New Yorker editor Dana Goodyear's "Annals of L.A." story on the Ambassador Hotel is in this week's magazine (but, alas, not online.) She frames the Wilshire Boulevard hotel's fate as "intertwined" with the legacy of Paul R. Williams, the pioneer African American architect who designed the coffee shop and porte-cochere entrance added to the old hotel in the forties, and remodeled other areas. (There's a gorgeous Robert Polidori photo of the coffee shop with the piece.) At the time, the hotel would not have rented a room to Williams—Lena Horne was the first black to stay there. (When he designed the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, he could not have lunch there. Anybody who doesn't believe Los Angeles had its own Jim Crow era is mistaken.)
Goodyear describes today's Ambassador as "a sad, shadowy, falling-down place" with a leaky roof and she names some of the feral cats that roam the grounds. The bulk of her piece, though, recollects Williams and his impact on architecture in the city. He built homes for stars such as Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball, and joked once that he had designed a home on every street in Beverly Hills. She also spends a little time debunking the notion that Williams designed the arched theme building at LAX, which many believe, and turns to photographer Julius Shulman—who took the image she says mistakenly linked Williams to the restaurant—for the final word: "Don't forget that Paul Williams was not a modernist."
Also: USC Magazine piece on Williams
* Hear that clock ticking?: A source emails that the filming office for the Ambassador is advising studio crews that March 1 may be the day the cameras stop. If you know what I mean. Another emailer says to go see Decay of Fiction, a film set at the hotel.