There was a period in my life when the Polo Lounge was virtually my second home, although the days of Buddy, the telephone pager walking around the hotel with a sign and calling, ” Paging Mr. . .” and a telephone at your booth being a coveted symbol are over, the Polo Lounge is just as popular today as it was on the day it opened. I recall Dino, who was the Maitre ‘d for the evening shift, and Nino the Maitre d’ for lunch, he took over Dino’s slot after Dino passed away. After Nino (his last name is Osti) took over and became the No. 1 man, the one that doled out what were considered the “good” tables to a limited few.
It was always difficult to obtain one of the tables in front of the bar, and especially difficult to be seated at one of the booths lining the walls. Gus Tassoupulos was one of the bartenders at that time, I last saw him a couple of years ago tending bar at the Hotel Bel-Air (he told me at the time he would be retiring soon), and he was just one, of a great staff of waiters and bartenders that staffed the Polo Lounge, I can still remember all their faces, although unfortunately, not all of their names.
It all began on May 12, 1912 when the hotel was opened by Margaret J. Anderson and her son, Stanley S. Anderson, who previously managing the Hollywood Hotel. In the twenties the name of the famous bar and lounge with attached al fresco dining patio was called El Jardin, the name was changed in the forties to honor Will Rogers and his friends Daryl Zanuck and Tommy Hitchcock as they played polo on the field behind the hotel and often stopped by for drinks afterward.
The founder of the Beverly Hills Hotel was Burton Green and the hotel was specifically built to attract people to the new area of Beverly Hills from the fashionable residential areas of Hollywood and Hancock Park in hopes of enticing them to buy one of the plots of land to build a house in the new surrounding development of Beverly Hills. Many different owners were to follow, and it should be mentioned that the hotel closed for a time in 1930 during the depression. In 1932, Bank of America reopened the hotel with William Kimball as manager, but the hotel struggled financially, and in 1935, the bank installed one of its vice presidents, Hernando Courtwright, to oversee foreclosure. Courtwright fell in love with the hotel and dismissed the thought of foreclosing. He instead orchestrated a buyout, installed himself as manager, and along with Loretta Young, Irene Dunne and Harry Warner purchased the hotel in 1941. He then presided over the period of the hotel’s fastest growth. In the next decade, it became an even bigger celebrity spot than it had been in the 1920s. Courtwright later went on to buy the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. There was also Ben Silberstein, who bequeathed the hotel to his two daughters Muriel Slatkin and Seema Boesky. Seema Boesky sold the hotel for $136 million to Denver oilman Marvin Davis. In 1987, Davis sold the hotel to its present owner, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, of Brunei under the umbrella of Sajahtera Inc, a subsidiary of the Brunei Investment Agency. They closed the hotel for two years for a complete remodel. The hotel is now managed by the Dorchester Collection, which includes such prestigious properties as: The Dorchester, London; Le Meurice, Paris; Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris; Hotel Principe di Savoia, Milan; The New York Palace, New York; Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles.
The Polo Lounge has been patronized over the years by Royalty, Presidents, film stars that go back from the silent years to the present, Hollywood power-brokers and wealthy people from all over the world. It is an institution!