Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Just Say NO to Naugahyde: Save the Sportsman's Lodge

A quote from Wikpedia - "In 2007, the Sportsmen's Lodge was sold to developer Richard Weintraub for approximately $50 million. Weintraub reportedly plans to renovate the existing hotel and add retail space. The project would retain the Sportsmen's Lodge name, and would be renovated "to evoke the mid-century cool" of the San Fernando Valley in the 1950s."

Dear Mr. Weintraub, you have failed miserably. Did you run out of money? WTF? I paid my first visit since the "renovation" and found few changes except for some notably annoying ones. Sportsman's Lodge always had this kitschy cool. It was super low key. You could slide in and out of the place on the DL. There were always old time Hollywood guys hanging out in the bar or coffee shop that could regale you with stories about working with Tom Mix, John Wayne and Bette Davis. Pretty much every big touring music act bunks there. And tourists flock there in droves because while it still had authentic Hollywood cache it was affordable for families to stay. And you haven't lived if you haven't been there during a "Super Soap Weekend."

The Pool Bar is my favorite. There's nothing better than pulling up a stool in the summer and whiling away the afternoon. The bartenders are Tarantino worthy and the drinks strong and affordable. When I sit down at that bar...all is right with the world.

I was excited when I first heard of Weintraub's plans. I think the place is a goldmine and with the right touches could become even more so. But all that's been done since 2007 is a moderate renovation in the lobby. Some white Naugahyde sofas and retro light fixtures. Carpet? Still the same. Bathrooms? Still the same. The website shows photos of an updated guest room but the majority of them are still exactly the same. My guess is the redecorated ones are sporting west side price tags too. The Cafe got a minor 50's-esque makeover but the menu is still exactly the same. I get that you spent $50 million to acquire the place, Mr. Weintraub, but do you think that warrants the "security changes" you've instituted? I pulled up to the back gate - my entrance of choice - only to find you now need a key card to enter. Pulled around to the side - figuring I'd come in through the cafe. Also locked. "Non Hotel guests must enter through lobby." At this point I'm vexed but curious to see all of the changes that this type of "security" trumpets. I enter through the lobby and am confronted by the hyper self conscious whiteness. I notice the carpet being the same as well as the reception desk but I'm still feeling receptive. As I walk toward the pool, I notice that two walls have been patched but not painted. Why on earth would you spend $50 million on something and then not have the resources or perhaps the will (??) to follow through? I just don't get this kind of mediocre bullshit. I see it in the movie business too. Johnny-Come-Lately "producers" with some cash who think they're buying into the pussy train and then lose their appetite when it comes to the nuts and bolts of actually finishing a project.

Out at the pool, everything looks exactly the same, which is at once comforting and perplexing. I notice all the gates to the pool are locked too. The bartender chick lets me in. As soon as I sit on my favorite stool and get my first Bay Breeze, I exhale. Perfect summer jams on the sound system? Check. Old hairy guy in the pool? Check. Kids eating chicken fingers on the other side of the bar? Check. Over tanned pot-bellied roadies on deck chairs? Check. Ahhhhhhh. Home. The bartender tells me that they expect non hotel guests to pay for entry to the pool bar now but she's not outing me. She is disgruntled about the "changes" as well. The little side gate nearest the bar is locked with a padlock which means she now has to walk all the way around to the main gate whenever she's picking up food orders or restocking the bar. Inefficient...and wait a minute...What?? The new management expects me to pay to come to a place that used to be free to get into...and that, by the way, still looks EXACTLY THE SAME. She glumly tells me that her tips are down 50% from last summer because the locals are staying away. That's Bad JuJu.

God, I wish I had the money to buy the place. Do you know that in Clark Gable's day you could fish for your supper in their trout ponds right from your table while swilling an excellent martini? Where in L.A. can you do that? That's the way to go! Bring back the true "mid century cool" not the fake Naugahyde one. Are you listening Mr. Weibtraub? Give me a call, I can make it happen...until then, I'll be sneaking in to the pool bar like any self respecting local.

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