Hotel del Coronado has hosted presidents and movie stars

Schlepping and Schmoozing along Interstate 5: Chapter 7 (Exit 5A, CA 75-Palm Avenue); Hotel del Coronado.

Take the westbound freeway exit marked CA 75; Palm Ave. and for 5 ½ miles follow Palm Avenue (California 75) a surface road, which becomes Silver Strand Boulevard nestled between the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay. Go past Loews another 7 km to Hotel del Coronado, which will be easily visible on the left.

Hollywood’s Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Billy Wilder and businessman Mr. Larry Lawrence brought a Jewish Tam to the local landmark

The 757-room, Victorian-era, beachfront Hotel del Coronado, which opened in 1888, has hosted US presidents, British royalty and film and recording stars during its more than 130 years of existence.

It’s more than a hotel; since 1977 it has been a National Historic Landmark. Its guests have included 11 American presidents beginning with Benjamin Harrison, who came a few years after it opened in 1888, and continuing with William Howard Taft, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Left to right, Gustavo Diaz-Ordaz, Richard M. Nixon, Mr. Larry Lawrence, Carlton Lichty

On one momentous occasion – a 1970 state dinner in the hotel’s Crown Room for Mexican President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, three such men attended: Richard Nixon, who was then in office; former President Lyndon B. Johnson, then future President Ronald Reagan, who at the time was Governor of California. Some of Reagan’s contemporaries from his Hollywood acting days were also present, including Frank Sinatra and John Wayne.

As glamorous as that event may have been, visitors to the beachside Hotel del Coronado still buzz over photographs from 1958 when Marilyn Monroe, whose recent conversion to Judaism was associated with her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller, starred in Billy Wilder’s film. Some like it hot which was filmed on location at the “Del.” His co-stars in comedy were Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, whose characters tried to escape the crowds by dressing in drag and joining an all-female band.

Remembering Monroe for the meaningless blonde showgirl she portrayed in that film would do her a disservice, according to a 2018 exhibit at the Coronado Museum of History and Art, in which she was remembered as a force majeure in the film industry and a woman of widely varying intellectual interests. According to the exhibit, Monroe rebelled against the system in which actresses were paid less than their male co-stars and in which neither the actor nor the actress had a say in the roles they played. they would be chosen. To demonstrate that she was no longer going to bear it, she refused for a year to appear in any 20and Century Fox productions, forming his own company, Marilyn Monroe Productions, in the meantime.

“In 1955, after the commercial success of the Seven-year itch,” 20and Century Fox capitulated, signing a contract in which Monroe was guaranteed $100,000 per film and had control over which project she would accept. In addition, she received information about directors and cinematographers. This marked the end of Hollywood’s traditional studio system, the exhibit notes. “Marilyn’s dismantling of the studio system in Hollywood proved that her on-screen persona of being a jerk was just that – an act,” according to the exhibit. “She was driven to be a successful drama actress.”

During the time Monroe stayed away from 20and Century Fox, she took acting lessons at the Actors Studio in New York, run by the legendary Lee Strasberg and his wife Paula. During the Some like it hot film, Paula Strasberg was Monroe’s constant companion.

Another part of the exhibit was about Monroe’s personal library, which included over 400 books on a variety of subjects. She had the first editions of On the road by Jack Kreouac; The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison; and This house on fire by William Styron. Other books in the collection included works by F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus, and Lewis Carroll.

Monroe, Curtis and Lemmon together may have matched the star power of Edward, Prince of Wales, who visited San Diego County in 1920 on a goodwill trip. on the way to Australia and New Zealand on board HMS renamed. One legend, long promoted by the Del, was that while the Prince of Wales was at the hotel he spotted Wallis Simpson, then the wife of the Commanding Officer of the nearby North Island Naval Air Station. He later decided to marry her, causing a ruckus because she was divorced and, as king, he was the ceremonial head of the Church of England.

In a famous statement after just 327 days as King Edward VIII, he abdicated the throne “for the woman I love” – ​​quite the romantic story. Edward VIII was succeeded by King George VI, who was the father of Queen Elizabeth II. At one point the Del named one of its public rooms after the Prince of Wales, and at another point management moved a cottage formerly occupied by Wallis Simpson onto the property, promoting the venue as a place for romantics at heart. weddings.

However, after historians cast Edward VIII as a secret Nazi sympathizer, his association with the hotel, while acknowledged, was downplayed. This was also the case with other Nazi sympathizers like Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh.

The hotel’s relatively recent guests have included many movie stars and celebrities, including Jewish celebrities like actor Seth Rogen, actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and producer/director Steven Spielberg.

Among the Del’s owners was Mr. Larry Lawrence, who bought the Del in 1963 and doubled its capacity to 700 rooms, adding two seven-story towers just south of the hotel. Lawrence, a member of the Jewish community whose family goes by the name Lawrence Family JCC in a Jolla, popularized many fictional tales about the Del, including one that L. Frank Baum wrote of parts of the Wizard of Oz while staying there. Supposedly, Baum was inspired by the domes atop the hotel. Lawrence also recounted that Thomas Edison himself oversaw the installation of electricity in the venerable hotel.

Bill Clinton, a frequent guest at the Del during his presidency, appointed Lawrence ambassador to Switzerland, the position Lawrence held until his death in 1996. He was first buried in Arlington National Cemetery, but it was later learned that his story of serving in the Merchant Navy was a fabrication, leading to his exhumation from the National Cemetery and reinterment at El Camino Memorial Park in San Diego. During Lawrence’s years as the hotel’s owner, he was active in Democratic politics, and many of that party’s office holders traveled to the Del to seek financial contributions, or to hold fundraisers or fundraisers there. press conferences. Meanwhile, Carleton Lichty, chairman of the Del, was active in the Republican Party, luring the Del to similar GOP business.

Next to the hotel, on its south side, is the Coronado Towers, a condominium development that has attracted many investors from Mexico – so many, in fact, that they have often been jokingly called “Taco Towers”. . Many co-owners there are Jewish, proudly displaying mezouzot on their doorposts.

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Next Sunday, February 20, 2022: Exit 5B (Main Street) Sesame Place San Diego.

This story is copyright (c) 2022 by Donald H. Harrison, Editor Emeritus of San Diego Jewish World. He can be contacted via [email protected]


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