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The restaurant served a number of celebrities who were regular customers and has been written about in books and articles. Lucius Beebe, gourmand, author and journalist, included references to The Pump Room in some of his books and articles. Arturo Petterino (1920–2010) was its maitre d' for many years, steering celebrity patrons to the coveted Booth One. Famous guests included Frank Sinatra, John Barrymore, Judy Garland, Bette Davis, Beverly Sills, David Bowie, Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, John Steinbeck, Ronald Reagan, Paul Harvey, Helen Hayes, Clark Gable, Sammy Davis Jr., Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Elizabeth Taylor, Lena Horne, Joan Crawford, Tallulah Bankhead, Audrey Hepburn, Liza Minnelli, Robert Redford, Bill Murray, Josephine Baker, Phil Collins, Gertrude Lawrence, Eddie Fisher, Michael J. Fox, John Belushi, Eddie Murphy, Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner, Mel Brooks, Olivia Newton-John, Peggy Lee, Mick Jagger and many others.
In April 2010, the Ambassador East Hotel was sold to Ian Schrager Co. It closed in 2011 and was completely remodeled as the Public Chicago Hotel. The Pump Room reopened in fall 2011, with food concepts by Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The hotel as well as The Pump Room is located on the northeast corner of State Parkway and Goethe St in Chicago's Gold Coast.
The Pump Room is referenced in the Fred Fisher song Chicago (That Toddlin' Town): "We'll meet at the Pump Room-Ambassador East/To say the least, on shish kebab and breast of squab we will feast/And get fleeced." These lyrics also appeared in the film which introduced it, the 1939 Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle. The song My Kind of Town (Chicago is), popularized by Frank Sinatra, has the line "Chicago is the jumpin' Pump Room".
In the spoken word introduction to the Monkees song "Don't Call on Me" (from their album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.), Micky Dolenz makes reference to "the elegant Pump Room...high over Chicago" against a background of drunken patter, clinking glasses and lounge piano. Dolenz, however, mistakenly places it in the Palmer House.