In Billy Wilder‘s Avanti! (’72), snippy businessman Jack Lemmon examines the family-owned Grand Hotel Excelsior (on the Island of Ischia on the Bay of Naples) as he checks in. Lemmon: “Well, it doesn’t look like a Hilton!” Desk manager: “I accept the compliment.”
Cut to January 2019, in the scenic beachside city of Santa Barbara…
For the last three or four years the Santa Barbara Int’l Film Festival has graciously gifted Hollywood Elsewhere with a swanky room at the Fess Parker DoubleTree Hotel (633 East Cabrillo Boulevard, Santa Barbara, CA 93103). I always regarded the Fess Parker as a little too sprawling and corporate-feeling, but the festival’s generosity was always appreciated.
Last April the somewhat unfortunate aspects of the Fess Parker were intensified when it re-opened as the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort. The Hilton folks subjected the property to “a multi-million dollar renovation,” but what that meant is that the place seems a little less homey (the main lobby has a chillier appearance). On top of which the Hilton attitude seems a tad greedy.
Under the Fess Parker regime a hotel guest could simply park his/her vehicle in a large gated lot — no biggie. The Hilton folks are now charging an extra $10 per day for parking privileges. (“Welcome to our restaurant! Oh, you want cloth napkins to place on your lap while eating? That’ll be an extra five bucks on your bill.”)
Like every hotel in the world, the Fess Parker guys would ask for a debit or credit card imprint to cover incidental expenses or potential damages. For my ten-day stay, the Hilton guys have preemptively withdrawn $375 from my bank account to cover same.
The Fess Parker guys would give guests a pair of heated, home-baked cookies in a tiny paper bag as a kind of “welcome to our hotel” gift. The Hilton guys have discontinued that practice. (Or at least, they did with me.)
Don’t get me wrong — Hollywood Elsewhere is still profoundly grateful for the SBIFF’s generosity. And it should be acknowledged that the Hilton is, when all is said and done, a very appealing place. If, that is, you’re into that absence-of-personality, corporate-retreat aesthetic that so many hotels are offering these days.