Friday, December 30, 2005

Ambassador Cam, #21

I've been out of the office this week, which means I haven't been able to drive by the Ambassador and check on the progress of the hotel demolition.

Luckily, some of you are picking up my slack. Thanks to LAist's Carolyn Kellogg, who took these shots on Thursday:

More destruction on the east side of the building.

The west side of the Ambassador. The south wing still stands -- but presumably not for long.

Great shot of the west side of the building -- check out the size of the workers. This was a big hotel.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Another View From the Pantry

Our recent series of shots from the Ambassador Hotel's pantry -- where Robert F. Kennedy was shot in 1968 -- has elicited several more submissions from readers. Here's one from reader Joe Barrett:

After seeing Grant's photo of the pantry where Kennedy was shot, I thought I would send you my photo of the same site.

If you look at my photo and the photo of the original police investigation just below Grant's Photo, I think you can confirm that this is indeed the spot. Note the open doors on the right side of the frame in both the police shot and my shot.

As for the spot where the "X" was painted, I was told by the people that were managing the Ambassador as a film location that the "X" was painted by Ambassador employees after the shooting because so many people wanted to see the place where the crime occurred. The "X" is in a spot that is easily accessible, and would have made for a quick tour (for a tip, I suspect), while the actual location is much deeper in the Ambassador, and made for a much more involved trip.

Also as a curious aside, many people have described seeing a sinister face in the lower center of my picture (it takes a minute to see it), and they have also noted that the white shape you see to the right of the face is positioned similar to Kennedy as he lay on the floor in (the famous) photo.

Spooky, huh?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Ambassador Cam #20

We've got a backlog of new Ambassador destruction shots, taken Friday morning. First up, the latest view from Wilshire:

Ambassador Hotel, 12/23/05, 10:10 a.m.

Closer look of the Cocoanut Grove, now under wraps

But I've expanded the scope, since the view from Wilshire hasn't been changing too much. A few views from Catalina and 7th (on the building's east side), where the latest destruction is more pronounced:

Coming up later this week: More reader submitted photos of the Ambassador pantry, as well as pics from earlier this year of the hotel in its final pre-destruction mode.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Original Pantry

As most of you know, the Ambassador Hotel pantry is where Robert F. Kennedy, having just won the California primary, was shot (above, with busboy Juan Romero).

Reader Grant e-mails in a pic he took in late 2001 or early 2002 of the Ambassador Hotel's pantry. He writes:

A couple years ago I managed to get a tour inside the Ambassador Hotel from one of the security guards that were on the grounds 24/7. He took me inside to see the kitchen where Kennedy was shot. He showed me an 'x' on the ground where he said his head was when he fell. I found his story to be a bit fishy for some reason. So I went and did some research and found pictures of the actual pantry where he was shot. I then went back in the hotel with my camera and found the actual pantry. Strangely enough it was barricaded by a plywood wall and was locked up. He let me in and I took this picture. The peach colored doors in the middle of the picture are the doors he came out of from the hallway leading to the ballroom. He was shot right next the the sink, basically where that broom is leaning.

I thought it would be a good one to put up because it shows where Kennedy actually got shot. I think my picture was taken in late 2001 or early 2002.

The other picture I found is a police picture taken after he was shot in 1968. I just did that to compare them.

Keep up the good work with the site!


The Ambassador Hotel pantry, as photographed four years ago...

...and as it looked in the aftermath of RFK's assassination in 1968.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Ambassador Cam, #19

Franklin Avenue reader Theresa sends us another batch of fantastic (and sad) demolition photos, this time shots of the destruction from the west side of the Ambassador Hotel (with the photographer, Theresa, facing east).

Watching the destruction unfold earlier this month, Theresa believes she has spotted the hotel's kitchen. Theresa also toured the building in 2004 and in January 2005, and shares images from inside.

One more shot, this time from the east side (with Theresa facing west, on Catalina):

We've got more great shots coming from Theresa (thanks!) in the next few days.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Ambassador Cam, #18

Ambassador Hotel, 12/15/05, 10:30 a.m.

They've covered up the windows of the Cocoanut Grove. Perhaps it's best not to witness what's going on inside. (Much of the Grove -- which was already bastardized in the 1970s -- will be rehabbed and reused as part of the new high school being built. I'll be curious to see how they rework it.)

Meanwhile, most of the south wing still stands; I'm assuming we'll see much of it torn down in the coming weeks. Not sure if all of the hotel will be down by the end of the year, as originally planned, but we'll keep you posted.

Friday, December 16, 2005

"Last Looks: The Ambassador Hotel"

With half of the Ambassador Hotel already reduced to rubble -- and the other half scheduled to disappear by the end of the year -- all we have left now are photos and memories.

Thankfully, the hotel's ghosts were well documented before its demise. Some of those images are now on display, outside City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo's office:

One weekend last March, a team of Hollywood location managers and teenagers from the Jefferson High School Academy of Film and Theatre Arts slipped in and mounted one of the last photo shoots at the 84-year-old landmark building that was once the belle of Wilshire Boulevard.

Using donated cameras, the 60 students and their mentors from the Location Managers Guild of America prowled the bedraggled property, which hadn't seen a paying overnight guest in 16 years. (The Los Angeles Unified School District, owner of the property, prevailed this year in a battle against preservationists and announced plans to demolish the hotel and put up schools on the site.)

The eerie results of that shoot will hang in a 38-image exhibition outside the City Hall office of City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo through mid-January. It's called "Last Looks: The Ambassador Hotel," and the imagery includes an empty swimming pool, a room full of dust-caked porcelain sinks and a patch of carpet sprouting mushrooms.

Meanwhile, Tim McGarry blogs his memories of the hotel here, and ends on this note:
As I watch the Ambassador come down, I’m reminded of a scene in an old Astaire-Rogers movie -- Top Hat, I think, from 1935. Astaire is in white tie and tails, Rogers in a feathered dress. They are in a night club, sleek and brilliantly lit, with white walls and a polished black floor.

They dance. In the beginning, they are suspicious and reluctant. The next phase is a suave seduction, followed by rapid, joyful movements and brilliant leaps. In the last phase, the mood is downbeat again – the lady separates from her partner and vanishes off-stage. The lights dim, leaving the partner disconsolate in the shadows.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Ambassador Cam, #17

Ambassador Hotel, Dec. 12, 10:07 a.m.

Kids take part in physical education class in the Ambassador yards, as the north wing -- except the Cocoanut Grove -- has completely disappeared.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Ambassador Cam, #16

Gone by New Year's Day... that's what I've been told by a source familiar with the Ambassador Hotel demolition. And taking a look at the latest progress, I'd say that's a real possibility. The north wing of the hotel -- the one visible from Wilshire Blvd. -- is more or less gone.

But hey, at least they're still keeping the lawn in top shape! (/sarcasm)

Meanwhile, reader Adam was inspired to write us after this post about Sammy Davis, Jr.'s Ambassador apartment:

The mention on LAObserved steered me to your site to gander at the pics of Sammy Davis' suite at the Ambassador.

What her pics fail to convey (thankfully) is the hideous purple the place was once painted, and the heavy black wood shutters which encased the windows. It also had dark, fuzzy velour type wall-paper of the era on some walls. It truly was a decorating fiasco (which Sammy oversaw). The room was dark and dank even in the daytime - perhaps to ensure a sound sleep even after the sun came up for a night-owl such as an entertainer.

When Sammy no longer was involved in the Grove, he removed anything personal from the suite, and the room was rented as an "A" suite (akin to the Presidential Suite down the hall), or given to VIPs who performed downstairs. The paint was lightened up a bit by the hotel to make it less morose.

But the saving grace of the suite was a black baby grand piano which sat under the windows on the Wilshire side of the room. One could only imagine who else sat at the bench during the hotel's heyday and played the piano (besides me lol). (In the pic of the gutted suite with the brick arches, you'll see the wall/window where the piano sat.) Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Rat Pack's Last Stand

Franklin Avenue/The Ambassador's Last Stand reader Tess was recently shooting photos at the Ambassador, and realized that she could see the back wall of what used to be the master bathroom of what was once Sammy Davis Jr's apartment.

Sammy had a sixth floor place above the Cocoanut Grove back in the day, notes Tess, who had shot the inside of the building on a previous visit earlier this year.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Ambassador Cam, #15

Brand new shots from Susan Campbell, who works in the building across from the Ambassador. Here's the view from her vantage point:

Friday, December 02, 2005

Ambassador Cam, #14

Ambassador Hotel, 12/1/2005, 10:15 a.m.

Meanwhile, does anyone have info on the eventual fate of the Ambassador sign?

It's obviously not an original part of the hotel, and you could argue that the gaudy 70s-era sign isn't worth saving. On the flip side, by allowing the sign to remain, LAUSD would at least allow some sort of acknowledgement that the Ambassador Hotel once stood here.

That's a Wrap

Estevez on the "Bobby" set. (Photo via New York Times)

Today's New York Times has more details on the final film shot at the Ambassador Hotel, Emilio Estevez's "Bobby."

A snapshot of Bobby Kennedy's final moments before being assassinated at the Ambassador, Estevez managed to shoot several scenes just days before the building's destruction began. Making it all the more odd, Estevez's papa, Martin Sheen, had thrown his support to the Kennedy family's campaign to stop preservation efforts:

Officials were planning to replace the long-shuttered grande dame of Wilshire Boulevard with a school big enough for 4,000 students, many of them immigrants and minorities, who would otherwise have to keep riding buses across town. One of the project's backers was Ethel Kennedy, the senator's widow, who saw it as a fitting tribute to her husband. So she asked her friend Mr. Sheen - who has played Robert Kennedy in a mini-series, narrated a collection of his speeches, and done voice-overs for a number of Kennedy-family productions - to make some calls on her behalf.

Mr. Sheen had been only too happy to oblige, he told his family over dinner.

To which they all but choked on their food. As Mr. Estevez reeled, he recalled in an interview, his mother snapped at his father: "Are you insane?"

Mr. Estevez, as Mr. Sheen knew, had been plotting for several years to make an independent film he had written about the day Robert Kennedy was shot. It was to take place over 16 hours on June 4 and 5, 1968, entirely within the Ambassador. And he was desperate to film his movie there before the hotel was razed.