One of the great performance pieces in Los Angeles history
June 18, 2024 12:12 AM   Subscribe

On any reasonably sunny day, the pool would by then be echoing with the names of well-known people being called to the phone, as well as with the names of unknown people being called to the phone by themselves in the forlorn hope that one day this would help them become well known, too. From his vantage in front of his cabana, Irving could not only watch the parade go by but get the parade to sit down with him and play cards. from The Man Who Spent Forty-two Years at the Beverly Hills Hotel Pool [The New Yorker, 1993; ungated]

Irving Link, 90210 [LA Times, 1996]
Irving Link obituary [Legacy, 2007]
The Beverly Hills Hotel [Wikipedia]
posted by chavenet (16 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I run the figures through my head very often, and the project doesn’t cost out in terms of what he paid, what he’ll have to invest, and how hard it will be to reassemble this—this magnificent cast of characters and memories and associations.
posted by HearHere at 12:52 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]

Gosh, I love clicking on a New Yorker link and gradually realizing it's Adam Gopnik's writing.
posted by away for regrooving at 1:27 AM on June 18 [6 favorites]

Thank you for sharing this. Wonderfully written with a real power to take the reader back in time - "back in the days when people ate eggs" - and to an alien world.
posted by greycap at 2:36 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]

“He exemplifies something important about L.A., which is that the fragmentation of the city, which everyone always decries, also means that there are these remarkable subcultures all around, where people with very specific, amazing plumage flourish."
posted by JustSayNoDawg at 3:56 AM on June 18 [7 favorites]

This was a fascinating article, I enjoyed every bit of it.

I love that older era of style in general (not sure exactly what to call it) and am saddened at our modern times being minimal and gray.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:12 AM on June 18 [3 favorites]

The LA Times article was fascinating. This is someone who's had ups and downs, periods of wealth and times when he had to get a day job. The fact that he just lived in a little one bedroom condo, he didn't own a car, but he had this fabulous wardrobe and spent his days by the pool of exclusive Beverly Hills hotels.
posted by thecjm at 6:29 AM on June 18 [3 favorites]

I looked up what the room rates are at places like the Beverly Hills Hotel or the Peninsula. Basically what I'd budget for a vacation to stay there for one night
posted by thecjm at 6:32 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]

This story made me so homesick for LA.
posted by potrzebie at 7:46 AM on June 18 [3 favorites]

I went through an "I should move to L.A." phase 15 years ago. I'm glad I didn't know about Irving or this article about him then, or I might have done it.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:13 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]

A couple of photos: age 89, age 84, and maybe him age 58.
posted by Nelson at 8:40 AM on June 18 [6 favorites]

By 1941, the hotel had been in and out of bankruptcy, and it was bought by a consortium of show-business people headed by the banker Hernando Courtright, who decided to have the place remodelled in the style today loosely referred to as Deco but actually called by experts Coffee Shop Moderne.

If this isn’t a sort of poetry, I don’t know what is.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:42 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]

I once, years after this guy died, met a different dapper elderly Jewish wheeler-and-dealer who famously held court, most nights, at his regular table in the Polo Lounge. I guess maybe it's a role that always needs to be filled.
posted by kickingtheground at 12:23 PM on June 18 [6 favorites]

It is fascinating that the shape of the story in 1993 is so different from what it is today. The hotel, polo lounge, and pool came back and still owned by the Sultan. The random person at the bar who turned out to be the granddaughter of the architect published her books. Irving lived for another twenty years!
posted by theclaw at 12:38 PM on June 18 [3 favorites]

This was a delight.
posted by fedward at 1:14 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]

“One of my maxims is ‘Try everything.’ ”

By the end of 1992, he had spent approximately fifteen thousand days by the side of the pool. (Irving has never learned how to swim.)

Bullshitters of the world, bow before your king.
posted by credulous at 3:45 PM on June 18 [5 favorites]

This was a great piece. I don't always love Gopnik, but maybe they'd because I'm used to his later pieces, this didn't sound like him to the same degree. Link sounds like an interesting character, I do work at got a little more from him about why he loves this routine.
posted by Carillon at 8:15 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]

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