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TO PROTECT AND PRESERVE: How Limato became a historical advocate in a short-term-memory town where buildings are as precarious as careers

“So many ugly things in the city,” Ed Limato muses, more in resignation than in wrath.

He’s talking about the “monstrosities,” newly built homes in Beverly Hills by no-name nabobs, destroying, he says, the very texture of the city. He cites Pickfair, demolished 15 years ago by Pia Zadora and her husband, Meshulam Riklis.

He’s apt to have plenty of company in his opinion, but Limato is one of the few industryites to actually do something about it. For three years he’s been on the board of the Los Angeles Conservancy and has helped the org draw other industryites into its membership.

“I feel a responsibility toward not destroying, but rather restoring, even enhancing, what’s part of Hollywood’s heritage,” he says.

Limato’s palatial home in Coldwater Canyon is ornately decorated without being fussy. Complete with screening room and rolling lawns leading down to a pool and tennis courts, the property has been carefully preserved to reflect the days when it was owned by Dick Powell and Joan Blondell, then by George Raft and still later by Diana Dors. (Limato also once owned the home of Bela Lugosi.)

In 2003, he hosted a party at his home to garner support for the conservancy’s now-quixotic effort to save the Ambassador Hotel. The org’s Linda Dishman credits Limato with galvanizing interest in the hotel’s fate, although others who are trying to save it say that the industry’s support still hasn’t been fully maximized.

“I first read about the Ambassador Hotel in fan magazines like Photoplay and Modern Screen when I was 14 or 15, back in Mount Vernon, N.Y., where I grew up,” Limato says. “It was the backdrop for so much that fascinated me: It epitomized Hollywood and Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the glamour, excitement and exoticism that the Ambassador represented was almost done by the time I moved out here.”

During the ’70s and ’80s it became apparent that the hotel was past its prime. Most of Limato’s visits were when it was used as a film location, “and I thought how sad that something so integral a part of Hollywood history is being neglected and forgotten,” he says.

This extends to the fact that the industry, for all its riches, has no museum devoted exclusively to the art of motion pictures.

“There’s so much memorabilia gathered here — costumes, playbills, jewelry, window cards, posters and, of course, films,” he says. “We’re just not as community-minded as we ought to be; people are so distracted and pulled in different directions that we’re short-sighted about our heritage. If Los Angeles and Hollywood leaders would only realize what a great asset a museum would be, if, for nothing else, as an enormous tourist draw.” — E.G.

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