‘If you must get into trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont’
– Harry Cohn, Columbia Pictures –
Los Angeles is one of our favourite cities. But as the second most populous city in the United States, after New York, we can never quite think of it in such singular terms; it’s more like a sprawling mass of cities, all uniquely different, connected by miles of concrete freeway with no real centre. From the air, L.A. always looks like a giant grey circuit board, dotted with tiny rectangles of blue. But amongst the circuitry, you may just glimpse the fairytale-like turret of Chateau Marmont, a Hollywood castle, a design loosely based on Château d’Amboise in France’s Loire Valley.
The Chateau Marmont hotel, stuff of legend, is definitely the heart of our personal L.A. Built in 1927 on Sunset Boulevard, it was originally opened in February 1929 as apartments. In the midst of the Depression, renters were difficult to find and so in 1931, the building officially became a hotel. The apartments thus became suites with kitchens and living rooms – one of the reasons why we love to stay at the Chateau Marmont; it feels like you’re actually residing in a very cool apartment as opposed to staying in a hotel.
Do not however expect anything to be slick and modern – Andre Balazs, the owner since 1990, has taken great care to preserve all the features which make the Chateau Marmont so special.
Any improvements tend to involve careful restoration or replacement of what is already there and much of the charmingly mis-matched furniture is original, some even antique in the 1920’s when purchased from local estate sales at the time of construction.
Rooms are delightful varied and many are virtually unique. You can stay in standard rooms which are entitled simply ‘Bedrooms’, but as with our current visit, we always try to book one of the suites – which have sitting areas and kitchens. Alternatively, and better better still the bungalows tucked along paths through amongst the verdant greenery of the garden provide even more privacy and seclusion.
There are very few luxuries, but we adored the originality of our suite – still with a 1930s bed and lamp and a wonderful 1930s kitchen with red glass door knobs. Our bathroom also featured authentic fixtures and fittings, all in beautiful working order.
Nine Spanish cottages were built next to the Chateau in the 1930s and then acquired by the hotel in the 1940s. Two of the four bungalows were designed by Craig Ellwood in 1956, after he completed the famous Case Study Houses, making them miniature versions of the aforementioned. It was in one such garden bungalow that actor John Belushi tragically died of a drug overdose in 1982.
Following this incident, the hotel gained an unfair reputation for being a rock’n roll hotel; a paradise for hedonists hell-bent on destruction. Led Zeppelin allegedly rode their motorbikes through the lobby in the 1970s, but Marmont has always been a magnet for generations of artists, photographers, novelists, actors and screenwriters.
F. Scott Fitzgerald regularly came here to write as did Hunter S. Thompson and more recently, Sofia Coppola set her gorgeous film, Somewhere, here. Judy Garland used to sing at the piano and James Dean checked-in to audition for Rebel Without A Cause. Everyone from Greta Garbo to Keanu Reeves has lived at the hotel.
Several musicians and writers whom we have spoken to have insisted that there is something magical, yet tangible, about living and creating within the solid walls of this earthquake-proof, grand old dame. Books not only get written but published, screenplays are greenlit and albums go platinum. Chateau Marmont lore has indicated powerful ley lines running below the building, and housekeeping’s burning of Nag Champa scent, enhancing the meditative state.
There’s definitely something going on as we always manage to get heaps of work done whenever we stay, but our theory is this: as a guest you’re free to be whoever you want to be. It’s as simple as that. There are no long lenses in the bushes; paparazzi are shunned. There are no red ropes, segregation or ridiculous VIP areas.
When a few years ago Lindsay Lohan was barred from the hotel her unpaid bill, was leaked to the press.The management team were mortified. Unlike many hotels who would have rejoiced in such publicity, it’s against everything Chateau Marmont stands for, as it continues to nobly uphold Harry Cohn’s sage advice.
For further information please visit: http://www.chateaumarmont.com/
The Caste on Sunset: Love, Fame, Death and Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont purchase here
All images by CELLOPHANELAND* and Chateau Marmont
CELLOPHANELAND* were guests of Chateau Marmont