There’s really no place like it. No place has both the history whilst being so current. It’s ubiquitous.
French in style, it sits as if perched on some distant European mountain, clinging to the foot of the Hollywood Hills to which it hasn’t let go since construction began in 1927. The crux of its charm is, and always has been, its history – which is absolutely unrivaled.
Chateau’s beginning began before there was a West Hollywood, before LA had even engulfed the entire area. And with that, it has a certain place in the stars above all the other hotels on the Strip – and might only be rivaled in classic elegance (but way more fun) by The Sunset Tower of the same generation. This shining Hollywood star may never have become a hotel if it weren’t for the G
reat Depression; completed in 1929 as apartments, the building sat almost empty with high rents and no one who could afford to lease them. Two years later the property became a hotel and thanks to its short life as an apartment building, many of the 63 rooms are suites with kitchens and living spaces.
After the end of the Depression, LA entered its sun-drenched golden era. And Chateau rode this wave with fervor. Its relationship with stars of the two-legged variety during this time with Harry Cohn (Columba Pictures founder) summing it up perfectly with his oft-quoted bit of advice: “If you must get in trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont.” During this gilded time the hotel was frequented by literati like F. Scott Fitzgerald, movie stars Greta Garbo and Clark Gable, and definers of a generation like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.
Rich with this fame and notoriety, the property expanded in the 1940’s and 50’s to include what, to many, makes Chateau the star among other hotels. What are now known as the cottages, and were once a small property all their own, were acquired by the hotel to provide even more secluded accommodation. This compounded with the construction of four bungalows designed by Craig Ellwood (of Case Study Houses fame) in 1956 form the glorious and lush pool area.
After turning off Sunset onto Marmont Lane, make a quick right before the Chateau sign into the cobblestoned driveway and pull all the way up. Stepping out under the forested canopy provides a respite that lets you know that you’ve reached one of LA’s true oases.
Realizing you’ve reached said oasis – rest your weary bones from the oh-so-hard life before heading upstairs and take a seat in the sitting area directly in front of valet. Take it all in. Maybe you’re waiting for someone anyway? Pull out a cigarette. Reflect. Listen to the rustle of leaves, wind, and general serenity that comes with this view as you look down to all the cars whipping down Sunset. Take a few puffs, flash a couple smiles, and wave to your equally excited friend as they pull up.
Head upstairs via the old-fashioned elevator: dial on top counting the floors, wood-paneled interior, and glamorously slow. You’re only going a floor, but who needs stairs? Make a left, and a left, and stare at the glorious room in front of you. No you’re not at a chalet – you’re at Chateau. But no pictures – you have entered a picture-free zone. Try and break this rule and you will be publicly scolded. Head towards the restaurant host’s stand straight and to the left. The hosts are guardians of entry who will ask you if you are a hotel guest or have a reservation. Hopefully you do. Otherwise, I hope you look good. And aren’t Britney Spears. Don’t take the interior room as an option – alas it is beautiful, but this is an auspicious occasion likened to standing at the Gate of Saint Peter. If you’ve done good, you’ll head outdoors – to the Garden.
You might think that you’ve landed on the Riviera (Italian or French) once you take a seat at your wicker table. There’s hardly a sound other than clinking, banter, and other dining sounds. Even the birds are chirping for Christ’s sake. A faint, barely audible hum of traffic might once in a while prevail to remind you of where you came. The scene is straight out of a dream. Verdant, peaceful, Chateau rising up next to you like a castle. Your fellow diners all seem to fit in place, like a jigsaw puzzle that was missing the final piece – you. Some people are dressed like movie stars, some are movie stars, some are casual (they’re usually ‘somebody’ too), but never someone out of place.
After a preliminary scope of the scene, eye the bamboo bar in the corner – they’re ready to make your drink. Make it a Bloody Mary. If you’re sober, make it a Virgin Mary. Their mix has the right amount of horseradish – nothing worse than a Bloody Mary with no horseradish and excess Tabasco. In no time at all your attentive waiter will take that order. Be prepared for him to keep his distance during your time here; but, with only one searching glance by you, he will come running to handle your every wish and desire. Peek at the menu. No frills here. Classic goodness. Choose a salad, or the delicious burger. Don’t feel any need to spend a lot on food (it’s actually quite affordable anyway) – but you won’t be able to hold back on spending money on a few of those Bloody Mary’s.
Make your decision and begin your hours-long lunch. When life is like this – there really is no reason to leave (unless you’re supposed to be back at work.) It’s like being sucked into a vortex where everyone seems to be so satisfied and as if this is what they do every single day of their lives. God, don’t you wish it were so?