The one-page fact check of Karina Longworth’s “Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood” was even more successful than I expected. Well done, Brain Trust. Grade: Fail.
Ready? Here we go:
Here is the RFK Community Schools, via Google Earth, built on the footprint of the Ambassador Hotel. Do you see the ocean? Do you think the hotel had “an unobstructed view straight through the building and 15 miles out to sea?”
Item: A Dec. 9, 1918, article in the Los Angeles Times said: “Provision is made for over 600 guest rooms, from every one of which will be visible either the ocean or the mountains.” (A bit of advertising hype, I would say).
Item: The Ambassador Hotel opened at midnight on New Year’s Eve 1920, delayed from the original target date of December 1919.
Item: Rudolph Valentino wasn’t a movie star at the time. His breakout film was “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” shot in 1920, but not released until March 1921, after the Ambassador opened. Movie folklore kicking around the Internet says — erroneously — that the palm trees of the Cocoanut Grove were from “The Sheik,” filmed in the summer of 1921 and released Nov. 20, 1921, after the hotel opened.
Item: The Hollywood sign didn’t exist in 1921, and when it was built in 1923 it was the Hollywoodland sign.
Item: Los Angeles before the aqueduct wasn’t a desert, despite the line in “Chinatown.”
Item: The Ambassador, shown above, was not an example of Spanish architecture. A Los Angeles Times article from Dec. 9, 1918, when the proposed Ambassador was called the California Hotel, said: “Architecturally, the plans follow Italian lines.” The Los Angeles Conservancy lists the hotel as Mediterranean Revival and Streamline Moderne.
Item: The Ambassador was a little less than six miles south of the Hollywoodland Sign. Not eight.
You might not know the architectural style of the Ambassador, or when “The Sheik” was filmed. But it is basic Los Angeles literacy to know that the Hollywood sign said Hollywoodland for many years. There is simply no point in reading a book from an author who makes such rudimentary errors and fails a one-page fact check; you’ll just have to unlearn everything.