PARTY PROMOTER APPLE VIA CUTS a slim silhouette against the moonlight as she lies on a chaise longue poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt. Her Sigerson Morrison–covered feet are kicked up behind her as she speaks about the Monday-night backgammon parties she recently started hosting here.
“This is where I want to be all summer,” the blonde, blue-eyed former actress says, looking up at the stars. “I mean, look at it! The palm trees, it’s quintessential Hollywood, but old-school Hollywood.”
“The thing that appeals to me about it is it’s not a club, it’s more of a party. In the sense that, okay, this is a hotel, but it could be somebody’s house with a pool. There’s a more relaxed feel to me. I feel like there is so much intensity, impersonal intensity, in a nightclub, and I am not about that.”
Then what are Monday nights at the Roosevelt about?
“Well, playing backgammon and sitting under the stars and listening to music and talking to friends, and feeling nice and relaxed at the end of a hot day. It’s about connecting people and . . . spreading the love.”
Since it was built in 1927, the Roosevelt has gone in and out of favor among the Hollywood elite. In 1929, it was home to the first Oscar ceremony; later, it was the location of Marilyn Monroe’s first bathing-suit photo shoot. There were also shabbier years, when locals may remember the hotel offering cut-rate rooms, bad coffee and access to a degenerated Mann’s Chinese Theater. Yet it has endured, unlike its once-majestic, Mid-Wilshire cousin, the Ambassador.
More recently, under the eye of Hollywood-wife-turned-nightlife-impresario Amanda Scheer-Demme, the Roosevelt reinvented itself, becoming a hub for just about everyone in the young Hollywood and very young Hollywood scene, including modern-day pinups Lindsay Lohan and the Olsen twins.
Since Scheer-Demme’s dismissal last March, the hotel has turned to the Alliance, a party-planning group run by recent Survivor cast member Shane Powers, former actor Josh Richmond and longtime club promoter Hartwell. They, in turn, invited other local promoters, including Via and her Monday-night cohost, actress-model Lisa Ann, to collaborate with them on different theme nights throughout the summer.
Tonight there are people really playing backgammon. The music is mellow and the environs are pretty. Via reaches into her gold purse, pulls out a cigarette and lights it.
It is great that there is no ceiling.
“Oh, yeah, being outside, people feel lighter. They feel more relaxed, and there is something romantic about it, underneath the Hotel Roosevelt sign. This is a piece of history; Marilyn Monroe lived in that suite right there.”
The 30-something points to the room above the bar where Monroe frequently stayed.
What kind of people come to your parties?
“Well, tonight I was thinking, why do I love writers so much? Writers seem to be the theme of the night. But writers and actors and artists and musicians . . . I think hot, cute soulful types.”
Via takes another drag off her Marlboro Light and adds, “This is a great place to have a conversation. The history of this place . . . people don’t think about that. But when they get here, they can feel it, and I think it is probably one of the reasons they have a good time.”
Another person who appreciates the hotel’s history is 25-year-old, bespectacled comedy writer/waiter Mark, who is sitting one chaise away with his boyfriend and a small group of friends.
He sips on a Coke, and pretends to yell: “Where are all the fat people? Are there no fat people left?!”
Putting down his glass, he continues his rant.
“I just want to force-feed some of these girls chocolate until their periods come back.”
So, what do you think about this place?
“You know what I always loved about the idea of the Roosevelt? When my dad first came [to L.A.], he stayed here,” explains Mark, who is originally from Canada and later moved to Georgia, Boston and New York. “I was so excited, ’cause I was a Monty Clift obsessive. Monty Clift is famous for staying here when he was rehearsing for his role in From Here to Eternity. My dad actually stayed on the floor where Monty Clift stayed, and this is really sad, but he told me that after his second night, he heard a man sobbing somewhere on the floor.”
And you think it was Clift?
“I don’t know, maybe it was just some sad, crazy, suicidal producer in the next room, weeping. The weird thing about this town is that no one remembers the winning stories. It’s always the tragedies that stay. The dream-come-true-stories are a dime a dozen, but at the end of the day, does anyone remember who won the Oscars last year? I sure the hell don’t. But I remember where so-and-so died. We were just in the house where Orson Welles died.”
What was it like?
“It was gorgeous. I felt like Suddenly Last Summer.”