We had a minor timing problem, in that the buffet lunch was ten minutes late in starting.  And since no one really could predict how long the photo session might take, this was a cause for concern – which turned out not to be a problem, due to the really organized way that PP DAVE WHITEHEAD had arranged the picture-taking.  All went off on schedule, and the Speaker came on right at 1 p.m. – you can’t do better than that!


PP STEVE DAY started us off with the Pledge.  He and PP JIM DOWNIE combined for the song, which turned out to be My Country Tis of Thee – with JIM providing the music on his harmonica.  JIM then also did double duty, providing the Invocation, which he dedicated to SUNNY JIM SUMNER.  “It’s a grand and glorious feeling, to have that pro control, to loft it toward the ceiling and drop it at the hole.  The whole world looks rosy, your game is splendid, BUT – the whole damn thing is ruined when you miss the two-foot putt.”  I’m not sure that JIM credited the author – his Dad, who wrote this particular sonnet in 1927 – but it was well done, as usual. 


MARK BLOCK noted that we had a Visiting Rotarian, Martin Weber, who belongs to the Manheim, Germany Club, and was visiting at UCLA – he called me in advance, and I assured him he would be most welcome, and he seemed to enjoy all the extra photo activity, etc.  While not formally announced, we had another Rotarian, Dick Thompson, who was the photographer, and a long-time member of the WLA Club.  ELOISE SISKEL brought HOWARD, and she always adds to any meeting.  And it must be announced that we had that rare, almost visitor, PP RON WANGLIN, with us.  While I’m sure he wanted to be included in the photo shoot, it was also announced that RON has just bought a new house.  GENE PRINDLE was the agent, and this opens up wonderful opportunities for fining – RON, of course, for the house, GENE as the agent – and the one still-open question was how much the fine to RON should be.  It was suggested that he should pay a buck for each square foot in the new house, and then the figure of 5000 square feet was noted – plus, it was also suggested that GENE should at least match that fine.  This will be resolved, and we are all interested, so stay tuned, please. 


PDG ANDY ANDERSON came forward with a brief reminder about the forthcoming Wine and Cheese party.  This will be a fund raiser for the Global Neuro Rescue  program run by Dr Jorge Lazareff and the Neuro Oncology Department at UCLA – and of course, with these two  wonderful programs as the beneficiary, UCLA makes no charge for the use of the James West Center – thus all the income goes directly to the two charities.  Tickets are $25, and your Board of Directors has voted that each Rotarian should pay for two – with as many additional tickets as needed, of course.  Save the date – May 16th, Sunday, from 2:30 to 5 p.m.


PP HOMER NEWMAN is the Chair of the Election Committee, which met this past Monday.  The many ballots were tallied, and the following results are now official –

President - RUDY ALVAREZ,  President -Elect – DON NELSON, Vice President –

MICHAEL GINTZ, Secretary-Treasurer, CHRIS BRADFORD, International Service, SEAN McMILLAN, Vocational, TONY DERYAN, Youth, SHANE WAARBROEK, and Community, LILLIAN KLIEWER.  An excellent team – and they were approved by unanimous voice vote.


As noted above, PP DAVE WHITEHEAD took charge of the seating and placement for the group photo.  The first row was seated, with several rows behind the chairs, and it all went forward quite quickly.  Photographer Dick Thompson then had a few instructions, mounted his two chairs, and on the count of two, began shooting.  He took a bunch of shots, and then dismissed the group.  Next was a group shot of Past Presidents, of which we have twenty eight!  Same procedure, on the count of two, etc, and so it was done.


PP RALPH WOODWORTH next introduced our Speaker, Carlos Lopes, Managing Director of the Bel Air Hotel;  Mr. Lopes was born in Lisbon, Portugal, and received his collegiate degrees in Canada.  He has had over thirty years experience with luxury hotels, managing such properties as Cap Juluca Resort in Anguilla, BWI, and the Grand Hotel in Cap Ferrat, France.  He was Senior Vice President for eleven years for Four Seasons Hotels worldwide – and this is his third stint at the Bel Air!  In the late 1980’s when the hotel was owned by Rosewood Hotels, he was first here, on a two week assignment, which turned into a three year stint.  He returned in 1990, briefly, and has been at the Bel Air this time since 2002 – and he’s glad to be back!


The hotel was started in 1946, and first had 63 units.  It was later expanded to 83 units, and now its configuration is 91 units, with 51 suites and 40 smaller rooms.  Rates range from $345 to $3500 (yes, that’s per night) and 30 of the rooms have private spas.  They have regained their Five Star rating, which was temporarily lost, and there are only two hotels in LA with that rating. Every room is different, and their ratio of personnel to rooms is three to one, which is very high.  Wolfgang Puck was once the Chef here, and the present chef is a CIA (Culinary Institute of America) Graduate who has been here for three years.    


It should not surprise us to learn that the hotel has the largest selection of port wines anywhere –Mr. Lopes is, after all, from Lisbon. The guest makeup has changed recently, with almost 60% of bookings being business related.  They host over 100 meetings each year, and over 200 weddings.  The Bel Air is very proud of their gardens – spending recently $150K just to have the upper foliage of the trees thinned, for example.  They grow their own herbs – over 80%, at last count – which gives them tremendous variety in their seasonings. 


They emphasize employee retention, and the average period of service now is fifteen years.  Their turnover rate is less than 10%, and the average rate in Los Angeles is 40 to 50% - so their efforts to retain personnel is working.  You will be pleased to know that they do allow dogs…And if a client is here for over three months, and spends over $100K, they will redecorate their room to the clients specifications. When the Japanese bought the hotel in the 80’s, they paid one million dollars per room – and when they sold it, the per-room rate was $650K!  Mr. Lopes allowed as how he prefers the Zagat ratings, since they are produced by actual paying guests – but any way you figure it, the Bel Air Hotel is at the top of the list.  We thank you, Carlos Lopes, for visiting with us – come back soon. 


Don’t forget that next week is Investment Advisors  Day – bring your spouse.  See you then.

                                                                                      YOE, Ernie Wolfe