The Ambassador Hotel
For other uses, see Ambassador Hotel (disambiguation).

The Ambassador Hotel was a famous hotel in Los Angeles, California and location of the famous nightclub Cocoanut Grove until demolished during 2005. The hotel was the site of the 2nd Academy Awards, 12th Academy Awards, and the June 1968 assassination of presidential candidate, United States Senator, and former U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.


The Ambassador Hotel began operation formally on January 1, 1921, and was located at 3400 Wilshire Boulevard, between Catalina Street and Mariposa Avenue, in the center of Los Angeles' Mid-Wilshire District. Designed by Pasadena architect Myron Hunt, the Ambassador Hotel was frequented by celebrities, with some residing there. From 1930 to 1943, six Academy Awards ceremonies were performed at the hotel. Perhaps as many as seven U.S. Presidents stayed at The Ambassador Hotel, from Hoover to Nixon, along with chiefs of state from around the world. For decades, the hotel's famed Cocoanut Grove nightclub hosted well-known entertainers, such as Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Lena Horne, Liza Minnelli, Martin and Lewis, The Supremes, Merv Griffin, Dorothy Dandridge, Vikki Carr, Evelyn Knight, Dick Haymes, Perry Como, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Sammy Davis Jr., Little Richard, Liberace, Natalie Cole, and Richard Pryor.


During the 1920s, the Ambassador Hotel's nightclub Cocoanut Grove was frequented by people like Louis B. Mayer, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, Howard Hughes, Clara Bow, Rudolph Valentino, Gloria Swanson, Anna May Wong, Norma Talmadge and others. It's been said that Joan Crawford would go there once a week and dance the Charleston, where she allegedly won 100 dance contests.


During the 1930s the Ambassador Hotel's Cocoanut Grove was frequented by celebrities of cinema such as Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg, Errol Flynn, Jean Harlow, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Marlene Dietrich, Lana Turner, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Lucille Ball, Ginger Rogers, Gary Cooper, Loretta Young, and countless others. On February 29, 1940, the 1939 Academy Awards Ceremony was performed in the Cocoanut Grove, with Bob Hope hosting.


During World War II the Ambassador Hotel was used for war fundraisers in Cocoanut Grove and when the war ended, the Cocoanut Grove became a retreat for servicemen, servicewomen, and many movie actors. During 1944, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had the first annual Golden Globes ceremonies here.

Robert F. Kennedy assassination
Main article: Robert F. Kennedy assassination

In the pantry area of the hotel's main kitchen, soon after midnight on June 5, 1968, and after a brief victory speech in the Embassy Room ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel, the winner of the California Democratic presidential primary election, Senator Robert F. Kennedy (RFK), was shot along with five other people. Palestinian immigrant Sirhan Sirhan was arrested at the scene and later convicted of the murder. Kennedy died one day later from his injuries, while the other victims survived their wounds. During the demolition of the Ambassador Hotel during late 2005 and early 2006, portions of the area where the 1968 shooting occurred were eliminated from the site. The portion of Wilshire Boulevard in front of the hotel has been signed the "Robert F. Kennedy Parkway".

After the death of RFK

The death of Robert F. Kennedy coincided with the beginning of the hotel's demise, hastened by the decline of the surrounding neighborhood. By the 1970s, the gang and illegal drug problems in the area near the hotel were already becoming severe, and worsened. Despite a renovation of the Cocoanut Grove during the mid-1970s, with the creative control of Sammy Davis, Jr., the hotel was closed during 1989 to guests, but remained open for filming and private events. A liquidation sale of the hotel's contents was conducted during 1991 by National Content Liquidators Inc. based in Ohio.

Filming at the hotel

The hotel was a frequent site of movie, music video, and television filming, having been a location for movies and television programs such as The Graduate (where it was called the Taft Hotel), Pretty Woman, Apollo 13, Hoffa, Beaches, True Romance, Angel, Beverly Hills, 90210, Scream 2, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Catch Me If You Can, Crazy, The Mask, Without You I'm Nothing, Forrest Gump, Crazy in Alabama, S.W.A.T., The Best Man, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Emilio Estevez's movie Bobby was filmed there during late 2005, even as the adjoining wing was being demolished. The Ambassador Hotel's Cocoanut Grove also hosted musician Roy Orbison and several performers for the 1987 television special Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night. The Cocoanut Grove was recreated for the 2004 movie The Aviator, but there were not any scenes filmed on the hotel's property. Several scenes from Disney's made-for-television movie Tower of Terror were filmed at the hotel.

Decision to demolish

From 2004 to 2005, The Ambassador Hotel was closed completely and became the topic of a legal struggle between the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), which wanted to clear the site and build a school; Sirhan Sirhan, who, through his lawyer the late Lawrence Teeter, wanted to conduct more testing in the pantry where Robert F. Kennedy was shot; and the Los Angeles Conservancy and Art Deco Society preservationists, who wanted the hotel and its various elements saved and integrated into the future school. The last crew to film in the kitchen of the Ambassador, where Robert F. Kennedy was killed, was "Angel," for its episode "Spin the Bottle."

After much litigation, a settlement was attained at the end of August 2005, allowing the demolition to begin in exchange for the establishment of a $4.9 million fund, reserved for saving historic school buildings in the Los Angeles Unified School District.


On September 10, 2005, a final public auction was held for the remaining hotel fittings and work soon began on demolition of The Ambassador Hotel. On January 16, 2006, the last section of The Ambassador Hotel fell, with most of the demolition being done during 2005, leaving only the annex that housed the hotel entrance, a shopping arcade, the coffee shop, and the Cocoanut Grove, all of which were promised to be preserved in some manner and used in the new school. A wake attended by hundreds of people was held for The Ambassador Hotel on February 2, 2006 at the Gaylord Apartments and adjoining restaurant H.M.S. Bounty , both part of a historic building built during 1924, directly across the street from the Ambassador Hotel; Diane Keaton, who was one of many who fought for the preservation of the hotel, was among the speakers of the ceremony.

Cocoanut Grove preservation

The Cocoanut Grove nightclub has been renovated several times before, destroying much of its architectural integrity, and it was promised that it would undergo yet another major transformation before being the auditorium for the new school. Also promised was preservation of the attached ground floor coffee shop, designed by noted architect Paul Williams.

Due to claims of poor structural integrity, however, the LAUSD decided to demolish most of the Cocoanut Grove, although the hotel entrance and east wall of the Grove were retained.

2006 â 2010

The Central Los Angeles New Learning Center #1 K-3, and Central Los Angeles New Learning Center #1 4â8/HS, along with the Robert F. Kennedy Inspiration Park, were built on the site.

The six schools were named as the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools. The K-3 facility opened on September 9, 2009 and the 4-8 and high school facility began operation on September 14, 2010. The north side of the new school has a slightly similar appearance to the original facade of the hotel and north lawns will remain much the same, as seen from Wilshire Boulevard.


Building Activity

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