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The Classic American Hotels Strike Back

Do you know Svend? Everybody knows Svend.

For 42 years Svend Peterson was the pool manager at the Beverly Hills Hotel. It was Svend who decided which chaise or cabana would be yours, a simple gesture that could confer social life or death. Svend listened to poolside confessions, advised on problems, managed assignations. Svend invented the frozen towel.

This year Svend has a new business card, which reads Hotel Ambassador. There he is, in the lobby, catching up with a guest who has just checked in for the hundredth time. There he is, in the coffee shop, flashing his smile at a newcomer who has heard about him for decades. It's like meeting Cary Grant. Svend is the thread—the silk thread—leading back to another time at the Pink Palace, the days of Old Hollywood. Those days are over; they are not coming back. Until you run into Svend.

The chemistry of a great old hotel has no formula. It cannot be quantified, written out, or duplicated. It is deep in the DNA of the institution, in a person, a lobby, a bar, a color, a logo, a cocktail, a dress code. And it is sensitive beyond belief. Change everything except that one critical detail, and the soul of the hotel will remain undisturbed. But make one wrong move and the magic is lost.

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