Chairman of the Bar
“This is where Jennifer Aniston likes to sit,“ offers Dimitri Dimitrov as he glides about the warm, wood-deco banquettes and rapturous city views of Los Angeles’ Tower Bar with a combination of anxiety and artistry.
“Mitch Glazer gets the end table,“ he says. “Tom Ford, meanwhile, likes to sit on a high-back chair facing the city.“ As showtime approaches, he constantly checks his Baume & Mercier timepiece, hands methodically shifting as if he were a mime putting together a jigsaw puzzle, which, in a way, he is. As L.A.’s top maï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½tre d’hï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½tel, Dimitrov proves a great puzzle-master, assuring the A-list get seated exactly where they want at the Tower Bar, ensconced in the classy jewel of the Sunset Strip hotels, the Sunset Tower. This job isn’t easy, as Dimitrov’s clientele represent the biggest puzzle pieces out there. Tower Bar regulars include Hollywood royalty like Joaquin Phoenix, Penï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½lope Cruz, Sean Penn, Mitch Glazer, Kelly Lynch, and Oliver Stone. Some nights one might see Nicole Kidman dining at one table, and CAA honcho Bryan Lourd at another.
“Bill Murray is my longtime friend,“ Dimitrov purrs in a voice tinged with the accent of his Yugoslavia homeland. “And Graydon Carter has been my fan for many years.“ As a result, Dimitrov’s current perch has evolved organically into a hothouse of Hollywood action.
According to Jeff Klein, the Sunset Tower and Tower Bar owner, finding the unique personality who can make the A-list feel at home is crucial. “Dimitri’s a true character’a real sort of creature,“ Klein says. “He gets it on so many levels. And from the second we met, we were partners in crime.“
Indeed, “the Dimitri,“ as he is known, is a Los Angeles nightclub legend; now in his mid-50s, he has spent nearly 30 years working in L.A.’s legendary exclusive haunts. He arrived here in the early ’80s, making his way through favorites of Tinseltown elite like the Excelsior and the L’Ermitage hotel. His star was cemented, however, after he took over maï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½tre d’ duties at the Diaghilev restaurant at the Bel Age Hotel in 1984. In his two-decade reign there, Dimitri successfully courted L.A.’s celebrity nightlifers with his expertise at problem solving. He became known for his magical abilities to keep the party going: If the bar was closing and Lionel Richie, Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro, and Johnny Depp wanted to keep drinking, Dimitrov would put some top-shelf vodka on ice and move them upstairs to a luxury suite.
And to prevent a pre-Katie-as-baby-momma Tom Cruise and his South American model-date from running into his recent breakup Penï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½lope Cruz at Diaghilev, Dimitrov went into high gear: He sent tuxedoed waiters bearing silver-domed plates of the superstar’s favorite filet mignon and French fries and a bottle of Dom Perignon to the Viper Room, where Cruise was watching pal Jada Pinkett-Smith perform.
It’s all part of Dimitrov’s service philosophy. He is a proud graduate of the old school. His education began when he emigrated from Macedonia to Great Britain as a teenager in the early ’70s. There, he worked in high-end London restaurants like Covent Gardens’ Inigo Jones, where he learned French-style “deep service“ and marveled at the protocol of serving British royalty.
“There’s nothing old-fashioned about good service,“ says Dimitrov, who spends most of his rare spare time catching up on his customers’ latest Golden Globe nominations (“If Joaquin Phoenix has done a movie, I must see it because if he comes in I have to impress him“).
He details: “I strongly believe in kindness and manners, and politeness solves many problems before they even happen. No request is too large, but it’s not so much about challenges; it’s more about making each night its own little party. You must go beyond ordinary’even McDonald’s delivers now. For me, to be good is not enough. I’m not too smart: It’s more emotional, coming from my heart, from within. I have to really excel to give people a memorable evening. Whatever happens that night, you can’t go back in time. That’s how they judge us.“
Dimitrov’s thoughts are interrupted by socialite Cornelia Guest, who is distraught to discover she has left her credit cards at home. “No problem,“ he assures her, before returning to our conversation. “It’s not that I’m great,“ he adds, “but a night without me is not the same.“