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Inside the Newporter Inn

September 15, 2002

Young Chang

Back when Jamboree Road was considered a little road, when the now

quite happening intersection of Jamboree and Pacific Coast Highway

was just emptiness, an early Newport Beach man named George D.

Buccola built what would become the city's first luxury hotel.

It was called the Newporter Inn and it happened in the early '60s,

according to James Felton's "Newport Beach, The First Century,

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1888-1988." The Balboa Bay Club's general manager was brought over to

be the new hotel's first manager. And when Buccola later sold the

property to a man named Del Webb, the Newporter Inn became Del Webb's

Newporter Inn, says Felton's book.

Over the decades the business landed in several different laps,

including Columbia Savings at one time, but today the facility is a

Hyatt property and known as the Hyatt Newporter.

This is where the summer jazz festival happens, where

out-of-towners often gather for business meetings and where everyday

people as well as celebrities dine.

But back in the day, the hotel was dubbed former president Richard

Nixon's "Western White House," said Joe Alegre, director of sales and

marketing for the Hyatt Newporter.

"He would stay here in our villas," he said. "When Newport Beach

was a lot smaller, more of a quaint place, the Newporter was a

getaway, whether people be in Los Angeles or San Diego."

Former celebrities and politicians used to hang out there. John

Wayne often dined there. Some used to get choppered in from Orange

County to Los Angeles from the heliport that used to be on the

Newporter's roof.

The Hyatt company took over the hotel in 1989. The company kept

"Newporter" in the name to hold onto the strong local connection.

"Versus the Hyatt Newport Beach, since it's been such a landmark

property in the area," Alegre said. "Hyatt wanted to keep it

recognizable."

And though the hotel doesn't cater to as many celebrities of Nixon

and Wayne's former stature nowadays, the principle of customer

service hasn't changed.

"Everyone is a celebrity or politician here," Alegre said. "Or at

least we treat them that way."

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