Saturday, August 01, 2020

The Chateau Marmont: I'm So Glad We Had This Time Together

Friends texted me last week that my favorite Hollywood haunt (and one of my favorite places on earth), The Chateau Marmont, is about to become a private members-only club. I had mixed emotions, beginning with surprise, followed by sadness at the “loss,” a flood of memories, and then finally gratitude that I had been able to experience (quite extensively) this legendary hotel.

At approximately sixty rooms, the size was not overwhelming. The staff remembered me every time and felt more like friends than anything else. It was nice to see the same faces each visit.

Benedict and Tony (above) always took care of me, typically upgrading my room, like that time Bungalow 1 was empty and they moved me there for one night just so I could experience it. I was on the phone with local friends immediately who stopped by for an impromptu party.

Many years later, I would turn 50 in the same Bungalow:

Almost had to call the fire department. That's a lot of flame.

Romulo, the waiter (below right), was a memorable part of the Chateau. Frequently during his late-night shift he would serenade the guests by singing and playing guitar. They may have preferred to get served their meals, but it was this kind of quirky charm that made the Chateau so endearing (and addictive) to me.

The guests were a mix from all walks of life: artists, actors, rockers, the international set, those wanting to get their groove on in private, old Hollywood, new Hollywood, and just little old me, who felt a kinship to all of them. The serendipity of meeting random people during my stay was awesome, as were the experiences that developed from those chance meetings. Some of those happened during my early morning swims.

That was one of my favorite times when the hotel was quiet and you could see the remnants around the pool of the debauchery from the night before. This shot says it all…or at least gives a general idea:

The Chateau was the setting for so many memorable celebrations and reunions with friends from out of town. Typically I would have them fly into LAX and meet me at the Chateau instead of San Diego. Nobody ever complained, either! Well, in this case, it was more about me not putting the camera down than anything else. Back in the days when I still used a film camera...and a flash! Horrors!

I’ll miss this painting in the lobby staircase. I couldn’t tell you who painted it and I surely wouldn’t want it in my house, but it just seemed to fit this place. How many times did I walk by it and pass a Hollywood legend along the way? Countless.

The hotel had great views from the many balconies that were accessible from the hallways...until the place began getting a lot of notorious media attention (thanks, Lindsay Lohan) and the doors were promptly locked.

Something about this place just really helped me to disconnect and relax. Not sure what it was, but I always felt like I could breathe and recharge during my stay. Also a great place to hang with friends, whatever time of the day it was, as there was always something going on at the Chateau.

While it feels like I’m losing a friend and part of my history, the fact is that the hotel had been slowly changing/evolving since my first visit of many starting back in 2001. Initially, Balazs’ team did a masterful job of cleaning up the rundown hotel while still giving it an authentic historic feel. If “shabby bohemian chic” was a thing, The Chateau Marmont had it mastered. The style was simple yet ecclectic, with a mix of period antiques and newer custom-made furnishings. I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven. I initially noticed the new “more is more” aesthetic in the beloved formal dining room. How it looked when I first began staying there:

…and now:

My favorite “public” gathering space of the hotel is what I call the living room. I loved sitting back on the overstuffed couches and chairs, eating a meal (especially the bacon for breakfast and the bolognese for dinner), chatting with the staff, and watching the parade of diverse guests that populated the hotel. For an introvert who likes to watch and observe, this particular area was nirvana for me.

You never knew who might try to tinkle the ivories of the Chateau’s piano; this was one of my student workers when a group of us had lunch on the patio that day.

A very special occasion, and not just because Willis was there. BTW: The Chateau Marmont is the ONLY hotel Willis has stayed at. I haven’t asked him what he thinks about not being able to eat their bacon or lift his leg in front of John Belushi’s bungalow anymore.

And the rooms? Each one holds a unique history and decorative story, including (sigh) vintage tile.

A photo from that one (and only) time I invited my mom out to the Chateau for Thanksgiving. “Is the bathroom tile dirty or just old?” I bit my tongue a lot that weekend. The Chateau is not for everyone…which is why I liked it!

Willis loved it though, and that's all that matters.

A perfect place for photo shoots, with no end of interesting decor, nooks, and crannies.


And that beautiful courtyard patio.

Once an open green space with a smattering of small tables, perfect for breakfast, lunch, or a candlelight dinner…

it morphed into a different kind of green for the hotel (ROI, people!).

Another favorite place to sit, relax, and stare from back in the more tranquil days of the hotel:

Even the pool succumbed to over-development. Before:

After. Bamboo be gone, as another seating ($$) area is squeezed into what little available space the property can yield.

Balazs added the attic gym to the hotel which stayed just as quirky as the day I first “discovered” it after I’d been staying there for a few years.

Yes, I will miss the special celebrations with dear friends…

the bacon…

the bolognese…

and Sunday night’s fried chicken:

What the Chateau Marmont is becoming is not what I fell in love with, so the sting of not being able to afford its new incarnation is not so painful. That version of the Chateau will continue to live on through the memories created by the people that have stayed within its legendary walls.

See more Chateau Marmont photos at my main website.


Unknown said...

Dave, really great writing. The memories, and memories, and memories will always be there. Marc

Irene said...

I read about the change on Vintage LA and immediately thought of you! I know based on your many posts about it that you really enjoyed this place. You have done a great job in this post recording its history.

Daveland said...

Thank you, both. It really was a very special (and somewhat magical) place.

Anonymous said...

You wonder the possibility of its continued survival if it hadn't become a club. At some point it could have been replaced without going this way. Still...

So just what is the cost of a membership Dave? KS

Daveland said...

I have not seen the cost publicized; and my guess, is that if you have to's not in the budget! I am sure it is way out of my price range. Reading through the history of the hotel, I do not think it had ever been a real revenue generator until Balazs took over; under him I believe it has probably been at its most profitable. Whether this new model will be successful or not is anyone's guess.

Fifthrider said...

Wow, today's is some post. Have you ever considered making Daveland a book? Your stories + pics are worthy.

As for the Chateau Marmont, I've never been there but I live vicariously through your journeys. Very kind of you to take your mom but I also know how that ends up. I suspect Willis was more grateful.

I'm still a little taken back by this news but before I could ask why, your narrative seemed to answer it. If enough high power people considered this their exclusive oasis but were bothered by "commoners" or tourists looking for Lindsay Lohan spots, I could see how those decision would evolve. It seems Iger-esque but also not outside the wheelhouse of the latest owner's decision process.

On the before/after shots I much prefer the original. Some people are impressed by the old tile but I'm impressed at how clean and maintained it is. I spend every weekend turning a wrench around my place ( or replacing an italian tile on the patio ) and it's no easy feat. Maybe your mom's right and it's dirty but your shots always make it look like a million bucks.

The loss of bamboo at the pool is tragic, that looked to be an essential part of it. The workout room attic is... Interesting. OSHA approved? Paradise for people who like concussions?

I am so, so sorry for this loss. I know a former Club 33 member who feels the same way about that, and I know I've heard more than one imagineer ( Rolly Crump comes to mind ) state words to the effect of "the park is dead." Change doesn't always mean getting better, often it can be a nail in the coffin. I don't even know what else to say but that I'm so sorry.

Daveland said...

Thanks Bryan - In light of what's going on in the world these days, it's small potatoes. But still...yes, it will be missed. I'm not sure Balazs really "gets" the charm of the hotel or cares about it. But, like Disneyland, the times are a changing and people need to make a profit. My understanding is that the Chateau was the golden goose of his properties. That golden goose may run out of eggs, though. As for the Daveland's actually in the works along with my many other projects but yes....I have started to write it.

Fifthrider said...


Anonymous said...

Sad story, Dave. Thanks for recording your experiences.

This place becomes another bit of old Lost Los Angeles.