“Let me into the Skybar,” comes the demand.
“It’s for hotel guests only,” I say.
“Please, oh please, let me into the Skybar,” another pleads.
“I’m sorry, I can’t help you. Try bribing someone.”
“Here’s $45 — and my girlfriend.”
“Hotel rooms are a minimum of $375, and I still get your girlfriend.”
“But it’s Monday night.”
Yes, it’s Monday night, quiet time for most of the frenetic Sunset Strip, but there’s never a quiet night at the Mondrian. The long line of people waiting to get into the Skybar, hoping to find Leo or Johnny, or the even-more-elusive evidence that they are someone or something, is here every night.
“Hi, my name is Amber,” a young, self-consciously fashionable woman tells me, “and my friends are inside the Skybar and my cell phone died and I can’t get in.”
“You have to be a hotel guest or a guest of a hotel guest,” I gasp. “Just buy a hotel room or bribe someone else already.”
“I’m from out of town . . .” goes another.
“Call ‘the list hot line’ before 6 p.m. and wait for an answer.”
“I’m Dr. Zhivago’s son; let me see your manager.”
“Sorry, sir, it’s $1,000 cash tonight,” I say, gasping for more air, “and a credit card.”
When the hordes back down a bit, I find time to run from my perch at the front desk and scoot behind the orange wall to collect packages and checked coats. Behind the wall is a different world from the desperate one playing out on the other side. The PBX operator is singing a gospel song and playing guitar in between jokes and taking calls. The bellmen and sexy, late-night food servers conspire about movies they want to make. It’s a struggling artist’s utopia. I return to the front desk to hand out gifts and jackets. Tips are thrown back in my face.
It’s like this every night. People buying thousands of dollars of champagne and doing the pony dance through the lobby. People flying back from filming porn in Puerto Rico and landing at LAX instead of Van Nuys just to pick up some Aqua Body Spray. It’s like this even on weekdays.
There are 235 rooms of sophisticated, urban and modern charm at the Mondrian. It has views that at least two people have died for. A strict no-party policy. Expensive suits with expensive drinks to match. Asia de Cuba makes just as much of a buzz as the Skybar. The hotel that Ian Schrager built and Philippe Starck designed is still kicking like a healthy baby after nine years. We’ve come a long way, I’m told, from retirement condo to Le Mondrian to just Mondrian.
But you still can’t get in.
“Please let us in,” you say.
“What about a blowjob?”
“I own the company that owns you.”
“I’m a cardholder.”
“Let’s see it, please.”
Another lull comes, and I’ve got time to run around the orange wall again and collect more coat checks and packages and frolic in Montopia. The PBX operator is now making the wake-up calls while singing and playing guitar.
“Good morning, yes! Good morning, said! Wake up, wake up, get out of bed.”
It’s early in the morning and musicals are being written. Security is planning karate competitions; the screenplay is on page 80-something (the concierge has the lead). I want to stay there forever, but people start yelling out front again.
I run back and pass out more stuff and get more tips thrown in my face. Alarms break through the walkie-talkies’ normal white noise. The 52-member security force moves through secret doors and gingerly removes all problems — usually drunk jocks. Some people go nicely while others are handcuffed and dragged along the wooden floors and asphalt driveway into squad cars. This is ongoing.
It’s even stranger on the street, so we’ll stay in here, where the lobby offers solace and some space to breathe. Princes and New York socialites meet up with L.A. socialites amid mega-celebrity tornadoes. The lobby is a pathway to various pleasures for those who have handlers.
Every once in a while an actual hotel guest will grace us with his presence. All requests are filled, glasses are topped, pass codes are passed out, bills are broken down and favors are given. Then, like angels, they disappear. And the hordes return.
Where is your manager?” one of them asks.
“He’s sitting in the back counting stock certificates and moving units,” I reply.
“Can you get him? I need your manager to let me into the Skybar.”
“No managers for 10 minutes. Can he call you in your room?”
“I don’t have a room.”
“Then definitely no manager.”
Nobody gets into the Skybar, which is why everybody wants to.