The Georgian Ballroom from “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”Mar 30th, 2015 | By Lindsay | Category: Movie Locations
Had you asked me last week, I would have told you that I was an expert on both Pasadena and its filming history. But something happened on Wednesday afternoon that rocked me to my stalking core. While writing a blog post for Los Angeles magazine, I got on a bit of a Girls Just Want to Have Fun kick and decided to attempt to track down a few of its unknown locations, one of which was the Lakeview Country Club where Natalie Sands’ (Holly Gagnier) debutante ball was held. As it turns out, the country club scene not only took place in Pasadena, but at a spot I am extremely familiar with – The Langham Huntington hotel! At the time of the filming, the property was known as The Huntington Sheraton. I was absolutely reeling upon making the discovery. Then, while doing further research, I learned something even more shocking – the historic hotel was actually demolished in 1989 and then rebuilt from the ground up! What the wha?
There’s a lot of ground to cover today, but I thought I’d start with how I made the Girls Just Want to Have Fun discovery. While scouring through the debutante ball scene, I spotted two different signs reading “Georgian Room.” So I did some Googling of the words “Georgian Room” and “Los Angeles” and eventually a listing for a Georgian Ballroom came up. I clicked on it and, lo and behold, it was a link to photos of the Georgian Ballroom at The Langham Huntington hotel.
Amazingly, the intricate gold ceiling pictured in the images was an exact match to the ceiling that appeared in Girls Just Want to Have Fun!
Oddly though, the hallway featured briefly in the scene did not resemble The Langham hallways in any way, shape or form. While GJWTHF was filmed three decades ago and the hotel’s décor bound to have changed during such a lengthy time period, I just could not get over the fact that nothing about the hallway in the movie paralleled the hotel’s actual hallways. Nothing. The hallway pictured in GJWHF was dark and Spanish in style, while The Langham’s hallways are very bright and open and boast a Louis XIV design. So I started doing some research and just about fell over when I read that The Huntington Sheraton was demolished in the late ‘80s. Because The Langham is repeatedly touted as being one of Pasadena’s most historic properties, I was shocked to discover this information. Not to mention the fact that I lived in the Crown City for over a decade and have visited The Langham dozens of times! How did I not know about this??
The Langham Huntington was originally constructed as The Wentworth in 1907. Commissioned by General Marshall C. Wentworth, the hotel had problems from the get-go and was shuttered and declared bankrupt a short five months after opening. In 1911, Henry Huntington stepped in to purchase the site and hired architect Myron Hunt to remodel and expand it. The property reopened three years later under the name the Huntington Hotel. It quickly gained a reputation as Pasadena’s finest lodging.
In 1954, the hotel was sold to the Sheraton Corporation and renamed The Huntington Sheraton. Despite being later purchased by the Kiekyu USA company in 1974, the site continued to operate as a Sheraton through 1985. That year, Kiekyu had seismic testing done on the property and the results showed that it was not structurally sound enough to withstand a major earthquake. The doors of The Huntington Sheraton were shut in October, its future unclear. In December 1987, Huntington Hotel Associates purchased the site and set about plans to demolish it. Despite some major resistance from preservationists, the wrecking ball descended on the structure in March 1989. Miraculously, two portions of the original hotel were left intact, the Viennese Ballroom and, you guessed it, the Georgian Ballroom – which means that the very spot that appeared in Girls Just Want to Have Fun is still standing today! But more on that in a minute.
The new property opened in 1991 as the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel. The exterior was constructed as an almost exact replica of the original. As you can see in the screen capture (which was taken from Disneyland Dream – a 1956 movie that I will talk about later in this post) as compared to a photograph that I took in 2008, while there are some minor differences between the new and old buildings, they are virtually imperceptible.
The hotel sold a couple of times after its reconstruction and, in 2007, was purchased by the Hong Kong-based Great Eagle Holdings and renamed The Langham Huntington.
While the hotel was being reconstructed in 1989, the Georgian Ballroom underwent a restoration. During the process, ten stained glass windows lining the ceiling of the room were discovered behind plaster. They had been covered over at some point in the 1940s. (This explains why there were not visible in Girls Just Want to Have Fun.) Developers removed the plaster and restored the windows to their original glory and they once again line the perimeter of the grand room.
I have stayed at The Langham countless times over the years and thought I had ventured throughout every square inch of the property, but that was obviously not the case as I had never before seen or heard of the Georgian Ballroom. As soon as I made the discovery about the room’s appearance in Girls Just Want to Have Fun, I was tempted to drive right on out to Pasadena to remedy the situation. In a timely stroke of luck, though, I remembered that my mom had a doctor’s appointment in the Crown City on Thursday, so she headed over to The Langham beforehand to snap some pictures for me. My mom currently has a broken foot and is on crutches, but she still managed to go out stalking on my behalf! She is a rock star!
The Georgian Ballroom appeared in one of Girls Just Want to Have Fun’s more memorable scenes in which Janey Glenn (Sarah Jessica Parker), Lynne Stone (Helen Hunt) and Maggie Malene (Shannen Doherty) sabotaged the debutante ball of mean girl Natalie by inviting 150 unwanted (and rather wild) guests to her upscale soiree.
The Georgian Ballroom looks quite a bit different today than it did onscreen in 1985.
As you can see below, though, aside from the addition of the stained glass windows, the ceiling remains unchanged.
At the time of the filming, the Georgian Ballroom had windows and doors that led to the outside of the hotel.
That is no longer the case, though.
I am fairly certain that the exterior of The Huntington Sheraton was used as the exterior of the Lakeview Country Club in the scene, as well. While I have scoured the internet looking for 1980’s images of the hotel’s main entrance taken from the same angle as GJWTHF to use for comparison, I came up empty-handed.
But as you can see below, in the screen capture from Disneyland Dream the exterior of The Huntington Sheraton was covered in vines, as was the building pictured behind J.P. Sands (Morgan Woodward) in Girls Just Want to Have Fun.
The exterior of The Huntington Sheraton was also featured briefly in the 1982 pilot episode of Remington Steele (more on that later) and as you can see in the screen capture below, the front of the hotel was painted white at the time, matching what appeared in GJWHF. You can also check out a photograph of the what the hotel’s entrance looked like in 1989 here. Though not taken from the same angle shown in Girls Just Want to Have Fun, you can see that it does bear a resemblance to the exterior shown in the movie.
During its tenure as The Huntington Sheraton, the hotel popped up quite a few times onscreen. As I mentioned, it was featured in Disneyland Dream, a home movie made by Robbins Barstow who won a trip to The Happiest Place on Earth in 1956 via a contest sponsored by Scotch Tape. During the seven-night vacation, he and his family stayed at The Huntington Sheraton.
You can watch Disneyland Dream by clicking below. The Barstows seem like such a fun family!
As I also previously mentioned, the hotel was used extensively throughout the pilot episode of Remington Steele, which was titled “License to Steele.”
I could not get over seeing the interior of the property in the episode. With its arched openings, beamed ceilings and wrought-iron glass doors, the place bears absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to The Langham.
I honestly cannot believe how much it has changed!
I was able to spot a few things from Remington Steele that matched up to what appeared in Girls Just Want to Have Fun, which thrilled me to no end. As you can see below, unique fan-shaped lights were visible in both productions.
The carpeting in both is also a direct match.
The hotel stood in for Club Meade in the Season 2 episode of Simon & Simon titled “The Club Murder Vacation” in 1983.
In the episode, a large tree located in front of the hotel is visible. That tree is a match to one that appeared in Girls Just Want to Have Fun. The placement of the lawn-covered center island in Simon & Simon is also a match to what was shown in GJWTHF, further leading me to believe that the exterior of The Huntington Sheraton was used as the exterior of the Lakeview Country Club in the flick.
In the 1985 made-for-TV movie Promises to Keep, The Huntington Sheraton masked as the Westwind Hotel where Jack Palmer (Robert Mitchum) stayed while trying to make amends with the family he abandoned thirty years prior.
The property stood in for the abandoned Cumberland Grand hotel in the Season 3 episode of Scarecrow and Mrs. King titled “The Triumvirate,” which aired in 1986.
The interior of the hotel was also used in the episode.
There are those fan-shaped lights again!
In 1987, the Scarecrow and Mrs. King crew returned to The Huntington Sheraton to film Season 4’s “One Flew East.” In the episode, the hotel masked as the Hospimerica Briarwood Sanitarium.
The renovated Georgian Ballroom also made an appearance in the 2007 film Charlie Wilson’s War.
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: The Langham Huntington Hotel is located at 1401 South Oak Knoll Avenue in Pasadena. You can visit the property’s official website here. Girls Just Want to Have Fun was filmed in the Georgian Ballroom.