Few places evoke old Hollywood glamour quite like the Chateau Marmont hotel on Sunset Boulevard. Though it has been operating as a hotel for 85 years, the hotel—which was designated as a cultural landmark in 1976—has lost none of its sheen, and continues to attract actors young and old, who make use of the property as a party venue, press conference setting, low-key hideaway, or site of debauchery. Celebrity-spotting is almost inevitable, but it’s important to keep your cool; staring is considered very unsophisticated at the Chateau.
1. IT BEGAN LIFE AS AN APARTMENT HOUSE.
Given its close association with Tinseltown, it seems appropriate that the Chateau Marmont—which was loosely modeled after France’s Château d'Amboise (one-time home of Mary, Queen of Scots and assumed to be Leonardo da Vinci’s final resting place)—opened in 1929, the same year as the very first Academy Awards ceremony. Originally functioning as an apartment building, the property struggled to retain tenants during the Depression, leading its owner to sell the building, which was converted to a hotel in 1931.
2. LOTS OF CELEBRITIES HAVE GOTTEN UP TO NO GOOD WHILE LIVING HERE.
Too many stars to list have set up temporary home at the Chateau Marmont, most without incident, so let’s just focus on those that got up to no good. “If you must get in trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont,” Columbia Pictures founder Harry Cohen famously advised his young stars, and many generations of actors and musicians have taken him at his word. Jean Harlow was rumored to have conducted an affair with Clark Gable here; 44-year-old film director Nicholas Ray shacked up in one of the bungalows with 16-year-old Natalie Wood, whom he would later cast in Rebel Without a Cause; and James Dean jumped through the roof of Bungalow Number Two while auditioning for the same movie. Jim Morrison said he used up the “eighth of nine lives” trying to swing from the roof; Howard Hughes spied on women lounging by the pool through binoculars from his penthouse suite (room number 64); and Billy Idol trashed his room because his French fries came with truffle oil poured over them rather than on the side, as he had so reasonably requested.
3. LINDSAY LOHAN AND BRITNEY SPEARS WERE BOTH BANNED FROM THE HOTEL.
Michael Buckner/Getty Images for GQ
If that all makes it sound like it’s impossible to be banned from the hotel, note that Lindsay Lohan was kicked out of Suite 33 for running up a $46,350.04 bill in 2012 and, previously, Britney Spears had been ejected when guests complained about her smearing food across her face (2007 was a dark time for Britney). However, publicly reporting on bad celeb behavior is much more frowned upon by the discreet hotel, as writer Jenn Hoffman found out in 2011 when she tweeted about “hot mess” model Rachel Hunter being so drunk “she was doing splits and trying on random people’s glasses.” Hoffman was banned for a year.
4. A FEW CELEBRITIES HAVE BEHAVED QUITE ADMIRABLY.
Lest you think it’s all hedonism and naughty behavior at the Chateau, some more touching stories have taken place there. After a near-fatal car crash in 1956, Montgomery Clift was nursed back to health at the Chateau by none other than the divine Elizabeth Taylor, who, at the scene of the accident, had saved him from choking on his own tooth by picking it out of his tongue.
5. JOHN BELUSHI DIED IN BUNGALOW THREE.
Those who have lived long-term at the hotel include Greta Garbo and Robert De Niro, but it is perhaps more famous for a notable death. On March 5, 1982, a few weeks before the Oscars, John Belushi—the 33-year-old star of SNL, The Blues Brothers, and Animal House—passed away in Bungalow Three after injecting a speedball of heroin and cocaine. Belushi is said to have been on an all-night binge that night, beginning at The Roxy on the Sunset Strip before returning to the hotel, where he spent some time with Robin Williams and Robert De Niro (they left before the incident).
German-Australian fashion photographer Helmut Newton also lost his life at the Chateau Marmont, where he had retained a residence for a few years and shot many photographs. While leaving the hotel, the 83-year-old’s Cadillac sped out of control and hit a wall.
6. IT HAS INSPIRED MOVIES, MUSIC, AND LITERATURE.
Not just a hangout for those in the entertainment industries, the Chateau has also provided inspiration for writers, filmmakers, and musicians. It appeared in Sofia Coppola’s 2010 film Somewhere, and in the opening scene of the ill-fated Lindsay Lohan and James Deen vehicle The Canyons. Lana Del Ray namechecked the hotel in “Off to the Races” and Scott Weiland named a whole song after it. The Day of the Locust and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were both written here, and Hunter S. Thompson and Dorothy Parker both produced work while staying at the hotel. While it has never been confirmed, it is assumed that the hotel was the inspiration for The Eagles’ “Hotel California.”
7. NO, F. SCOTT FITZGERALD DID NOT HAVE A HEART ATTACK HERE.
Contrary to rumor, F. Scott Fitzgerald did not have a heart attack at the Chateau. Rather, it happened across the street, at Schwab’s Drug Store, in 1940. Nevertheless, the hotel plays up its connection to the writer by naming one of its signature cocktails the “Daisy Buchanan.”
8. ITS AMENITIES ARE IMPRESSIVE.
Star-studded history and discreet service aside, the Chateau offers a stellar roster of Hollywood starlet-ready amenities. It can arrange a private trainer for you, if you wish, and will even provide you with a rolling rack to store all those movie premiere-ready gowns you simply must travel with for a mere $30 a day. Pets are welcome, too, for a $150 non-refundable deposit.
9. ITS HISTORY DOESN’T COME CHEAP.
Starting at $911 a night, you can take your pick from 63 rooms, including 23 suites and four bungalows. But to really go for the A-list Hollywood vibe, opt for Number 64, the two-bedroom penthouse with a 1500-square-foot terrace—which can be yours for a mere $4500 per night.
10. IT’S EARTHQUAKE-PROOF.
Worried about the Big One? Designed as Los Angeles’s first earthquake-proof apartment building, the Chateau Marmont has survived every major earthquake since being built, standing tall throughout the quakes of 1933, 1953, 1971, 1987, and 1994 without any major structural damage.