Since its very first bookings in 1927, The Hollywood Roosevelt has cultivated a reputation as being a gathering spot for exclusive premiere parties and soirées (it certainly helps that the first Academy Awards ceremony was even held in its luxurious Blossom Room ballroom in 1929). But of all the red-carpet events and fêtes that The Roosevelt has hosted over the past 90 years, one of the most sought-after was something that happened in its more recent history: that time, 10 years ago this summer, when rock god Prince played seven sold-out shows at the hotel.
The concerts were rarities not just because they were promoting the notoriously reclusive singer, but because the hotel doesn’t usually open itself up to the public in this way. But, to be fair, this wasn’t just any public. Prince was there to promote his album, 3121. And, in a feat of brilliant meta advertising, ticket prices were set at either $312.10 for “standing room only” or $3,121 for two seats that also included a VIP dinner at what was then the hotel’s steakhouse, Dakota (slightly ironic, as Prince himself enjoyed an all-vegan menu during his stay; he had a particular affinity for the hotel chef’s vegan pancakes, according to a source at the hotel). A-listers who ponied up for a chance to recline while basking in the Purple One included Chris Rock, Jessica Biel, Tommy Lee, Zach Braff, Salma Hayek, Jeremy Piven, Nicole Richie, and Sean Combs (who brought his own case of Cîroc vodka while everyone else settled for more standard cocktail variations from the hotel bar).
For those fortunate enough to attend, the once-in-a-lifetime experience combined the glitz of a stadium concert with the intimacy of a jazz lounge. According to sources who were there, news reports, and photographs of set lists, Prince performed a mix of music from his new album and classics like “Purple Rain,” along with fresh takes on hits like The Beatles’ “The Long and Winding Road,” Beyoncé’s “Suga Mama,” and Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done for Me Lately”—all while sparkling in shiny attire and many, many hats. One night, he invited a lucky fan on stage to sing with him. He’d also frequently leave the stage to case the room, stopping periodically to perform again (sometimes in guests’ booths). And, of course there was an after-party. Nightly jam sessions that would go on way into morning, of course. Rumor has it that John Mayer even joined in on one of them.
Prince had several other noteworthy performances–including a multi-night stint at the Hollywood Palladium in 2014 and his now infamous Super Bowl halftime show in 2007–before his shocking and untimely death in 2016. But this event, which was orchestrated between the publicity team of the Roosevelt’s then-owners Thompson Hotels and Verizon Wireless, will always be thought of as unique. Or, as one concert-goer told the New York Times back in 2007, “Ten years from now I won’t remember how much the tickets were, but I’ll remember the experience.”
- Story by Whitney Friedlander