The Inside Story: Park Plaza Hotel

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With this weekend’s Tamale Festival at MacArthur Park but a couple miles from our house, my wife Susan and I decided to leave the driving to our feet and walk on over this afternoon. Along the way we passed the renowned Park Plaza Hotel. Built in 1925 as an Elks Lodge the place has been vacant and inaccessible these last few years, used mostly as a location for films, TV shows, commercials and music videos.

So looking through the locked front entrance at the spectacular and expansive lobby and grand staircase, the last thing we expected was to get a chance to check out the interior. But just as I was sticking my camera up against the smoked glass to get as best a shot as I could through it, one of the doors opened suddenly and I jumped as a big serious security dude stuck his head out and wanted to know what I was doing. Expecting to be told to put my camera away and get on out of there I said I was just trying to get a picture of the interior. But instead of being told to shove off, the next thing I know is this dude’s opening the door wider and inviting us to come inside. Once in the middle of this jaw-droppingly ornate and preserved space, our jaws drop even more when he casually tells us he can give us a tour if we want.

Oh yes, we want!

During the stroll through of the first floor Bronze and Silver ballrooms he lets fly that the hotel’s just recently been purchased for $29 million by a 35-year-old woman who “owns a bunch of buildings on Sixth Street through Koreatown.” Then he shows us hidden doors in the wood paneling opening to small anterooms where the Elks would stash their liquor and prostitutes during prohibition-era raids. Nice!

As we head back out to the lobby I’m thrilled enough at what we’ve seen and figuring the tour is done, but dang if the guy doesn’t head up the big stairs to the mezzanine with us in tow where he first shows us the beautiful Grand Ballroom replete with its own stage and mentions that Adam Sandler was most recently here filming what’s probably his next movie. When we got to talking about how creepy it must be being in this big old hotel alone, he revealed that he personally knows it to be haunted, and he has three experiences to prove it — not even counting the echoing sounds of children regularly heard playing and and laughing in the stairwells.

One incident took place in the Grand Ballroom, wherein during his rounds he checked on the huge space and found it completely dark, yet when he returned the next time every light was blazing. Then there is the much more hands-on ghost up on the fourth floor. During one of his first graveyard shifts he was walking those corridors when he got this strange sensation of fingers scratching him on the back. Yet when he’d turn around nothing was there. He said it’s happened a couple times since. Lastly is the black shadow in the lobby that he and other guards have witnessed lurking around the table there before it speeds directly toward the elevators and disappears.

Lastly he leads up to the Terrace Ballroom, which isn’t so much ballroom as the interior of a church. With ceilings that are at least 30 feet in height and a floor plan that would support a large congregation on any given Sunday he pointed out that the Elks held a lot of secret meetings in here — perhaps even a fair share of funerals.

Had the elevators not been broken we would have had the chance to explore much more of the Park Plaza, including maybe the fourth floor or the hotel’s Olympic-sized swimming pool, but at that point our surprise inspection was brought to a close and back down to the lobby where we thanked our guide and hoped he’d avoid any future visits with that spooky backscratcher.

Flickr photoset from the inside of the Park Plaza is here.

10 Replies to “The Inside Story: Park Plaza Hotel”

  1. Awesome! That sounds like a really nice experience indeed. And I like that the security guard was nice.

    I wonder what the future holds for this building with the recent purchase….hopefully, it’ll be a good one.

    I’ll be at the Tamale Festival tomorrow with a friend.

  2. Anybody here remember when Scream (the late 80s rock club) was at the Park Plaza? It was worth the ten bucks just to be able to walk up and down those stairs. The club itself was a lot cooler when it was still at the Embassy Hotel at 851 S. Grand, but that’s another story…

    For that matter, were any Metroblogging LA readers at the Park Plaza on the night of the infamous Elks Lodge Riot in 1979 (before my club-going time)?

  3. I actually got chills thinking about the shadow flitting across the lobby.

    You should make the flikr set public, those are some nice pics…

  4. Daniel, I remember when there was a club in there called Power Tools in the mid-to-late ’80s. Never heard of the Elks Lodge Riot and would love to hear more!

    Den, as far as I can tell my Flickr set of hotel images is open to the public.

  5. i used to go to power tools! near as i can remember, those were good times. anyone else sort of remember dirt box, AA, alcoholic salad, plastic passion or any other clubs of that time and ilk?

  6. Not sure if anybody is reading this anymore, but…

    The Elks Lodge Riot (actually a police riot) was a fairly infamous night in the history of the L.A. punk scene, and in the annals of the relationship between punks and the LAPD. Detailed accounts of it can be read in the book “We Got The Neutron Bomb” and on the web, but in a nutshell, on March 17, 1979, a sort of punk “festival” was booked for the Park Plaza (then known simply as the “Elks Lodge”) featuring X, the Alleycats, the Go-Gos, the Plugz, and the Zeros. At the same time, in another part of the hotel, a wedding reception was going on. Apparently these two events were on opposite sides of the hotel at the top of that grand staircase that you go up when you first enter the building.

    Inevitably, some friction arose between the oddly-dressed punk fans and the attendees of the wedding reception, and someone called the cops. The cops came. Boy, did they come. They came by the hundreds with batons in hand, invited themselves into the building, and started beating the living shit out of every punk they could catch. Punks who were trying to get to their cars outside the building also got thumped. The incident made the papers and the TV and radio news, the Coalition Against Police Abuse took up the case, and, surprisingly, some of the local media actually acknowledged that the police had gotten way out of hand. Shawn Stern’s (of the band Youth Brigade) Better Youth Organization was formed primarily as a response to the Elks Lodge Riot.

    The negative publicity didn’t change the LAPD’s behavior for the better, by the way. After the Elks Lodge Riot, the LAPD continued to harass punk rockers inside and outside of concerts for the better part of a decade; the only difference being that they no longer waited for anybody to call them. (Incidentally, I remember reading somewhere–possibly the LA Weekly or Flipside Fanzine- that an LA punk rock promoter in the early eighties, seeing the usual cluster of officers outside his club looking for people to fuck with, had the inspired idea to call the cops on the cops…an LAPD commander came to the scene and acknowledged that many of the officers there weren’t actually supposed to be there, and he ordered them back to their regular beats!)

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