Summer is over,but don’t tell that to those who swim about L.A.’s social swirls. In the past few months, poolside prancing and posturing have added a whole new dimension to nightlife, not to mention more excuses for daytime debauchery than ever before. But what is it about a cool — or warm — body of water that makes everyone want to jump in or at least gather ’round? Pools evoke serenity and cleansing, and for many Cali natives, a certain giddy nostalgia too. Who else thought the pool scenes in Boogie Nights were the best parts of the movie? But even more so, poolside cavorting is part of California’s glamorous image, the one in which everybody’s skinny, tan and rich. It’s a façade, of course, but at pool bars open to the public (ironically, we couldn’t visit less-pretentious ones for this story, like, say, the local Holiday Inn, since they’re strictly for guests only), it’s an idea that people work hard to keep alive. By day they bake, and by night they buzz; sometimes they even take a dip. It doesn’t seem to be winding down anytime soon either, though one wonders what will happen come rainy season.
The Tropicana Club
It’s more like the Tropicanta — as in can’t get in — lately. Friday nights are officially off-limits to anyone but hostess/co-owner Amanda Scheer Demme’s marquee-named pals, but if you get there super early on other nights, and look somewhat attractive, you’ve got a chance. There’s been a lot of hubbub about hotel guests’ not being allowed to hang by the David Hockney–designed, Olympic-size pool, but those issues have reportedly been resolved as of late. Still, don’t expect to sit anywhere unless you’ve been on E! recently or you’re willing to pay $500 for a bottle of vodka. Luckily, the giant palm tree near the entrance is encircled by a ring of cement just high and wide enough to fit a dozen or so bottoms (if they make that a bottle-service area, we’re never coming back!). No point in listing all the celebs who’ve been hanging here, but a couple of recent foolhardy pool antics that got a lot of attention: Kirsten Dunst’s fully clothed midnight dive (naked would have been way more interesting), Lindsay Lohan’s fucked-up friend who thought he could jump into it from her second-story room, and Courtney Love’s after-rehab relapse and ambulance pickup from a poolside cabana room. Far more interesting stardusted moments took place back in the day, long before designer Dodd Mitchell’s reality-TV-documented remodel. Marilyn Monroe lived in suite 246 (now called the Marilyn suite) off and on for years, and she filmed her first-ever ad on the diving board of the pool. Her ghost, along with that of Montgomery Clift, had been said to haunt the hotel for years, but no doubt their stellar spirits were scared away after encountering the viciousness of the velvet-roped entrance at midnight. 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 466-7000.
You might have to pay a few bills to park, but head to the Sunset Strip on a weeknight and you can hit up two of Hollywood’s best-known pool scenes within a couple-block stroll — hassle-, wait- and (almost) attitude-free. These spaces are way past their “It spot” prime (the Roosevelt, many say, put the final nail in the coffin), which finally gives regular folks a chance to soak in their pretty views and breezy ambiance, during the week, that is. We’ve written about downtown’s Standard and its Sunday roof shindigs a lot, but upon revisiting Andre Balazs’ original spacy spot on Sunset, we’re reminded that it’s actually just as groovy-looking as its eastward sister. The pool itself is bigger (get there before midnight to actually get your drink on around it), but it’s the adjoining indoor spaces we especially love. Sipping apple martinis while swaying back and forth on comfy Barbarella-esque swings inside the purple-hued lounge to the funky sounds of Prince and Rick James, we actually get kinda sad . . . this place is still so neato, and it’s practically dead, even for a Wednesday night. While this isn’t the case at the nearby Sky Bar (there was a respectably full and fashionable crowd sprinkled throughout the expansive outdoor patio lounge, with its couches and infamous bed mattresses), the Mondrian Hotel’s famed courtyard hang got so much hype and attention early on that there had to be backlash. The only stars you’re likely to see here these days are the ones that shine from above. But that’s just fine. We easily get a table (there’s no bottle service on weeknights) and enjoy the spectacular view of the city and funky tunes (more Prince!) for a few hours. Expect to pay $12 to $15 for a cocktail at both of these Sunset cash strippers. Standard, 8300 Sunset Blvd., W. Hollywood; (323) 822-3111. Sky Bar, 8449 Sunset Blvd., W. Hollywood; (323) 848-6025.
Labor Day weekend, and it’s about 98 degrees out. Alison Melnick (seen on The Club, a reality show about a Las Vegas nightclub) is throwing a daytime party at the W’s pool bar and café, called the Backyard. We put on our cutest sundress, slather up with sunscreen, and prepare to pay 15 bucks for parking and another 15 for a mojito. The bartender calls us “goddess” to make up for the 15-minute wait, and we remember he did the same thing last time we were here, at night to see Moby play an acoustic set. We make our way over to the pool, and, of course, nobody’s risking chlorinated tresses by getting in. Spray-tanned tarts are walking around in little suits and high heels, and the guys are shirtless, showing off their tats (some actually have nice pieces). There’s lots of headwear: fedoras, a couple trucker caps, even a gal in, we shit you not, a fur-flap hat and tiny bikini playing backgammon. She looks like a Gucci ad. The narrow VIP cabana area is crammed, while the rest of the place is busy but roomy. The mojito is kicking in so strong we decide it’s worth the price, and for a minute, we feel like we’re on HBO’s Entourage . . . as an extra. 930 Hilgard Ave., Westwood; (310) 208-8765.
Okay, so there’s not a real pool per se, but this little oasis on Ivar (near Sunset, just behind Amoeba, in the former parking lot of the Sunset Room) has everything you’d imagine a Miami, Diddy-style pool party would: lots of half-naked gals with that burnt-sienna glow, undulating palm trees and, of course, modernistic wood cabanas all along the perimeter. And though the coveted cubbyholes do connect so that privileged peeps can chat to each other across the tables, bottle-service sluts and tabloid-cover subjects who really want privacy (though most wouldn’t be here in the first place if they did) have the option of closing both the curtains in front of ’em and those between each booth. Don’t even bother trying to get into Pantera Sara’s Thursday-night celeb cesspool right now, unless you’re extremely patient. After getting snapped at by a clipboard-wielding bee-otch and enduring catcalls by greasy dudes in Mercedes Jeeps while standing in line for a half-hour, we scram across the street to the ArcLight for a flick instead. At a Sunday-brunch gathering a week later, it’s a hell of a lot more chill, with DJs spinning classic rock and electro mixes till dusk. Early birds even get free breakfast while they soak in the sun. As for the body of water in the middle of the place, the only thing anyone will ever be dippin’ in this skinny blue rectangle is a toe, and a pinky at that. 1439 Ivar Ave., Hollywood; (323) 463-0004.
You’ll see plenty of tanned and toned locals with cash to burn — the kind who have no qualms about dropping a C-note on a faded T-shirt at Fred Segal — at this glossy white seaside hotel, but the guests — a lot of Euro dudes in swanky shirts and their sequined-topped dates — definitely add color to the place’s assortment of hangout areas, including Wist restaurant, the Cameo bar and the adjoining outdoor poolside patio. This pool area features two smallish, 4-foot-deep aqua ponds, flanked by couches and a trio of extra-large cabanas complete with their own velvet ropes. No tiny striped tents with lawn chairs here, these cabanas are more like living rooms, with plush décor and big squishy couches. On a recent Friday night, a party for some Warner Bros. exec is taking place, so we park it in the bar and enjoy a fun array of cocktails and appetizers, including a gourmet take on Roscoe’s chicken and waffles (made into little finger sandwiches) and a Key-lime martini with ground graham-cracker crust on the glass rim. Yum. We finish the candylike concoction outside by the heated pools but don’t feel the need to stay too long. There’s lots of chatter and pretty people standing around, but this pool party is missing a splashy soundtrack to go with the scenery. 1819 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; (310) 260-7500.
The least hoity-toity of the poolside spots we visit, the Hotel Figueroa poolside bar is also, big surprise, our favorite (along with the one at the nearby downtown Standard). Surrounded by an otherworldly cactus garden and illuminated by intricate Moroccan lamps, this old Staples Center–adjacent hotel has an exotic charm that could never be manufactured somewhere else and should never be revamped. While sipping a beer near its billowy opium-den-like deck, overlooking the underlit pool, we’re reminded of the Roosevelt and what it used to look like. It was shabby, but it had an old-school chic. The Fig has the same kind of feel to it. A place where interesting people from faraway lands come not to be seen, but to sleep, work or sightsee, and sometimes even swim in the California moonlight. Behind a sign that reads, “Pool and hot tub for hotel guests only,” two Japanese girls soak, and smile as we stroll past. There’s nothing glamorous about them, but they look like stars. 393 S. Figueroa St., downtown; (213) 627-8971.