Chateau Marmont: The Story of an L.A. Icon
Peering over verdant foliage along the legendary Sunset Strip, the Chateau Marmont is a cunning temptress - a hotel renowned for its overindulgence, simple elegance, and a lauded discretion that makes it seem all the more normal. The hideaway’s allusive history is its allure and the swirling rumors of its motley guests gives the Chateau Marmont its “legendary” moniker.
As A.M. Homes notes in her 2002 book Los Angeles, former head of Columbia Pictures, Harry Cohn famously advised two of his young stars, William Holden and Glenn Ford: “If you must get into trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont.”
And so it went: Jean Harlow allegedly had an affair with Clark Gable at the Chateau; Led Zeppelin tore through the lobby on motorcycles; Jim Morrison used his “eighth life” by either falling or jumping from his third-floor balcony; famous duos coupled in elevators; and tipsy wobblers went unnoticed and without judgment. With a hush-hush policy in place at the hotel, these stories are simply folklore that will neither be confirmed nor denied by the hotel itself, only whispered and giggled about for generations.
Named after the small street running directly in front of the hotel, the Chateau Marmont was designed by architect William Douglas Lee and opened in 1929. Inspired by Château d'Amboise, a royal retreat in France’s Loire Valley, Chateau Marmont evokes the serenity of a lush countryside getaway amidst the bustling Sunset Strip below.
The seven-story castle, originally constructed as an apartment complex, slowly phased into a hotel as America trudged through the Great Depression. With the transition, the owners kept the rooms’ kitchens and living spaces intact, giving the housing-turned-hotel the comfort and soul of a home. In the 1930s, nine Spanish cottages and a swimming pool emerged at the building that the Chateau acquired a decade later, when the location served as an air-raid shelter for surrounding residents. In 1976, Chateau Marmont received the distinction of becoming a Los Angeles Historical-Cultural Landmark.
Hotelier André Balazs purchased the property in the 1990s and guided it through a delicate restoration with the intention to maintain its heritage and classic grandeur. An ushering in of contemporary updates refreshed the scene: rickety old appliances were swapped for vintage-looking appliances; pristine antiques redressed the rooms and communal area; fresh paint brightened the walls; and new carpeting concealed evidence of Led Zeppelin’s raucous ride. Balazs also introduced the courtyard restaurant beneath ambient and twinkling stars (whether in the sky or sitting right next to you) for added appeal. The thoughtful balance of past and present leaves Chateau Marmont with a blushing innocence of today and a mystique of yesteryear.
Chateau Marmont currently boasts 63 rooms, nine quaint Spanish cottages, and four bungalows that frame the pool. Often times it’s used as short-term residence for celebrities. Among a constant wave of star-studded revelry and industry events, the tide often settles and becomes a muse for art: movies such as La La Land and Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere were filmed at Chateau Marmont; Lana del Rey alludes to the hotel in Off to the Races; the Grateful Dead mentions it in “West L.A. Fadeaway” and musicians like Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers drift away at the hotel to pen lyrics.
A typical stay has guests poised to receive the utmost hospitality, from a fitness trainer on call, cashmere throws, personalized stationery, luggage unpacking/packing, to any request of the heart’s desire, strange or otherwise. The late, great Anthony Bourdain was a regular guest - in a 2016 interview with Travel + Leisure magazine, he said, “I love that hotel above all others.”
Intimate meals are conducted indoors or al fresco on the garden terrace, coupled with conversation and quick gazes at the who’s who soiree. Fare is rooted in simplicity, utilizing the local bounty as inspiration, and the entire menu can be beckoned for room service.
Overindulging happens not in the cuisine but with an abundance of drinks or accidental stares - which you must not do. (The only thing said to be prohibited at Chateau Marmont is staring.) The neighboring Bar Marmont is currently closed and undergoing its own restorative uplift to the décor and culinary offerings. However, upon its reopening sometime in 2018, a stumble there for a night cap should not to be missed.
On any given day or time, a swirl of musicians, artists, and Hollywood types are suited in their sartorial best, mingling in the veranda or lobby and giving Chateau Marmont an unmatched electricity of life. Some cozy up on one of the plush couches thumbing through literature, while others sip tipples or tea as they lean in for quiet business or personal affairs.
It’s that majestic Hollywood buzz fantasized about, unfolding right before your eyes. Once a stomping ground for literary types like F. Scott Fitzgerald is now a haven of history that the walls stoically bear and we eagerly yearn to hear. But alas, walls cannot talk…
8221 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles 90046