The Peculiar Allure of Retro-Chic Lodging

Note: This post was automatically generated from John’s weekly newsletter, The Daly Grind. If you encounter broken links or images, you can go here to read from the original newsletter: Read More

A few years ago, I saw a movie called “Bad Times at the El Royale.” It’s sort of a retro thriller flick about six strangers who, through different circumstances, find themselves staying at the same desolate hotel on the same night. Their intersecting backstories and unrelated reasons for being there converge into a compelling, unpredictable story.

The movie features some really strong acting, most notably from Jeff Bridges (who’s always good) and Cynthia Erivo (who really kind of steals the show), but two of the film’s elements that also stuck out for me were the unique, richly decorated hotel and the era the story takes place in (1969 to be precise).

The El Royale hotel (which is fictional but based on a real resort) was once a very popular place with high rollers (and other wealthy people of note)… up until it lost its gambling license. Now it’s a mostly a forgotten off-the-beaten-path oasis — a ghost town for all intents and purposes, run by a single person. However, it still looks like a million bucks:

The hotel sits squarely on the California-Nevada border. In fact, the border literally runs right through the center of hotel. Notice the red line in the below pictures that goes all the way through the lobby:

As you can see, each half is themed after the state in which it resides (you can probably guess which is which in the picture above). Guests can choose to stay on either the Nevada or California side, with the two wings of rooms stretching out in opposite directions. There’s even a different sales tax rate, depending on which side of the hotel you’re spending money on.

The lush, retro decor and mesmerizing imagery of the hotel really adds to the story, incorporating the chic glamor and glitz of the era (at least the part of it that wealthy people enjoyed).

The same was true of much of Quentin Tarantino’s excellent film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which also takes place in 1969. I remember multiple critics describing the movie as Tarantino’s tribute to (or love affair with) the final days of Hollywood’s golden age, and that is certainly made clear in his attention to set detail.

Now, to be clear, I know absolutely nothing about things like fashion and interior design. I couldn’t tell you the difference between Art Deco and Art Nouveau, and if not for “There’s Something About Mary,” I probably never would have heard of either term. There’s just something about the sleek style and those warm (often orange) retro tones that I dig.

I suppose that’s why my favorite hotel is The Garland in North Hollywood, California. My wife booked a stay for our family there a few years ago when we vacationed at Universal Studios. I didn’t pay much attention to the photos she showed me of the place beforehand, but when we got there, I kind of fell in love with it.

I mean, everything about it was just… cool (including the standard guest rooms).

The Garland was built in 1970 by actress Beverly Garland who appeared in all kinds of classic television shows back in the day, including one of my childhood favorites, The Wild Wild West.

Garland and her husband originally bought the seven-acre property to create a “hideaway for friends, family and guests,” but later collaborated with a Las Vegas hotel guru to turn it into a hotel. In 2000, it was handed down to the couple’s son, who expanded and transformed it into what you see today: a sophisticated Hollywood-style retro tribute to the era in which it was founded.

It’s located just a few miles from Universal Studios; they actually have an era-appropriate trolley that takes guests over there. Also, the hotel shares their neighborhood with the iconic Brady Bunch house and other notable Hollywood sights that are a lot of fun to check out. The restaurants at the hotel are great too. I can’t recommend the place highly enough to anyone who plans on staying in the Los Angeles area.

I tend not to think much about hotels after I’ve checked out of them, but I do think about this one. I follow their Instagram page, and love the bright, colorful photos their social media person regularly posts. But I never figured I’d be returning. Everyone had a great time (especially our kids), but it was one of those been there, done that trips.

Earlier this month, however, after weeks and weeks of researching potential destinations for a long talked-about father/son trip with my boy (and not feeling very confident about any of the ideas I was coming up with), something unexpected happened. Our small, nearby, regional airport announced that it would soon be hosting an actual airline for the first time in many years. It’s a low-cost airline with two nonstop flights a week going back and forth from exactly one U.S. city: Burbank, California.

And… the Burbank airport is just a dozen or so miles away from… The Garland.

Perfect, right? We’ve already purchased tickets, and I can’t wait to get back out there to check out some sites we missed the first time around, and also go back in time a little.

Of course, there will be photos taken for the newsletter. 😉


Do you have a favorite hotel? Let me know about it in the comment section, or by replying to this email.

Just for Fun

Speaking of old-school Hollywood, I follow a Twitter account called “Retro Horror” that posts fun black and white photos and short clips from old horror and science fiction movies. This one the other day, from a 1953 movie called “Robot Monster,” cracked me up.

I mean, look at that getup!

I love stuff like this — not so much the movies themselves, but the imagery. Old cheese-ball Hollywood films looked like a ton of fun to work on, though my guess is that in reality, a lot of the actors and actresses who starred in them were probably a bit depressed that they weren’t getting better roles.

Please Get Vaccinated

This is difficult to listen to, but I think it’s important to hear.

Random Thought

Featured Vinyl

First, I apologize for not including an obligatory dog shot this week. I’ve just about reached the email size limit, and one more pic will push me over the edge. So we’ll save it for next week. For the same reason, I’m going to make this week’s featured vinyl short and sweet.

Heart’s Greatest Hits/Live double-LP album from 1980 is the total package. A solid studio collection of their big songs, multiple previously unreleased recordings, and lots of live stuff, including great covers of “Unchained Melody” and Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.”

The Wilson sisters (as I’ve stated in the past) are amazing and have always sounded great live.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.

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Also, if you’re not caught up on my Sean Coleman Thrillers, you can pick the entire series up at a great price on Amazon. And if you’re interested in signed, personalized copies of my books, you can order them directly from my website.

Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!

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