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The Legendary Chateau Marmont, Part I

May 08, 2019

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For this week’s blog, and the next, I read three books about the famous Chateau Marmont Hotel, located at 8221 Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. All three books, (that I will list at the end of next week’s blog) were written at different times. This means the information goes from 1929 when the Marmont opened to the present day. Some things may have changed – but not many.

Chateau Marmont: The Castle on the Hill is home to 63 rooms, cottages and bungalows

My focus was this: look for incidents or facts that are historical, crazy, fun, offbeat, or newsworthy. It didn’t take me long to find examples in all five categories. For starters though, let’s take a look at two entities: Los Angeles first, followed by the Marmont.

A QUICK GLIMPSE OF LA

The author Amy Homes (pen name A.M. Homes) writes that, “Los Angeles feels like one of the most American cities in America. It is a city of the future and the past. The American Dream thrives and the city remains a mecca for visionaries, romantics and dreamers. It is one of the most surreal places in America.”

CHATEAU MARMONT: THE BEGINNING

From its very beginning the Marmont was a peculiar sort of folly. It was the brainchild of Fred Horowitz and designed by architect Arnold Weitzman who modeled it after the Château d’Amboise in France’s Loire Valley – believed to be the final resting place of Leonardo de Vinci.

It was Los Angeles’ first earthquake-proof apartment building and was converted to a hotel in the 1930s.

HOW WAS IT WITH APARTMENTS?

From the day the door opened onto the deluxe sprawling apartments, the Chateau was home to actors, directors, writers and musicians. It was “a bit like the Left Bank must have seemed to Americans coming to Paris in the 1920s,” notes screenwriter Gavin Lambert.

HOW DID IT DO AS A HOTEL?

Chateau Marmont seemed far removed from the dizzying Hollywood scene. The fact that the hotel was “practically in the country” was of great concern to many incoming visitors who longed to be closer to the action.

Checking into the hotel is like stepping into a living history. One immediately calms down at the Marmont. “Or, as a longtime friend of the hotel, Eve Babitz, notes, “It doesn’t mind brilliant talent, romance or lunacy. Anything and everything can and does happen here.”

The hotel has an Old World vibe that is loved by New Yorkers and Europeans – the lobby is always cool and, at night it glows with an out-of-time quasi-bordello sensibility aided by the huge Victorian lamps

Photos of the hotel: Courtesy of Chateau Marmont

Film director John Waters says that, “It’s the place to stay for those who hate Los Angeles, meaning: If you’re from Europe or New York. The people who love LA don’t understand why you want to stay at this hotel. They think it’s horrible when they stay there.”

WHAT ABOUT EARTHQUAKES?

In the elevator at the Marmont there is a sign that says, “IN CASE OF AN EARTHQUAKE PLEASE REMAIN CALM.”

The massive 1933 Long Beach earthquake took place on March 10th at 5:54 pm Pacific Standard Time. Its offshore epicenter was less than 50 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. The first shock lasted 11 seconds.

Anthony Haden-Guest discusses his experience with an earthquake at the Marmont. He writes, “I was staying in a bungalow when I was upgraded to a posh fifth-floor suite. I was on the phone when I saw my hefty armchair in the far corner make a stylish imitation of the pirouetting hippo in Fantasia. The floor swayed like a wave and stopped.

The chair that the earthquake put into motion reminded Haden-Guest of the pirouetting hippo in Fantasia

I walked over to the window. Out on Sunset Strip people were strolling past the Body Shop – it was as though the earthquake simply hadn’t happened.

I left via the stairs and joined a gaggle of guests by the pool. “About five point one on the Richter Scale,” a veteran screenwriter said knowingly

FOR MORE ABOUT THE CHATEAU MARMONT SEE NEXT WEEK

Shaun Nelson-Henrick



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