Century Plaza, RIP?

CpLos Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other local politicians were all to ready to praise a developer’s plans to demolish the Century Plaza Hotel for two new futuristic high rises.

The history of the site seems lost on them.

In fact, I’d say that the Century Plaza has been a late 20th century counterpart to the Ambassador Hotel, the 1920s era mid-Wilshire landmark that was raised just a few years ago despite a spirited protest among preservationists.

If ever there was a place where show biz merged with politics, the Century Plaza has been it.

Although built in the 1960s, of an architectural style that may seem hopelessly out of date to today’s developers, the Century Plaza, has been the public place for award shows, fund-raisers, civic events, victory celebrations, protest rallies and fund-raisers (most recently Hillary Clinton and John McCain). It was where Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger held victory celebrations, Richard Nixon honored the Apollo 11 astronauts and just about every president since Lyndon Johnson stayed overnight.

A David Hume Kennerly picture here, published in Vanity Fair last year, shows Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan chatting in Ford’s Century Plaza Hotel room in 1974, an image that Kennerly says “looks like a scene from ‘The Godfather.'” Writer David friend wrote, “The image conveys a touch of Rat Pack swagger, an architectural elegance, and a hint of the California glamour that Reagan would eventually import to Washington.”

It was just a few years ago that preservationists were mourning the demolition of the Ambassador Hotel, an historic meeting place of Hollywood and politics if there ever was one. It not only hosted just about every president stretching from FDR to Reagan, but was the site of countless movies like “The Graduate” and “The Best Man,” and of course of Robert Kennedy’s assassination.

This history is not lost on the many people who have attended the momentous events at the Ambassador or the Century Plaza, the most recent occasion being the Obama campaign’s raucous California victory party on Nov. 4. But in the minds of some city leaders and developers, it’s as if the proliferation of shindigs and public gatherings through the years at the Century Plaza makes it routine and stale, not historical. And if history is any guide, the Century Plaza’s days are numbered.

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