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Beverly Hills' Refuge For The Stars Turns 100

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The Beverly Hills Hotel, a place fondly known as the Pink Palace, has preserved guests' privacy and indulged their every whim for 100 years, and the entire year will be filled with celebrations of its centennial.

There have been parties for the neighbors, parties for the staff, and a celebration this week as the hotel becomes the first historic landmark in the city of Beverly Hills, Calif.

The hotel counts, among many others, Cary Grant, a young JFK, Tom Cruise, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Caine, P. Diddy, Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida as past guests. And unless you ran into them in the halls or on the walkways threading through the famous bungalows and gardens, you'd never know.

"That's one of the reasons people come. They want and get their privacy," says Robert "Robbie" Anderson.

He should know, he's the hotel's official historian and the great-grandson of the original owner.

"Brad Pitt could be sitting on the patio having lunch, and nobody is going to bother him," he says.

The hotel has a lot of security — mechanical and human — and invading a celebrity's privacy isn't tolerated. (It's done with politeness, though. A man dressed in a dark suit materialized next to my elbow as I was recording lobby sound and softly asked "Miss, are you here with someone?" Once I pointed to Anderson, who has the run of the hotel, he nodded and disappeared again.)

The Hotel That Inspired A City

The hotel was almost the first building in Beverly Hills.

"Beverly Hills was originally a real estate development," Anderson says, "but it was going nowhere."

In the six years between 1906 and 1912, only six houses had been built. There needed to be an inducement to entice people to spend time in what was then the middle of nowhere. So a group of investors persuaded Margaret Anderson to leave her secure job at the Hollywood Hotel several miles away by promising her she could build "the hotel of her dreams."

In 1912, the Spanish Mission-style hotel rose out of the lima bean fields of Beverly Hills. Soon, hotel visitors became charmed with the area and some came back to be residents.

"It's not a stretch to say if there had been no Beverly Hills Hotel, there would be no Beverly Hills," Anderson says.

Still Coveted After All These Years

In its early years, civic meetings where held at the hotel before City Hall was built. Church services and school classes were held there, too. Later, it would consistently host elite Hollywood fundraisers and post-Oscars celebrations. After a couple of face-lifts (like any well-off Beverly Hills matron), the hotel is host to old friends and young guests who love the vintage atmosphere and old school service.

Non-celebrities are welcome here, too, and treated like stars, but don't expect to get any deals on the discount travel sites.

"You will not find that little gnome offering a great deal on rooms here," Anderson says firmly, referring to the garden-gnome mascot of a major online discounter. "They never need to."

Apparently privacy is both pricey and popular.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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