How Hillcrest’s century-old country club kept its cool


Miles Aldridge / Trunk Archives

There’s a story Hillcrest Country Club members love to tell about when Jack Benny came to greet Paramount co-founder Adolph Zukor, who was over 20 years his senior. Evaluating the comic, Zukor narrowed his eyes and said, “Benny? Are you still here ?

It’s part of the club’s history, but things have changed a lot since its founding in 1920 to counterbalance the policies of other local clubs against permission from Jewish members. It was the then Jewish country club, located not far from Beverly Hills and Fox Park, and it had a membership roster that included Groucho and Harpo Marx, George Burns, Danny Kaye and others of the biggest names in the world. 20th century box office. These days, you don’t need to be a tribal member to register, but you should be prepared to shell out the reported initiation fee of $ 185,000. Of course, this is only if you are invited.

famous members of the hillcrest country club
Hillcrest hijinks, left to right: Edgar Bergen, Harpo Marx, Ken Murray, Jack Benny, Groucho Marx, George Burns and (on the floor) Hal Block, in 1950. Below.

Courtesy of Marc Wanamaker / Bsion Archives

Today’s Angelenos have no shortage of choices when it comes to flashy country clubs, like the Riviera or Wilshire, or cool member-only spots like the San Vicente Bungalows. . As the world opens up and we all start to think about how and where we want to spend our time, and with whom, it is only fitting that a club like Hillcrest will be reconsidered. It is a testament to our current appetite for nostalgia and is reminiscent of simpler times, but not too simple.

“We now have a great golf course,” says one member, reminding us that networking once worked perfectly well without having to slip into someone’s DMs. “I would say one of the best in LA.” A member’s adult child notes enthusiastically, “The food is actually pretty good now. Let the latest batch of wonders take hold in Soho Warehouse in downtown Los Angeles; it’s a place to come for a casual dinner or a friendly game, or when your kids want to play Marco Polo without ending up on Deuxmoi.

crest country club
Hillcrest as it is today.

David Zaitz

For the crowd that gathers at Hillcrest (a group rumored to include Sidney Poitier, CAA big boss Rob Light and Television Academy president Bruce Rosenblum), the low-key atmosphere, where a golf score is a larger number than an Instagram account, is a point sale. (The club, which refused to speak to CGV, is notoriously shy of the press, another godsend for members.) As one regular who insisted on anonymity reveals, habits such as serious philanthropic giving are what will likely spur you on to sit in a lounge chair by the pool. “You can’t write a check to an organization just once,” snorts the member, “and hope to get in. “

Above all, in a city obsessed with its own image, history has value. Part of Hillcrest’s enduring appeal is its clear connection to the past and its status as an oasis founded by outsiders, to become itself decidedly old guard. It’s the kind of rags-to-riches story that would make a great movie, but it might just be the kind of thing that’s best discussed elsewhere.

This story appears in the December 2021 / January 2022 issue of City Country. SUBSCRIBE NOW

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