Saturday, December 4, 2010

Aaron Spelling's Hotel: Some Memories

I found a used DVD copy of the first season of Aaron Spelling's series Hotel in one of those store bins and gladly paid the $4.99 price for the chance to re-see this "gem".
Maybe it's because I was on the set of the show several times that I'm nostagic about this one. It doesn't seem to enjoy the same concerted fan base as the others.
I remember a long cocktail party where the great Bette Davis held court for the press.
I'd interviewed her several times before so she instantly spotted me and shouted "Canada! Get over here!"
But she didn't look at all well, one hand shaked visibly and she started nodding off. I suspected something very serious was wrong with her.
A few weeks later after the party she booked into a Boston hospital to have a double mastectomy followed days later by a serious stroke. And that meant she had to borrow out of her series commitment. It would have marked her series debut but she was simply too frail for sustained work.
Her replacement was Anne Baxter! Surprise! Once again Margo Channing would be replaced by Eve Harrington --just like in their great movie together All About Eve (1950).
Davis had played a character named Laura Trent who ran the prestigious St. Gregory hotel. And Baxter was her cousin named Victoria Cabot. Zimbalist was yet another cousin Charles Cabot.
The Davis pilot had run at the end of the 1982-83 season as a TV movie that included stars James Brolin, Connie Sellecca and such co-stars as Michael Spound and Heidi Bohay (they later married in real life), Shari Belafonte-Harper, and Shea Harper.
"Bette was volatile," Brolin once told me. "Very hard to act with. Then Anne came in and it was 'Champagne for all' after every good take. We truly loved her."
And thentragedy struck on a New York street in 1985 when Baxter suddenly keeled over and died of a brain aneurysm at the age of 62.
In turn she was replaced by Efrem Zimbalist who lasted with the show until its demise in August, 1986.
I remember at one of our interviews Brolin had wanted the series to be a bit more hard hitting. But this was not executive producer Aaron Spelling's style --after all his other series included Love Boat and Charlie's Angrls.
By the way the real hotel that served as the model was the ultra posh Fairmont hotel at Nob Hill. But all exteriors were filmed on Spelling sound stages in L.A.
Watching the series again, I'm aware of small virtues. Spelling liked to cast TV veterans and Jane Wyatt gets a juicy role early on and one episode is all about a romance between Victoria and the man she met in the Second World War --played in dashing fashion by Stewart Granger.
I still haven't gotten to the most famous episode --when Liz Taylor and Roddy McDowall checked in for an episode.
And not everybody was a Spelling fan: Alexis Smith once told me she turned Spelling down when he offered her an episode based on the shooting of Lana Turner's lover by her teenaged daughter.
Nobody on this series went on to better things. The last time I interviewed Brolin he was peddling his latest TV movie appearance. Farrell now works behind the scenes as a producer. I spotted Heidi Bohay on an infocommercial with Victoria Proncipal.
And I seriously doubt Hotel would make to a network berth these days: it's too staid, slow moving and deliberately non-confrontational.
But it was certainly worth the $4.99 I paid for Season One.

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