Preface: During my research and the subsequent writing of my latest novel—L.A. Ghost Story (just completed), one of my more interesting background subjects was the L.A. Knickerbocker Hotel. In this second post I will explore some of the Knick’s more entertaining guests…
The Knickerbocker—a Reflection of the Hollywood Golden Age
If one could plot the history of the Knickerbocker Hotel versus Hollywood’s Golden Age the resultant graph would show much correlation (sorry, I can’t help myself—I used to work as an engineer). Thousands of articles, and a truckload of books have attempted to define Hollywood over the years. Just about all the reference material at some point brings up the Knickerbocker Hotel because its reputation precedes itself.
Valentino & Houdini
More than any other star in Hollywood history, silent film star Rudolph Valentino personified the Golden Age of Hollywood. He had good looks, he was fearless, and he had a huge following (most of the women in the world). One might say he was the founding father of the Golden Age.
Valentino’s popularity was strong even after death. He had been seen all around town (Alexandria Hotel, Roosevelt Hotel, Montmartre Cafe, San Fernando Mission, and others) after his death. But his main ‘haunt’ was the Knickerbocker Hotel bar. Valentino also apparently had a special interest in Room 1016 at the Knick, where he had often been sighted. I’m betting one of his steamy tango partners stayed there. Before his death Valentino could be seen dancing the tango in the bar.
What makes Harry Houdini’s ghost so interesting is that there has never been an ‘official’ reported sighting at the Knickerbocker Hotel… However, the first supernatural occurrence, atop the Knickerbocker Hotel roof, was the anniversary séance to contact the spirit of the famous magician. For the next ten years, Harry Houdini’s widow, Bess, held séances on the roof of the hotel in an effort to contact her departed husband. The last ‘official’ Houdini séance was held on Halloween night of 1936. It’s said the attempts were never successful. This should come as no surprise—Harry Houdini the magician, had saved his best trick for last—he had escaped life and the hereafter. I’m sure Harry’s ghost is very adept at escaping detection while he roams the hallways of the Knick.
The Supporting Cast
Marilyn Monroe allegedly ‘powdered her nose’ often in the ladies’ room at the Knickbocker Hotel after her death in the late 1960’s. There have been a number of recorded sightings. During the 60’s the Knick had hit rock bottom. The neighborhood had deteriorated, and the hotel became overrun with drug addicts and prostitutes. I imagined ghosts (especially Miss Monroe’s) would fit in nicely under those circumstances. I wonder if Joe Dimaggio has ever left his ‘field of dreams’ to rendezvous with Marilyn at the past-its-prime Knickerbocker Hotel.
Roger the Bellhop, a long-time employee at the Knick, is often reported wandering the halls. Talk about a dedicated employee…
There are plenty of ghosts to go around Hollywood, L.A, Beverly Hills, and the surrounding areas. However, I am limited to only writing about the culture in 1959 that I have included in my latest mystery novel, L.A. Ghost Story, which I have researched for the story. I have hopes that someone that reads these posts would enjoy my story. Admittedly, it includes glimpses into my life growing up in Southern California, where, although I didn’t have any ghostly acquaintances, I did experience my share of odd occurrences.
Stay tuned for my next post where I will highlight the interesting year of 1959…