As the preferred winter retreat of the Rat Pack, the Fontainebleau Hotel put Miami on the map as the capital of cool.
Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr were among the screen idols who came to play in the 1950s; Elvis Presley and the Beatles rocked the joint a decade later. And perhaps the most famous hand of gin rummy in movie history was played out by the poolside as James Bond eclipsed his adversary in the 1964 classic Goldfinger.
Now, after a billion-dollar makeover, the Fontainebleau is ready to recapture its golden era. Billing itself as the ultimate tropical destination, the hotel reopened to the public this week, promising to restore chic to Florida’s playground of the stars.
“We are moving the resort into the future with a nod to its iconic past,” said Jeffrey Soffer, who heads the development company that bought the nine-hectare site in 2005. “Fontainebleau will be infused with the sexy, glamorous, ultra-modern spirit of the idiosyncratic original.”
Morris Lapidus, the architect of the Fontainebleau’s curved structure, based his design on a film set. “He felt that if you create a stage and it is grand, everyone who enters will play their part,” Alan Lapidus said of his father, who died in 2001.
John Nichols, the designer behind the refurbishment, added two tower blocks and, in a throwback to the dinner suits favoured by 1950s film stars, the swimming pool is in the shape of a bow-tie.
Whether spending hundreds of millions on a hotel refurbishment is a good investment in the current financial climate remains to be seen. Arva Moore Parks, the author of Miami Then and Now, said: “Somehow you’ve got to get the people to come to the hotel … But in Miami we do ‘comeback kid’ better than most.” —