Friday, February 3, 2006

The Ambassador Wake: The Aftermath


Thanks to all of you who made it out to the Gaylord Apartments and HMS Bounty last night! I got to meet several of you for the first time and reconnect with others of you. (Special thanks to Pat Saperstein for loaning me her camera -- can't believe I left mine at home!)

I arrived at the Gaylord/HMS Bounty at around 7:15, and the line was already down the red carpet. (Yes, red carpet -- indeed, this was a much more stylized event than what I had originally planned with my wake.) The crowd in the Gaylord lobby was thick but manageable -- most of the people were outside, near the open bar, natch.

Out on the patio I ran into Joseph Mailander and Lynn, as well as KFI's Justin Levine... and several other people who recognized me from Franklin Avenue and The Ambassador's Last Stand. Moving to the HMS, I met 5th and Spring's Celia for the first time, and Trained Monkey's Jim for the second time. I think they recently started dating -- guys, true? (Update: Yes!) Later popped in LAist's Carolyn, who recounted her terrible mugging experience a few weeks ago right around the corner. Also, met LARitz's Jessica Ritz -- whose father, I later found out, co-wrote Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing"!

Also, thanks to and Wildbell's Will Campbell for figuring out how to use the flash on Pat's camera; and his wife Susan, who took several pics for The Ambassador's Last Stand via her job's vantage point across the street. Also met Losanjealous' Ryan, and Josh from Curbed LA.

Can't forget Shannon from Sha in LA, and her pal Eric Lynxwiler, the co-author of the fantastic "Wilshire Boulevard: Grand Concourse of Los Angeles." The book's other co-author, LA Observed's Kevin Roderick, was there, as was Los Angeles mag's Mary Melton (who wrote about our Birthday Race in 2003, you may recall). And LAVoice's Mack Reed, who wrote up the best coverage of anyone. A tidbit:

The loveliest tribute came from Carlyn Frank Benjamin - daughter of one of the Ambassador's first caretakers, and a 16-year resident of the hotel from the time it opened in 1921: "I'd always hoped the old girl would put on some new clothes and some comfortable shoes and some rose-scented moisturizing lotion, and that she could have had a new lease on life. ..."

And then she conjured the image of the Ambassador's ghosts rising up, filtering up through the debris and inspiring the LAUSD students who will occupy the school soon to be built on the site.

If that can happen, the death of the Ambassador won't have been a huge waste.

Besides getting to speak before Diane Keaton (who I stood next to on the stage), the highlight was meeting Mrs. Benjamin (the subject of Thursday's LATimes cover story about the Ambassador). Don't let her age fool you -- she was one of the liveliest attendees at the event. Not only did she give the best speech, but she and her sister (who also lived at the Ambassador in her youth) remember the hotel like it was yesterday. (Her husband was also an agent back in the day, and she told me she got to know Army Archerd very well. I told her Army was now blogging as well!)

Most amazingly, Mrs. Benjamin reads the blog! And knows all about me and Maria! I can't even get some of my friends to check it out, yet here's a woman who not only outlived the Ambassador but is still going strong! She was an inspiration. Here's a pic of me with her:

Me with Carlyn Frank Benjamin, who grew up at the Ambassador

Some other shots:

Diane Keaton speaks

Longtime Ambassador P.R. manager Margaret Burk, who wrote a fantastic history on the hotel, "Are The Stars Out Tonight?"

5th and Spring's Celia, her friend Kathy and Trained Monkey's Jim

LAist's Carolyn Kellogg

Martini Republic's Joseph with wife Lynn and KFI's Justin Levine

Sha in LA's Shannon, with "Wilshire Boulevard" co-author Eric Lynxwiler

LAVoice's Mack Reed, Los Angeles mag's Mary Melton and LAObserved's Kevin Roderick

Losanjealous' Ryan, with Will and Susan Campbell

Robert Peate, who also sent us a lot of great shots over the past few months, and his wife Robin

In the HMS Bounty

Crowd in the Gaylord lobby listen to speakers

More HMS Bounty crowd

Red carpet

Other recaps:

Caroline On Crack wishes it was more of a wake, less of a party but notes the impressive turnout.

Sha in LA hates to admit it, but perhaps Adaptive Reuse just wasn't possible with the Ambassador. She has a great rundown of who was there, and some cool pics here.

Joseph at Martini Republic doesn't quite get the hullabaloo surrounding the Ambassador's demise.

Jim at Trained Monkey also briefly checks in and lists some of the blogger attendees.

LA Observed also mentions a few highlights in its Friday roundup.

Carolyn at LAist has some last words for the Ambassador -- and is relieved that Hilary Duff didn't show up.

Jorge and Claudy took some great shots, and note that one-time "Melrose Place" and "Growing Pains" star Jamie Luner was there.

Celia from 5th and Spring tells a bittersweet story of meeting a onetime Cocoanut Grove musician with some great stories to tell -- but sadly, none of his former bandmates to reminisce with.

Thanks to the L.A. Conservancy and Ken Bernstein as well. Were you there? Did I meet you? Let me know!


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