Oh, the trials of keeping discerning eyes happy! For those who simply must have their atomic-age swank in perfect condition, the Avalon is your scene (9400 W. Olympic Blvd., 310-277-5200, $199). This is far more gorgeous than any motel I’ve ever seen. Being the design industry’s darling (it’s Wallpaper’s favorite L.A. hotel) must be hard work, because this month the rates went up. Observe the swimming pool through panels of floor-to-ceiling glass, a blue kidney-bean-shaped study in midcentury-modern aesthetic. The lobby is awash in deep-orange mood lighting, mood music and mood-enhancing textures. It’s so dark I can barely make out the Lucite lounge chairs and glossy dark-wood coffee tables. It’s so dark that, of course, white votive candles on white marble poolside patio tables make perfect sense. Granted, the staff is uncommonly friendly, but to emerge, half-naked and bikini-clad, onto the Avalon’s pristine pool pad, set fishbowl style within the cool eyeshot of the ultrahip clientele, I don’t care how hot it is: It is just not dark enough.
POOL as Theme park
Lions and Tigers and Prawns,
You, with the chopped salad. Over here. Two words: raised sundeck. Oh wait, three more: prawn club sandwiches. Oh wait, we were discussing the pool. Lovely, really, lovely. At the Safari Inn, we’re not so much safari as safariesque (1911 W. Olive Ave., Burbank, 818-845-8586, $109). If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine that Burbank’s swooshing traffic is actually a rushing waterfall, the murmur of wind rustling through long grass. Though I’m not so sure that Pier One–style faux African masks and animal-print armchairs “define the retro style,” like the brochure says.
Great Underwater Escape Act
Maybe it has more to do with the famous magician’s venue next door, but lounging at the Magic Castle Hotel feels a lot like crashing an exclusive backstage (7025 Franklin Ave., 323-851-0800, $79). The lobby is plush and new-smelling: all crown moldings and creamy-peach carpeting. There’s something in the air (paint fumes? paranoia?) that puts one on the lookout for sleights of hand and misdirection. Hidden exits in the laundry room? Secret compartments in the water filter? Keep an eye out for that sleek little wall-mounted video camera by the reception desk. It’s all part of the Magic’s mystique. Only the management can tell you whether or not Penn and Teller actually sunned on the patio (they’ve got marked spaces in the basement garage). Catch some shade and conjure Houdini. Bask in the cachet of a man who straps on leather bondage gear, jumps into a pool and calls it illusion.
Sunning in Surreal-land
Oh the Valley. Oh the moose- and reindeer-shaped topiary. Swimming at the Sportsmen’s Lodge on Ventura Boulevard is nothing short of an adventure into the strange world of softer living (12825 Ventura Blvd., 818-769-4700, $118 with AAA discount). Ponytailed old white men in Ray-Ban sunglasses and tuxedos mill about. Waterfalls burble. Rosy-cheeked girls in bridesmaid dresses congregate around the Jacuzzi. A giant inflatable Buzz Lightyear floatie bobs in the outdoor Olympic-size pool, while pale-haired boys and girls frolic in the shallow end. The muted sound of honking drifts from the koi pond at the Caribou Restaurant. Is that a goose? Wait, it’s a swan. No, wait, it’s a duck. Float in the company of chiropractors’ conventions and gazebo gardens. All around is sunshine, laughter and pine-wood Colonial. Doggy-paddle off the deep end of the 405. Marco? Polo.