In the fall of 1958, a Hollywood film crew descended upon the charming beachside community of Coronado, located across a placid bay from downtown San Diego, to make a movie that would become the American Film Institute's No. 1 comedy. Among the 200 strong were movie titans Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Billy Wilder and the lovely Marilyn Monroe. They had traveled to work with another legendary beauty, the grande dame Hotel del Coronado.
The director, Wilder, had described the hotel as the perfect setting for Some Like it Hot, a Roaring '20s farce about a pair of jazz musicians hiding from gangsters in drag, because it hadn't changed in 30 years. "It's like the past come to life," Wilde said. While the Hotel del Coronado (opened in 1888 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977) still evokes the stately Victorian grandeur with its turrets, towers and gingerbread trim, it can't be said that things have remained status quo at the Del. Since 2001, the hotel has been on a nearly nonstop binge of renovation, restoration and construction. When the landmark celebrates the 50th anniversary of the release of Some Like It Hot (weekend of September 18-20), it will be at a place where the past and present happily coexist.
The last of California's stately seaside hotels recently added the Spa at the Del to the 28-acre seaside property. The facility features 21 treatment rooms and a full-service salon. Other additions include ENO, a wine bar that serves fine cheeses and locally made gourmet chocolates, and 1500 Ocean, the resort's signature restaurant. Debuting in 2006, 1500 Ocean offers a "Southland coastal cuisine," incorporating top-quality produce from throughout the region. The dining room's handsome California Craftsman look is also a nice departure from the hotel's ubiquitous Victoriana. Topping it all off is Beach Village, a collection of two- and three-bedroom condo units, sumptuously appointed and offering direct access to one of Southern California's finest beaches.
Festivities for Some Like It Hot weekend ($340 a night in the hotel and from $595 a night at Beach Village, with tickets to all events) will include a dinner reception with Curtis, an appearance by the film's original all-girl band and a Champagne reception with groundbreaking producer and Academy Award winner Walter Mirisch. Of course, a Marilyn imper-sonator will be on hand as well. Fifty years on, Monroe and the Del are as hot as ever. Visit hoteldel.com or call 800-468-3533.