Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles has to be the quintessential ‘Rock n Roll’ hotel. Completed in 1921, this hotel has been linked with Hollywood and scandal since its very opening.
Back in the Golden era of Hollywood, it was the place stars could retreat to and misbehave, comfortable in the knowledge that what happened at Chateau Marmont, stayed in Chateau Marmont. Since then it has been associated with big names from John Belushi to Michael Hutchence, and Led Zeppelin to Jim Morrison.
It has been mistaken as the inspiration for ‘Hotel California‘ on many occasion, but that was somewhere else.
Arriving At Chateau Marmont…
On our recent trip to LA, we just had to stay at the Chateau. On October 18, 2016, we checked in for two nights at this legendary hotel.
Set discreetly back from Sunset Boulevard, you enter the hotel through a nondescript door, past a garage full of covered up cars and up a dark flight of stairs. A small sign indicates you are going the right way before you stumble into a dark lobby opening into a small lounge and out towards the restaurant. You immediately feel this is not your typical modern LA hotel.
The staff greetings are polite but cool; I suspect from treating famous stars with the lack of fuss they have come to stay for.
The estate was built to resemble a small French Castle and is believed to be loosely modeled on Chateau d’Amboise. Backing into the side of the mountains that stretch up behind Hollywood, it gives off this dark and solid feel not found in other Californian hotels. Rooms are either in the main hotel itself or in the famous villas that are dotted off to the side of the dwelling.
With no grand lobby or wide open gates, there is little space for groupies to mingle around outside. The covered garage means a car can drive in and the perhaps-famous guest is whipped straight upstairs, bypassing the lobby. Upon arrival, they had to reset the elevator which had just gone straight from the garage to the top floor. We didn’t ask who was staying because we knew no answer would be given. The staff were all very courteous, offering little fuss and they are all extremely discreet. The rule of no cameras in the lobby, Bar Marmont and restaurant is one strictly enforced. No selfies or surreptitious photos to be had in here!
Let’s Step Inside Chateau Marmont
We needed two rooms so took a Junior Suite that included two bedrooms, an ample living room, small bathroom, and a kitchen. The bedrooms were of a reasonable size, but comparatively small to modern LA standards. Each room had a large dresser, little wardrobe, and generously-sized comfortable bed. There wasn’t much additional space in the rooms but we didn’t plan to spend much time here so this wasn’t a problem.
The bathroom looked like it had the original fittings or at least it hadn’t been changed since the 1960’s. An uninviting bath, teeny-tiny sink, and vanity mirror were sufficient to spruce up for a night on the town.
A tight kitchen with a huge fridge and cooker, with space for a dining table meant you could happily hide away here for days without coming out.
The best part of the suite was the living room. This vast room included a large desk for writing, with personalized stationery for your stay, a deep sofa, chairs and flat screen TV with a deep carpet feeling soft underfoot.
As standard, the room had a fantastic speaker system allowing you to plug in and blast out some tunes. Like a good cliché, we had to play Hotel California from start to finish!
The solid nature of the original hotel construction meant that your room is beautifully cocooned from the noisy Sunset Boulevard rushing past below and certainly no noise emanating from other guests in the hallway.
A quaint balcony off the dining area let you get a look out past major billboards towards LA. We could look down to the pool and villas which were covered by a plethora of foliage ensuring continued privacy at all times.
Unlike the contemporary LA hotels, like the London West Hollywood, this is a small, dark and potentially unfriendly hotel. But as you relax into their way of doing things, you can understand why it remained so popular for decades. Stay here and you will be looked after, just don’t expect any fuss or special treatment. After my initial disappointment that it wasn’t the ‘cool’ place I had hoped it would be, I have come to realize it is a great hotel for that very reason. This is an understated hotel for a reason.
Did we see anyone famous whilst we were there? That would be telling!
Chateau Marmont’s Scandalous History
The Chateau has a string of associations over the decades. From naughty little romps to drug-fuelled news headlines, Chateau Marmont has seen it all.
Allegedly, Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures, told his young, red-blooded stars, William Holden and Glenn Ford, “If you must get into trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont.”
In 1933 Jean Harlow had an affair with Clark Gable at the hotel. More recently, Scarlett Johansson and Benicio Del Toro allegedly had an ‘in elevator’ rendezvous before the Oscars. Bearing in mind, how teensy the elevators are, and how few floors the hotel has, this may get filed under a ‘quickie’.
Rock icons Led Zeppelin held court on many a time at the Chateau Marmont but stories of drummer John Bonham riding a motorcycle through the hotel must be mythical or it was the world’s smallest motorbike! In 2004 Helmut Newton crashed his car into a wall as he sped out from the hotel killing him.
Possibly most infamous of all was the death of John Belushi who died from a major drug overdose in one of the Chateau’s villas.
Staying at the Chateau Marmont today you may see pictures of famous people on the walls but you won’t find any celebrations to the antics seen over the years. What goes on the in Chateau, stays in the Chateau.
See also: Movies at the Chateau