CORONADO, Calif. — The Hotel Del Coronado can easily be seen on California’s Southern Coast. It’s the shining star of San Diego Bay and its architecture is what put the resort town of Coronado on the map, but when Marylin Monroe stayed here in 1959, Hollywood made us believe this very beautiful California building was the Seminole Ritz in Miami, Florida.
It may seem like a harmless bit of movie magic but Hotel Heritage Manager Gina Petrone says it didn’t go over well with some Floridians.
“The mayor of Miami was not very happy that a Southern California resort was chosen to represent Florida,” she says.
Affectionately known as "The Del," the hotel is the second-largest wooden structure in the world and one of the last Victorian seaside resorts. It’s also the film location of the romantic comedy Some Like it Hot.
“It’s about two men who witnessed the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and are in hiding from the mob,” explains Petrone.
Those two men are played by actors Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, who end up disguising themselves as women and joining a traveling band with Marylin Monroe.
“The mobsters do track them to the hotel and that’s where all the chaos ensues,” says Petrone.
She knows all about the movie’s chaos. Petrone curated The Del's museum and researched the hotel's extensive film history. One of her favorite scenes was with Tony Curtis on the 4th-floor balcony.
“He shimmies down the front of "The Del", jumps on a bike and takes off.”
Due to its close proximity to Hollywood, "The Del" has been featured in over a dozen movies and TV shows, but actors aren’t the only famous people staying here. There’s a long list of dignitaries too.
“Starting with President Benjamin Harrison in 1891. We’ve had 11 presidents [as guests] since then,” says Petrone.
The Hotel Del opened its doors in 1888 after just 11 months of construction. Its ornate wood carpentry and the installation of electricity made it the epitome of luxury, but back then "The Del" wasn’t just a beachside resort. It was also a hunting lodge.
“The original floor was tile, so at the end of the day guests would display their catch on the tile so people could look at the quail, the rabbits,” says Petrone.
Housekeeping frowns upon displaying dead animals on the floor these days but there is plenty of old-fashioned charm still lingering throughout the hotel, as well as some old ghosts.
“Sometimes the covers will get pulled off you, the pillow pulled out, lots of lighting issues, lights come on, ceiling fans come on, the phone will ring and nobody is there,” says Petrone.
So far, no reports of a Marylin Monroe ghost sighting but you are welcome to take a tour with Gina and she will show you some of Marylin’s favorite spots around the hotel.