Lady Diana Manners
The first newsworthy guest in the Garden of Alla’s inaugural year was Lady Diana Manners, a British celebrity. She and her friend and traveling companion Iris Tree checked in on January 24. Lady Diana was 35 years old and known as both a great beauty and an unconventional thinker. She had an aristocratic background. Her parents were the Duke and Duchess of Ruthland, and the family holdings included 6,000 acres and Belvoir (pronounced “Beaver”) Castle. She was married to Alfred Duff Cooper and was known in later life as Lady Diana Cooper.
“Although she was not known as a professional actress, her visit to Los Angeles was part of a nationwide tour of a religious play, “The Miracle,” which was being staged at the newly opened Shrine Auditorium. In the play, Lady Diana played the Madonna and Iris Tree played a nun. The arrival of the play and its high-born star was treated as big news. The Times sent a reporter to interview her at the Garden of Alla.
“The much-heralded Madonna of ‘The Miracle’ has arrived in Los Angeles,” his report stated, “Lady Diana Manners, to be sure. And she proves to be a very charming, gracious and human Madonna, despite the responsibilities of so exacting a role. With Miss Iris Tree, she is occupying a villa in the Garden of Alla.” The reporter caught up with her “having luncheon on the terrace of her small villa with Miss Tree and Morris Gest,” the show’s producer.
In her diary, Lady Diana was less gracious. She seemed to like to the Garden of Alla. “After a full hour’s drive [from the train station] we came to the Garden of Allah, our lodging-to-be,” she wrote. “I admit it’s entrancing – a tiny whitewashed village of two- and three-roomed Spanish houses, fountains and a swimming pool, arcades and white out-of-doors stairs. Iris and I share one” and others in her company shared three others.
About dinner that first night, she wrote, “Going to dine now in the sitting room. Twenty Chinese [servers] in jade-green silk have brought in the entire dinner from soup to nuts on one tray, so it will be bitterly cold from the second course on.” And she didn’t care for Los Angeles at all: “I hate this town, hate it, hate it!”
A few days later, Mrs. Vincent Astor, a member of New York society, registered at the Garden. Her husband was the principal heir to the fortune of his father, John Jacob Astor. She was the first Mrs. Astor, formerly Helen Dinsmore Huntington. (His third wife, Brooke Astor, perhaps the last society woman of her type, died in 2003.) Also checking in was her friend and traveling companion, Mrs. Harriman Russell. The two were part of a larger party of aristocrats who were touring the country. They had recently stayed at Pebble Beach and would next travel to New Orleans.
During their stay at the Garden, the Times reported, the Astor party was introduced to Mexican food at a luncheon at the United Artists studios, located nearby at Santa Monica Boulevard and Formosa Avenue. Luncheon guests included Lady Diana Manners, other visitors from abroad and Hollywood royals actor John Barrymore, United Artists’ co-owners (with Charlie Chaplin), Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., as well as its CEO, Joseph Schenck and his wife, the actress Norma Talmadge.