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Only three owners have run the Entrada in its 42 years of existence. The original owner, Leo Hanzelik, retired to Florida from New York in the late '50s and decided to invest the money he made in his wood-flooring business into a different kind of venture. "I was in the South Pacific when I was in the Army. I like warm weather in January," offers the 80-year-old Hanzelik, who now lives in Boca Raton. He was 38 years old when he first opened the motel's 50 rooms. When the bank told him it would lend him more money if he built 60, he added 10 more. He planted palm trees that still stand and drove his staff home after the day's work was done.
"My help was mostly black, and back then they couldn't be in town after dark," remembers Hanzelik. "I'd pick them up on weekends too. There were no buses driving on Saturday or Sunday. We paid them $5 a day." It's the same amount he used to charge for a single room. In season. A double cost $7, and an efficiency pulled in a whopping $12. Hanzelik recalls his clientele as being well-to-do. "They came in Rolls-Royces, pulled in there with big cars from Minnesota, the Midwest, New York. People with money. All nice people," he says.
According to Hollywood City Hall's archives, the Entrada drew international clientele as early as 1968. One black-and-white photo shows delegates from Hollywood's thensister city, San Salvador, El Salvador, sporting bouffant hairdos and I Love Lucystyle dresses, looking over Entrada postcards in the lobby.
The archives also house the motel's original plans. The place hasn't changed much; it's still wedged between Fillmore Street and Federal Highway, just north of Young Circle. The same two-story rectangle of rooms still surrounds the kidney-shape pool. Once the glass-walled front of the motel offered a view through the lobby straight to the pool. The glass has since been painted over, perhaps as a shelter from the brouhaha of Federal Highway.
Hanzelik came up with the moniker from his time living in Spain. "I used to go to a lot of bullfights," he remembers. "Of course, to get in is called the entrada [entrance]." To further honor his memories, he even had two statues made for the front of the motel: a bullfighter brandishing his red cape and a snorting bull. The display didn't last long. "A car hit it!" he says with a laugh. The bullfight might be gone, but the motel's façade now offers passersby a modest trompe l'oeil, a simple painting depicting an x-ray view inside the motel, where painted guests loll about the pool and its surrounding patio. The Entrada's retro countenance has lured more than tourists: A few months ago, a California production company scouted the locale for an upcoming flick about Muhammad Ali.
Hanzelik sold the place to a couple of investors in the late '70s. They held its mortgage for only two years before selling the Entrada to Michel Tremblay, a French-Canadian motel operator, in 1980. Hanzelik has occasionally kept in touch with the family over the years but prefers not to meddle. "It's their place now," he says. "I had good memories being there. I made a nice living." Almost as an afterthought, he asks if current owner Steve Tremblay, Michel Tremblay's son, is looking for front-desk clerks. "Maybe I could do it part-time. I know the business, that's for sure."
Steve Tremblay can be seen running around the Entrada's grounds on any day of the week. A huge ring of keys clinks against his leg as he hurries off to his many tasks. A washing machine pipe sits in the center of a small dinette where Tremblay has just taken a brief respite for breakfast. Within minutes he will begin his rounds once again, here with an aluminum ladder over his shoulder, there with a bucket grasped in one hand, doing the myriad little jobs that come with maintaining 60 motel rooms and more than 54,000 square feet of grounds.
"We save a lot of money because we're handy," he says. "My dad taught me. We just got the pool redone. I did the fiberglass work myself. When you contract those things, they cost thousands. You can save so much if you do it yourself."
The lobby is quiet now; check-out time isn't till 11 a.m., and the only sounds are the gurgling of a freshwater aquarium in the corner and the classical music lilting from the desk clerk's radio. Tremblay has eaten both breakfast and lunch here for seventeen years; he says he hasn't taken a day off in six. In fact he even lived here until he and his wife started a family. When his father passed away last year, full management of the Entrada fell into his hands. "Before that, I was taking it a little easier," he recalls. "But now I'm totally in charge, and there's no one else. I have all the responsibilities."
Tremblay is proud of what he's accomplished. While walking around the motel's grounds, he points out the locks on the gates, pokes his head into the modest but well-scrubbed rooms. While the rest of the Entrada is a pretty standard motel, the 40,000-gallon pool catches a visitor off guard; it's a quiet and pristine oasis. Royal and coconut palms stand sentinel within the white expanse of patio, and a thick row of ficus hedges camouflages the gate and surrounding streets.