and stars apparently washed down “creamed calf’s sweetbreads en casserole” with “frozen apple toddy.”

The present, of course, can’t be avoided entirely. At tables favored by film executives, there is eye rolling and nose upturning about Silicon Valley’s push into entertainment: Apple is spending how much on Martin Scorsese’s next film?

And barbarians await at the gate. TikTok creators and Instagram influencers have discovered that the hotel’s lawn makes an interesting backdrop.

Mr. Mady, the hotel’s general manager, tensed up when asked about the social media crowd. “We’re not proud of that,” he said. “We’re trying our best to curb it.”

FAQs

What celebrities go to the Polo Lounge? ›

A long-time favourite of A-listers, the Polo Lounge is known as a spot where Hollywood power players broker big deals and famous faces like Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Rock, and Taylor Swift are regulars.

What should I wear to the Polo Lounge? ›

At the Polo Lounge, we encourage you to dress for the occasion, so we ask that you refrain from wearing casual hats, ripped denim, crop tops, nightwear, swimwear and men's sleeveless shirts. After 4pm, we do not permit shorts, flip-flops (including Birkenstocks) or sportswear (including tracksuits).

Who owns Polo Lounge Beverly Hills? ›

Step into the 88-year-old Polo Lounge — as a deluge of film V.I.P.s have done lately, defying a lingering boycott over its owner, the sultan of Brunei, and his enacting of Shariah law in his country — and return to a time when movies indisputably commanded the culture.

Where are you most likely to see a celebrity in Los Angeles? ›

“Since 1927, the TCL Chinese Theatre has been the home to the most prominent red carpet movie premieres and special events. It's where Hollywood's biggest and brightest stars come to watch their movies!” Plan your visit around a premiere and watch some of Hollywood's hottest celebrities walk the red carpet.

What do you wear to lunch at Polo Lounge? ›

While The Polo Lounge has a decidedly classic and formal atmosphere, a relaxed, smart-casual style is appropriate, especially for breakfast and lunch. You will see seersucker shorts and tennis shoes, but refrain from wearing flip-flops.

Where can I see celebrities in Beverly Hills? ›

Celebrities can be found in every corner of the city, but when it comes to Beverly Hills, there are a few streets in particular where they can be found. All the big Hollywood tours know that some of the best celebrity homes are on Mulholland Drive, Alpine Drive, Bedford Drive, and Benedict Canyon.

When did the Polo Lounge open? ›

The Polo Lounge has been known as the epicentre of power dining in LA and the preferred place to be for legendary stars and Hollywood deal-makers. It was established in the 1930s and was named after the polo fields on which it was built.

Why is Beverly Hills hotel so famous? ›

The Beverly Hills Hotel has been a legendary institution since it opened in 1912, providing a discreetly glamorous hideaway for the Hollywood elite. With the construction of its bungalows in 1915, celebrities could enjoy even greater levels of privacy. The hotel's famous pastel facade.

What style is The Beverly Hills Hotel? ›

Mediterranean Revival

How much did The Beverly Hills Hotel sell for? ›

The 84-room property sold in August for $62 million.

Is it common to see celebrities in LA? ›

No matter when you're visiting Los Angeles, you're bound to bump into a celebrity or two. While it may come as a surprise, celebrities are regular people just like us. You'll find them eating at their favorite Los Angeles restaurants, shopping for their families, and seeing the sights around the city.

Do celebrities still go to the Ivy? ›

The Ivy is frequented by celebrities and also by the paparazzi, eager to get a peek on someone famous visiting one of the best celebrity-spotting restaurants in Los Angeles. In fact, The Ivy's sister restaurant in Santa Monica, Ivy At The Shore, has become a popular option for celebs looking for a less hectic meal.

What beach do celebrities go to in California? ›

Laguna Beach has been home to many famous Hollywood stars over the years.

Can you drive past celebrity homes in Beverly Hills? ›

If you're planning a Hollywood homes tour as part of your LA vacation, you'll be pleased to hear that the answer is yes; it's legal to drive past celebrity houses.

Where is Taylor Swift's house in Beverly Hills? ›

1200 Laurel Lane, Beverly Hills, California

Do celebrities go to Rodeo Drive? ›

Rodeo Drive

A long stretch of shops where celebs can easily be spotted walking the streets. Designers such as Gucci, Armani and Coco Chanel have boutiques on Rodeo Drive. This three-block stretch of high-end shops has drawn celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Brittney Spears and Danny DeVito.

How old is Beverly Hills hotel? ›

Since opening day in 1912, our hotel remains at the heart of the Beverly Hills community. To celebrate our remarkable 110-year anniversary, we're devoting all of 2022 to the celebrations.

How old are the Beverly Hills? ›

Developer Burton Green opened the subdivision of Beverly Hills in 1907; the City of Beverly Hills was incorporated in 1914. Actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks launched the migration of movie stars from Hollywood when they built their legendary home, Pickfair, in 1919.

Are paparazzi allowed at the Beverly Hills Hotel? ›

Rita Hayworth at the Beverly Hills Hotel. One of the most welcomed features of the hotel: paparazzi are not allowed anywhere near the property. “We've celebrated birthdays, we've had friends get married, and we spend a lot of nights having dinner there,” Safai says.

What famous person lives in Beverly Hills? ›

After the farm was purchased and renamed Beverly Hills, it was rezoned as a swanky neighborhood where the rich and famous could live far away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Los Angeles. More well-known residents include Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Jennifer Aniston, and US President Richard Nixon.

Why is Beverly Hills hotel Pink? ›

The Beverly Hills Hotel is painted in that fetching pink color for a very good reason. It was painted its pretty pish hue in 1948 after being opened for over three decades.

How much is it to rent a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel? ›

The Beverly Hills Hotel Unveils $8,500-Per-Night Marilyn Monroe Bungalow.

Who died in the Beverly Hills Hotel? ›

Svend Petersen, 'Poolside Prince' of the Beverly Hills Hotel, Dies at 90. Svend Petersen, the Beverly Hills Hotel pool manager who rubbed elbows with the rich and famous for more than a half-century before running into financial trouble in his final years, has died.

How much are bungalows at the Beverly Hills Hotel? ›

The Marilyn Monroe Bungalow (Bungalow 1) costs $8,500 per night. For further details, visit dorchestercollection.com or, for reservations, call 310-276-2251. The Beverly Hills Hotel is located at 9641 Sunset Boulevard Beverly Hills, CA 90210.

Can you live at the Beverly Hills Hotel? ›

Part of the world famous Beverly Hilton hotel, now you can live the Hollywood lifestyle and make the Oasis Beverly Hills your new home for as long as you need. In our Oasis from the outside world, you can enjoy four-star amenities like: Enjoying the largest heated pool in Beverly Hills.

Who bought the Montage Beverly Hills? ›

Montage Beverly Hills, California, has been acquired by Maybourne Hotel Group, operators of London's most legendary and prestigious hotels Claridge's, The Connaught and The Berkeley.

Who owns SLS Beverly Hills? ›

The flagship SLS Hotel was originally designed by Philippe Starck and the SLS Brand is owned by global hospitality company sbe.

What does a woman wear to a polo match? ›

A lightweight wax jacket always looks more stylish and structured. The ladies are also opting for a more relaxed look at local Polo matches but you wouldn't be out of place with straight cut jeans, a fitted shirt and a casual blazer.

Is there a dress code for polo Bar NYC? ›

No dress code. Most people are young and in stylish casual clothes...

What do people wear to the polo? ›

Polo classic attire usually consists of a tweed jacket, form-fitting pants, and a white collared shirt underneath.

What do spectators do at a polo match? ›

Polo etiquette for the audience falls more in line with a golf match than a football game. Celebrate good plays, but take care not to startle the horses. Enjoy the game standing on the sidelines or spread out a picnic blanket and enjoy a relaxed afternoon as you take in the action.

How long do polo matches last? ›

The match lasts about one and a half to two hours long and is divided into timed periods called chukkers – each chukkar is 7 ½ minutes long. Matches are either four or six chukkars divided by half time. During halftime, spectators are encouraged to walk across the field to stomp divots.

Do they play polo in the rain? ›

Polo is an outdoor event, but there is shelter under our stadium. We take the horses and the rider's safety into consideration when determining if a match will take place during or after rain. As long as there is no lightning in the area, we can typically play.

What is Newport casual chic? ›

Attire: Attire at Newport Polo events is Newport Casual Chic. Ladies: a beautiful sundress or summer fashions, with wedges or flats, and a sun hat or fascinator. Stilettos will get stuck in the ground. Men, a collared shirt, paired with summer trousers, topsiders, and a trilby or Panama hat is always nice.

What are smart casual clothes? ›

What Is Smart Casual Attire? Smart casual attire is a dress code that combines well-fitting, polished business wear with elements of casual attire—think blouses, polo shirts, button-downs, chinos, dress pants, dark-wash jeans, and polished, practical footwear.

What do you wear to a rooftop bar at night? ›

For a casual rooftop party, an appropriate tee and dressier pants, such as khakis, cotton shorts, or t-shirts, are the best options. A smart casual or casual outfit is most commonly worn to a bar. As the night wears on, you'll typically opt for smart casual attire.

What is smart casual in NYC? ›

Smart Casual

Smart casual is quite a wide term, but think clothes that are well-fitting, neat and appropriate. Slightly less formal than business casual, but not to loose-fitting. It is about looking sharp and in-style. If it is a hot NYC summer day, tailored shorts are for sure ok for gentlemen on the rooftop.

Should I tuck in my polo with jeans? ›

Make sure your polo shirt isn't too long, it should fit nicely and sit no lower than your jean pockets. Depending on the occasion, wear a belt, so should you need to tuck your polo shirt in, you can tuck it in with ease.

Can you wear a polo with sweatpants? ›

Polo Shirt + Sweatpants

Keep it relaxed and cool with a polo shirt and sweatpants. Polish off your look with stylish low-top sneakers and a weekend bag. To avoid looking sloppy, make sure the clothes are fitted and clean - there's a fine line between athleisure and messy.

Is a polo shirt Semi Formal? ›

Polo shirts are popular choices when it comes to semi-formal attire. Polo shirts look best under a blazer since they already have short sleeves and collars. You can also choose to wear this type of shirt without a jacket or cardigan if you want something looser and more casual.

What should I bring to a polo game? ›

Big hats and sunglasses are a must, as are flat shoes for treading in the divots at half time. Other accessories include well groomed pedigreed dogs, expensive handbags and handsome Argentineans. TOP TIP: Whatever you do, don't forget your sunblock.

Can anyone go to a polo match? ›

Spectators Welcome

All USPA tournaments that are open to spectators can be found there and will be indicated. Spectator clubs host many games during their seasons which are open to the public, both free and ticketed.

Is it fun to watch polo? ›

All levels of polo are jam packed with action, however, and are always fun to watch. It is also a good idea to find out whether the match you will be attending will be played on a field equipped with grandstands, box seating or just fieldside parking.

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