Still another whisperweight chronicle of S.F., pegged this time on its hardy old hotels--the Palace (1875; rebuilt 1906-), the St. Francis (1904-), the Fairmont (1906-), and the Mark Hopkins (1926-). True, not a little of the city's history was made by visitors who necessarily put up at one or the other hostelry; and some of the rooms-for-a-night were sleepers--Warren Harding died in Suite 8064 at the Palace, Fatty Arbuckle was accused of raping Virginia Rappe at the St. Francis. But small talk predominates, usually harmless--twelve-year-old Nelson Rockefeller, returning to the Fairmont, is quoted praising Golden Gate Park as a playground--occasionally more invidious (the dismissal of WW II Japanese internment, the sensationalization of Robert Oppenheimer's reunion with sometime Communist Jean Tatlock). Accompanying the procession of celebrities through the decades are tidbits about the hotels, their erratic owners, and enterprising operators (regular air service between S.F. and L.A. was a Fairmont PR coup); but Siefkin is no Joseph Wechsberg: the mysteries of hotel management hold no allure for him. Concluding, he's contemptuous of the chains to which his dowagers have fallen prey, and deplores the skyscrapers to which downtown S.F. has succumbed. The persistence of the cable cars and the restoration of Ghirardelli Square console him.