Ambassador Cam, #29
(Thanks to reader Kathy.)
Franklin Avenue's ongoing coverage of the L.A. landmark's final days
I drove down Wilshire this am (Thursday Jan. 26) and was shocked to see an empty cement pole in front by the sidewalk. I parked, took my camera, walked over and saw that beautiful Ambassador sign on the ground, in the drive way!
I felt so bad that I couldn't even take a photo of it. I'm glad I got lots of photos while it was still in place--at the top smiling out on Wilshire Blvd. where it belongs. Where do you suppose they'll store it? I think even CoCo (Coconut Grove) looks sad.:(
Against the wishes of the Kennedy family, the pantry equipment from the mostly demolished Ambassador Hotel is being packed up instead of destroyed. Now school officials, who bought the vacant hotel in 2001 to make way for new classrooms, are saddled with the question of what to do with the remnants of the tragic spot in American history.
The Kennedys fear that the fixtures - including a food-warming table, an ice machine, wainscoting and ceiling lights - could end for sale online as morbid souvenirs. Several pieces that are purported to be from the landmark hotel are already being offered over the Internet.
A Los Angeles Unified School District advisory panel concluded the pantry had no historical significance and urged the school system to get rid of it. But the district is legally bound to preserve the items under the demolition plan approved by the school board, said district spokeswoman Shannon Johnson-Haber.
According to Paul Schrade, a Kennedy family friend who was wounded in the June 1968 assassination, Superintendent Roy Romer promised one of the senator's sons that the district would dispose of the pantry.
"The agreement was to get rid of all of it," said Schrade, who said he attended a meeting where Romer gave that assurance to Maxwell Kennedy, the assassinated senator's son. Kennedy fears that if the items are not destroyed, "this winds up on eBay," Schrade added.
Glenn Gritzer, the former school official who worked most closely on the Ambassador project as a special assistant to Romer, said the superintendent was expressing a personal desire, not a guarantee.
Because of legal restrictions, "the superintendent can't just wake up one morning and say, 'Boom, it's gone,"' Gritzner said.
With the demolition of the Ambassador Hotel wrapping up last week, the Los Angeles Unified School District has started the process of selecting artwork to grace the new schools complex that will occupy the site. The district wants original pieces that depict the history of the Ambassador Hotel within the context of Los Angeles from 1921 to 1968.
Corinne Weitzman, an art consultant hired by the school district, said plans are being worked out as to how many pieces will be on the new campus. "It really depends on the response we get and the proposals that come in," she said.
I was perusing my TiVo, which had mysteriously recorded for me a screening of “Deviant Vixens 2,” probably because of my love of nature documentaries. “Vixens,” however, is not about foxes at all!
One of the perks of Canadian TV is that there’s a much more relaxed attitude towards sexuality on the boob tube. And in fact, this “Vixen” movie is a bit of a sex romp. (Hi, Mom!)
But what I found interesting about it — and other than this, the film’s awful in every respect, trust me — is that it was filmed in 2002 on the grounds of the Ambassador Hotel!
The plot, such as it is, revolves around “Hotel Amore,” which was the playground of celebrities married and less married. The crew appears not to have gotten inside, but the building and grounds are filmed from all sorts of different angles, and the Coconut Grove is easy to spot. The long driveway with palm trees is also present, as is a little graffiti and various barred-off courtyards.
Is someone at CityTV a cineaste tearfully mourning the passing of a Hollywood icon? Was the last film made at the historic Ambassador a talentless yet strikingly appropriate blue movie? I don’t know. But I do know that TiVo’s ability to identify programs I like to watch just became a little scary.
After having dreamt about the Ambassador Hotel last night, i drove over there and shot this photo of the last remaining piece of it this morning. it looks like an ancient ruin, part of a fallen civilization. i just discovered your weblog and wanted to pass along this photo as a token of my wistful solidarity.
I was taking photos at the Ambassador Hotel today (Sunday 1/15) and an administrator drove up. He said that the remaining portion of the hotel will be down "in two days". I don't know if the two days are Monday and Tuesday of the coming week or Tuesday and Wednesday, since Monday is a holiday. But the hotel's remaining structure (other than the area of the Cocoanut Grove which is being preserved) will probably be gone by Thursday!
Several photographers were present today, and the weather was fine for photography. The view of the south facade of the hotel was shocking, to say the least, as the last time I saw it at Christmas, the south facade was still intact.
The only remaining structure is a small piece of the main building separated from the Cocoanut Grove portion and standing precariously on it's own.
Demolition of the landmark Ambassador Hotel to make way for a 4,200-seat campus is dragging on and on, they say, even though school officials have argued since the early 1990s that they desperately need its space for classrooms — and need it quickly.
The tear-down is in its fifth month — and to many Wilshire Boulevard passersby and neighbors, there appears to be no end in sight. In fact, there's not even not a wrecking ball in sight.
Los Angeles Unified School District planners say the demolition only appears to be going slowly because workers were forced to remove asbestos and lead from the 85-year-old hotel before knocking down its concrete walls.
Now authorities have to deal with the unexpected discovery of methane gas beneath the 24-acre hotel grounds.
Soil tests last month revealed the problem. Experts said school builders will probably be required to install an "impermeable membrane" beneath the new campus, along with a network of pipes to vent the gas.
Authorities said Thursday that could add millions to the campus' $270-million cost and could affect the planned 2008 opening of its elementary school. A middle school and a high school are also planned for the site; they are scheduled to open in 2009.
Jim Cowell, the school district's director of construction, said documentation of the Ambassador's past for the historical record also added to "the perception that it's taking a long time" to raze the hotel.
There was plenty to include in the record. Every U.S. president from Herbert Hoover to Richard Nixon stayed at the Ambassador at one time or another. After delivering a victory speech in the hotel's Embassy Ballroom in June of 1968, Kennedy was gunned down while exiting through the adjacent pantry.
"We have removed and preserved the portion of the building referred to as the pantry," Cowell said. "That's being stored off-site. What will be done with it is uncertain. There are a number of options, and a committee of experts has been commissioned by the superintendent to look at them."
Declining business along once-thriving Wilshire Boulevard forced the 68-year-old Ambassador Hotel to shut its doors. The majestic hotel had played host to six Academy Awards ceremonies as well as countless movie stars and other dignitaries, including Charlie Chaplin and Winston Churchill. But it is perhaps best known as the site of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's assassination in 1968.