Monday, January 30, 2006

Ambassador Cam, #29

A belated (sorry, been busy) shot of the now fallen Ambassador Hotel sign:

(Thanks to reader Kathy.)

Friday, January 27, 2006

Ambassador Update: The Sign is Gone

Sure, it was cheesy. And a relic of the hotel's last-ditch effort to revive itself. Just check out that font -- how dated! But still, the Ambassador Hotel sign graced its Wilshire Blvd. entrance for decades... and its disappearance is another reminder that the historic building is gone.

From reader Kathy:

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.:(

I know, second Ambassador post of the day. Meanwhile, have you RSVP'ed for the Ambassador Wake yet? See you next Thursday!

Ambassador Cam, #28

Some cool new shots from Franklin Avenue reader Wojtek, who took these on Tuesday:

Meanwhile, Thursday's LA Daily News reported on the uncertain future of the Ambassador pantry. The walls themselves are gone, but the equipment from the scene of RFK's assassination have been preserved, despitethe Kennedy family's objection. Now, what to do with it?

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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Memories of the Ambassador, Part One

Franklin Avenue reader Don Stewart sent us this shot of the Ambassador, which he took some time last year. Thanks to everyone who's sending us pics of the now-demolished building -- keep 'em coming! And don't forget to RSVP for the Feb. 2 Ambassador Hotel wake!

An update on the Wake: I've been informed that the majority of the party -- including, yes, the open bar -- will actually be at the Gaylord Apartments (which is the same location -- The HMS Bounty is connected to the Gaylord's lobby). The crowd will likely spill into the HMS Bounty. But drinks aren't free there -- so don't try to pull a fast one on my man Ramon!

In other Ambassador news, the LAUSD is looking for artists to depict the history of the once-grand hotel, according to the Downtown News:

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.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Ambassador Cam, #27

The Ambassador Hotel's remains, including the Cocoanut Grove, 1/18/06

Thanks to reader Robert Peate, who passed along these new shots. (Which are obviously facing east -- well, sort of southeast -- as you can see the downtown skyline in the background.)

Hope to see you at the Ambassador Hotel wake on Feb. 2 -- be sure to RSVP soon!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Ambassador Wake, Take 2

Spread the word... here's the info for the Ambassador farewell party on Feb. 2. It's a slightly more formal event than the one I'd been organizing -- in other words, you've got to RSVP. But on the flip side, there's a hosted bar -- which should appeal to the inner journalist in all of you. Hope to see you there...

WHAT: Toast the life and death of the legendary Ambassador Hotel

WHEN: Feb. 2 at 7 p.m.

WHERE: The HMS Bounty

WHO: You -- RSVP at 310-858-2224 (as soon as possible -- there's only room for so many people at the HMS Bounty)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

You Are Cordially Invited to The Ambassador Hotel's Wake

UPDATE: New plans! Next Tuesday's wake has been canceled. Instead, Ken Bernstein of the L.A. Conservancy contacted me this afternoon to let me know that the organization was planning its own Ambassador hotel tribute -- also at the HMS Bounty -- the week after ours. As a result, we're going to merge events. Information to come... hang tight!

The Ambassador Hotel, 1921-2005

Come join Franklin Avenue and The Ambassador's Last Stand as we have a few drinks in the memory of the late, lamented Ambassador!

WHAT: Franklin Avenue and The Ambassador's Last Stand present The Ambassador Hotel's Wake


WHERE: The HMS Bounty
3357 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(across from the Ambassador site)

WHY: To celebrate Los Angeles history and the demise of a key historical building. And to meet other bloggers, blog readers, L.A. enthusiasts and freaks.

The HMS Bounty has plenty of its own history. Operating under its present name since 1962, the HMS Bounty remains a favorite neighborhood watering hole. According to its website, it's rumored Sirhan Sirhan ate at the Bounty shortly before the assassination of Robert Kennedy.

If you're interested, please email us at

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Fitting (?) Farewell

The same day the Ambassador Hotel bit the dust, my former colleague Travis -- now living up in Canada -- found an apropos soft-core flick sitting on his TiVo (which, he promises, innocently found its way to the DVR's hard drive):

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.

Thankfully, this little piece of Skinemax cinema wasn't the final pic shot at the Ambassador -- Emilio Estevez's "RFK" was -- but it goes to show how extensively the hotel was used as a location in the final years of its life.

Monday, January 16, 2006

BREAKING NEWS: The Ambassador Is Gone (Updated with Pictures)

The Cocoanut Grove is all that remains of the Ambassador Hotel. Jan. 16, 2005 -- 1:30 p.m.

The same view from Wilshire Boulevard in September, as demolition had just begun.

Just came from the Ambassador Hotel site, and documented the final demise of the once mighty structure. It's all gone. All that's left is a heap of rubble, and the Cocoanut Grove building (which will be incorporated into the new school on the site).

Some shots from Catalina and 7th, as I face west:

The same view, as taken in 2002 by the folks behind

RIP, The Ambassador Hotel and your many, many ghosts. Stay tuned for details on an Ambassador wake we hope to throw, perhaps at the HMS Bounty next week.

Ambassador Cam, #26

Believe it or not, that's all that's left of the once proud Ambassador Hotel. Pic comes from Jennifer Sharpe, who passes along this note:

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.

Thanks to Jennifer, who took this pic Sunday morning -- the remaining strip of hotel even smaller than when I last checked on Friday.

The final days of the Ambassador has brought out photographers, pro and amateur alike, and I've seen several of them snapping shots as I took my own "Ambassador Cam" pics. This anonymous comment at The Ambassador's Last Stand also stopped by the site today, and reports what we've suspected: That this is the week the last portion of the hotel (excepting the Cocoanut Grove) disappears:

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.

I think we may have to throw an Ambassador wake at the HMS Bounty in the coming weeks. Anyone else game?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Ambassador's Last Stand, As Seen From Above

Thanks to Darleene, who found this great shot of the Ambassador Hotel taken by blogger Doc Searls, who flew above much of L.A. recently and chronicled much of it. (Also via

This is a shot of the hotel from the back; Wilshire is at the top of the pic; the bungalows used to be on the right. As you've seen from our ground shots, most of the hotel is already gone -- this just gives it another perspective from the sky.

Quite a contrast to this Windows Live Local pic from a few years ago, taken from the same angle, with Wilshire at the top of the photo:

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Ambassador Cam, #25

The demolition accelerated this week, as construction crews focused on the last remaining section of the hotel -- the middle part. By Friday, even that was mostly gone. I now expect the structure to be completely gone (with the exception of the Cocoanut Grove, which is being rehabbed) by end of next week.

Some views from Wilshire:

Jan. 12, 2006

Jan. 11, 2006

Jan. 9, 2006

And some shots taken from Catalina street on Jan. 11:

Not much more to see here...

Closer view... not much left but a few walls and a lot of asbestos!

Where the hotel lobby and the Cocoanut Grove connected.

Entrance to the demolition site for the "Central Los Angeles New Learning Center." I do hope they decide to call the facilities Ambassador High. (Although I suppose there's a good argument that it should be RFK High.)

Monday, January 09, 2006

Ambassador Cam, #24

The south wing of the Ambassador Hotel is now gone, i saw while driving by this morning. Meanwhile, Susan Campbell, who works across the street, took these shots on Friday of the demolition.

Ambassador Cam, #23

Ambassador Hotel, 1/6/06, 10:25 a.m.

Soon, the Cocoanut Grove is all that will be left. Meanwhile, a reader writes in and wonders what has happened to the Paul Williams-designed coffee shop (below). As part of the LAUSD's original plan, the coffee shop was originally slated to be saved as the new high school's break room.

But given how fluid the Ambassador high school plans seem to be (such as the recent decision to scrap the previously announced design, which looked like the hotel), who knows. I'll see if I can get an answer from the LAUSD as well, but feel free to chime in if you know.

Meanwhile, we'll have more pics for you later today from Susan Campbell's camera. Susan works in one of the tall buildings next to the Ambassador, and has watched the slow demolition for months.

(Coffee shop pic via

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Ambassador's Drawn-Out Farewell

We've been chronicling the Ambassador's final days here at Franklin Avenue for months, and have wondered, like you, when the demolition will finally be completed. First we heard word that the hotel would be gone by the end of the year.

Now, the L.A. Times reports that the process should be done by March:

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.

Still, LAUSD officials downplay the methane, refusing to compare it to the Belmont school debacle. Meanwhile, the story also explains why dynamite wasn't used to take the building down (too messy -- no one wants asbestos flying everywhere) and notes that the school district hasn't yet figured out what to do with the pantry where Bobby Kennedy was assassinated:

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."

Also, contrary to original plans, the school won't replicate the look of the hotel after all. But the district promises to keep the "iconic view from Wilshire," which means building the school in the same footprint as the hotel, and maintaining the grassy field between the Cocoanut Grove (the one part of the hotel that will remain) and Wilshire.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Ambassador Cam, #22

Ambassador Hotel, 1/4/06, 10 a.m.

This is it -- this is the view from Wilshire of the Ambassador's puny remains as of Wednesday morning. The southeast wing is now gone -- all that's left is the Cocoanut Grove, the center strip of the building (which connected the north and south wings) and part of the southwest wing (which will be gone by next week, I presume).

A few shots of the east side of the building, taken from Catalina St. Notice you can see right through what was once the lobby:

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

It Was 17 Years Ago Today...

... that the Ambassador Hotel closed its doors to guests forever. The L.A. Times marks the occasion in its new A2 feature (a part of its 125th anniversary milestone), "Times Past":

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.

By this time next year, of course, the Ambassador will be gone. Hell, it could be gone within a month, as I noticed today that half of the building's south wing has now been demolished (pics to come).

Meanwhile, some more shots taken a year ago (in Jan. 2005 and Nov. 2004) by Franklin Avenue reader Theresa: