Jewish World Review July 14, 2000 / 11 Tamuz, 5760
find them at HOJO's
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. | All right . . . might as
well just take a deep breath and go on in.
What can they do? Have you arrested for
impersonating a cool person?
Thus, I stood at the entranceway of the room,
worked my courage up . . . .
And, putting one foot after another, walked into the
Never been there before. There are some places in
this world that a guy knows he doesn't belong, and
I have always known that I definitely don't belong
in the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Or, as it is invariably described, "the legendary
(Not that legendary counts for much out here.
While riding down Rodeo Drive, I was told by
another person in the car -- a Los Angeles resident
-- that we were passing the legendary clothing store
that appeared in the movie "Pretty Woman" -- the
store in which the Julia Roberts character was
treated rudely. The store itself, under its proper
name, was not in the movie -- just the edifice, with
a made-up name on a sign. But that's enough to
qualify for legendary -- inside that legendary
doorway an actor pretending to be a snooty
clothing store employee pretended to be rude to an
actress pretending to be a prostitute.)
Anyway . . . I walked into the Polo Lounge, waited
to be told to leave, wasn't told to leave. . . .
And just stood there. Now what was I supposed to
The Polo Lounge has been famous for generations
as the place where Hollywood deals and romances
quietly come to fruition or go awry. Allegedly you
can't even look around the Polo Lounge without
seeing a Darryl F. Zanuck or a Clark Gable.
Discreet, worldly, unshockable, the maitre d' and
waiters of the Polo Lounge are said to be as vital to
the power structure of the movie industry as are the
studio heads and name-above-the-title stars.
(I have no idea if that is still really true. Usually by
the time I catch up with something, it has already
become hopelessly out of style and on the verge of
obsolescence. Still, I figured if ever I was going to
stride into the Polo Lounge, this had better be it.)
So I stood there, peering around, and for a second
I had a feeling that it didn't look or feel the way it
was supposed to. Then -- I literally slapped my
palm across my forehead as this realization took
hold -- I thought: Of course.
The phones. That was the biggest part of the
legend: You could actually make phone calls from
your table! The Polo Lounge and everyone in it
was so important, the tables had phones!
A concept that is a little out of date. Every person
at every table in every greasy spoon in America
seems to have a phone these days -- usually
clipped to his or her belt. So the old come-on is a
little musty: Welcome to the Polo Lounge -- you
can even make a call from your table! We have
phones! (Most men and women who walk into the
Polo Lounge today have at least two phones
concealed on their person.)
I stared into every corner, looking for Douglas
Fairbanks or Audrey Hepburn, but instead saw, at
the bar, a motley group of individuals in
semi-tank-tops, broad-brimmed hats and car-wash
attire. A couple of very nice women from the L.A.
suburbs, noticing my confusion, asked if I would
like to join them at their table. Grateful, I said yes,
and commented on the people at the bar.
"I know," one of the women said. "It's so L.A."
My thought was that it was really so Toledo, Ohio,
Greyhound station, but then the bus station in
Toledo almost certainly does not have the same
prices as the Polo Lounge. I took out a second
mortgage and ordered a round of drinks for myself
and the two women who had taken mercy on me,
and I thought I noticed something odd.
"Is this table shaking?" I said.
"We've just been talking about that," one of the
women said. "We've never been here before -- but
I swear, the table is shaking."
She called a waiter over. He first said he didn't
know what she was talking about, but then allowed
as to how there was some hotel machinery in an
area just underneath our table, and that was why it
"A little extra touch you get only in the Polo
Lounge, I suppose," one of the women said, with
optimism in her voice.
"You can get it for a quarter at a Howard Johnson's
Motor Lodge," I said, fondly recalling the
coin-operated vibrating mattresses of HoJo
yesteryear. I looked around for Jack Warner or
any of his brothers to see if they agreed, but they
didn't seem to be
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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