Legendary Fontainebleau Miami Beach Dazzles, Plus New Las Vegas Hotel

Forbes
 
Legendary Fontainebleau Miami Beach Dazzles, Plus New Las Vegas Hotel
Wild Casino

Years ago, when I first strolled into Miami Beach’s swanky Fontainebleau, I felt a heightened pizzazz, aswirl in the kind of stimulating panache and prestige that trumpets: Pay attention! For travel lovers of glam getaways—especially those renowned as celeb and A-lister favorites—Fontainebleau Miami Beach is a legendary draw. Today, it continues to be a hotspot of cool goings-on, much expanded and revitalized again and again since its 1954 launch. A $1-billion makeover in 2008 wowed. “Every era of American history has its architectural touchstones, buildings that transcend their time and come to define a cultural moment,” says author Stephen Wallis in Fontainebleau, the newly published, silk-wrapped, oversized hardcover coffee table book (3.4-pounds) by luxury publisher Assouline, which celebrates the curvilinear-shaped resort’s illustrious past, present and forward leap. “The Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach is that kind of landmark,” he adds. “An instant sensation when it opened, it remains an enduring icon, repeatedly updated and evolving to this day.” With principal photography by Peter Arnell, who is Fontainebleau Development’s chief brand and design officer, this striking book highlights treasures and pleasures of the famous Florida oceanside symbol. Dive into its thick paper stock pages that are ripe with riveting photos and illustrations. Wallis engagingly writes about Fontainebleau’s history and mystery, deals and diversions, challenges and change-makers, imagination and innovation.

Stellar personalities across the decades have schmoozed, sipped, savored delectable dining, smooched, sashayed, swam and sunbathed at Fontainebleau Miami Beach. Among those who have enjoyed its grounds: Amanda Beard, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jill St. John, Joan Crawford, Kate Hudson, Kelly Ripa, Marilyn Monroe, Mario Lopez, Regis Philbin, Sammy Davis Jr., as well as President John F. Kennedy, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair. Their images thread throughout the book.

“Then as now,” says Wallis, “guests arriving at the Fontainebleau entered through a glittering 17,000-square-foot lobby, where a trio of show-stopping chandeliers shimmered above graceful islands of seating and a polished white-marble floor inset with a repeating black-bowtie motif”—one of the hotel’s signatures. Its premiere architect Morris Lapidus, who often wore a bowtie, was a master of plotting seduction, elegance and even whimsy into his building projects, who “unabashedly designed his work as theater, as an architecture of joy,” explains Wallis. Environment as entertainment.

Music is integral to Fontainebleau’s raison d’être. Among the artists who have performed there and are pictured in the book: Adam Lambert, Ariana Grande, Backstreet Boys, Conrad Sewell, Demi Lovato, Jennifer Lopez, Joe Jonas, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Kygo, Lady Gaga, Matthew Koma, Missy Elliott, Miley Cyrus, Pharrell Williams, Usher and Abel Tesfaye/the Weeknd. Its BleauLive series cheers lively acts. Fontainebleau’s immersive, high-energy, cutting-edge tech LIV Nightclub is a head-turner. Ever fabulously camera-friendly, Fontainebleau Miami Beach has been the scene of many notable films (such as Sean Connery’s James Bond 007 Goldfinger, Jerry Lewis’s comedy The Bellboy and Whitney Houston’s The Bodyguard)and TV shows (such as Miami Vice, The Sopranos, Grand Hotel and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel).

“If you create the stage setting and it is grand, everyone who enters will play their part.”—Morris Lapidus, architect

“Fontainebleau invented the concept of the hotel as show.... There was nothing but laughter in the lobby. Everybody was having the time of their lives.”—Steve Wynn, real estate developer and art collector

“The Fontainebleau is almost like a barometer of Miami style over the ages.”—Alexandra Cunningham Cameron, a curator of contemporary design at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York.

Fontainebleau Las Vegas, Miami Beach’s fresh-faced sister resort, opened in December 2023, unveiling a 24.5-acre, 67-story, mega destination. “There has always been synergy and cross-pollination between Miami Beach and Las Vegas—two playgrounds, 2,500 miles apart, defined by glitz, fantasy, sunshine, sex and money,” says Wallis. “So it makes sense that the first outpost of Miami Beach’s storied Fontainebleau hotel would land on the Vegas strip.” It, too, is amply displayed in this book. Adds Peter Arnell, “The DNA of Fontainebleau—its timeless quality, design and sophistication—is embedded throughout the new Las Vegas resort and casino.... We work diligently to build upon Morris Lapidus’s original creation with the goal of bringing about the next evolution of excellence to Fontainebleau’s iconic legacy.” Its ribbon-cutting event, colorful festivities and musical extravaganzas garnered major applause. In the 3,800-seat BleauLive Theater, Paul Anka saluted Fontainebleau’s hospitality impact with an original rendition of My Way. A “Bleau Carpet” was rolled out for VIP guests, including Cher, Jessica Biel, Lenny Kravitz, Sylvester Stallone and Tommy Hilfiger. Justin Timberlake headlined a surprise performance at a private bash. Another welcomed surprise spotlit Keith Urban at Bleau Bar, the centerpiece of the hotel’s 150,000-square-foot casino.

“Create what is extraordinary,” inspires Jeffrey Soffer, chairman and CEO of Fontainebleau Development, whose vision points to bold achievements. Wallis, in this book, sums up Fontainebleau’s essence: “Embracing that spirit of wide-eyed discovery and delight, the Fontainebleau is less about a specific place than a sensibility, about creating an experience that’s transporting and aspirational.”