Hollywood is home to the rich and famous, even if it is sometimes only a temporary one. One such home from home for the wealthy in the entertainment industry that defines the region is the Chateau Marmont. This iconic part of Hollywood’s glitzy and sometimes dark history has become a desirable location for stars and industry execs looking for an atmospheric part of LA’s unique nightlife.
Origins of the Chateau Marmont
The building of the Chateau Marmont was commissioned by Fred Horowitz, an attorney in the city. He chose the site of the now iconic Hotel, at Marmont Lane and world famous Sunset Boulevard, an emblem of Hollywood’s glamour. His brother in law, Arnold Weitzman, himself an architect, was commissioned to design the building, based on some photos Horowitz had taken during his stay in Europe. This would heavily influence the William Douglas Lee design for the construction of the building we see today, with the turrets and sharp pointed roof, along with its chimneys.
Opening initially as luxury apartments in February 1929, the hotel was sold to Albert E Smith two years later in 1931. The property cost a total of three quarters of a million dollars, but would fetch a proportionately steeper price if sold today. A pool along with a series of cottages and bungalows were incorporated into the hotel’s offering in the following decades, with several bungalows on site now part of Marmont’s rooms and suites proposition. It’s status as one of the stand out constructions and centres in LA being named one of Hollywood’s historical-cultural landmarks in March 1976.
Events at the Chateau Marmont
The Chateau is not just known for its architecture and prestige. Several notable events of the entertainment industry, from film to music, have occurred within its whitewashed walls. As a home to the rich and famous, it has had several notable long term guests over the years. Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski are two to have taken up residency. Jim Morrison of the Doors was also a long term guest at the hotel in 1970. Several artists are known to have produced work from inside the Chateau. This list includes Hunter S Thompson and F Scott Fitzgerald. John Belusci died from a drug overdose in one of the hotel’s bungalow apartments in 1982. One of the earlier examples of a darkness which has become a pattern at the Marmont, and is nurtured in its iconography just as much as its glamour.
In more recent times, more stories of celebrity indulgence and excess have furthered the establishment’s reputation in this regard. Lindsay Lohan during a troubled spell in 2012, was reported to have left the hotel having racked up a bill of almost $50,000. This was spent on room charges, along with cigarettes and apparently copies of magazines such as ‘Architectural Digest’. Gossip columnists have also claimed that Scarlett Johansonn and Benecio Del Toro had ‘relations’ in a hotel elevator and footage has emerged of the late Heath Ledger taking cocaine in the hotel. The Marmont has grown to boast a reputation with substance abuse that makes sense given the lifestyles and resources of many of its guests. Musician John Frusciante set up residence in one of the hotels bungalows in the mid nineties, developing an almost destructive heroine habit and eating only food substitute for the elderly. It is such stories of the decadence of the cream of Hollywood’s talents that have built the impression held of the Chateau Marmont in the public imagination.
A Unique Type of Reputation Management
It has made good business sense for the hotel not to play down this element of its history both recent and past. The allure of the hotel is informed by this ‘darkness’ and deviance reported over the years. As Los Angeles: People, Places and the Castle on the Hill puts it: “Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont hotel has a reputation as a place to misbehave, and for guests who never want to leave”. In this respect then, the meticulous process of reputation management which many hotels undertake seems almost to work in reverse at the Chateau Marmont.
This cache is a difficult line to walk. Whilst it can sustain the business with stars from the arts and entertainment industry looking to sample what the Marmont is offering, this is quite a uniquely Californian phenomenon, difficult to replicate and not a wise business model. That is unless you already have the necessary component glamour, poetry and cool. In short, there are few locations in the world that can match both Hollywood’s big buck booking fees (the arts and entertainment industry are willing to throw around a lot of money to keep stars happy) combined with an appetite for the sense of theatre and tragedy that is part of the Marmont’s history. Guests to a Dubai hotel for example aren’t likely to pay the top prices to stay in a hotel that’s a notorious home to the deranged and drug addicted. Only in Hollywood.