Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Dorothy & Gram: Room 47

My recent post about Gram Parsons mentioned that he had stayed in Room 47 at the Chateau Marmont hotel in Hollywood. The photo below that I found online was supposedly shot there, but now that I’ve stayed in 47, I can say that the window placement doesn’t really match up to anything.

Willis didn’t sense Gram in the room, either. Maybe it wasn’t even 47 where Gram and his wife lived.

The other thing I had read about Room 47 was that writer and critic Dorothy Parker had stayed there and injured herself in the bathtub, circa 1948. Here’s where it happened:

Here’s a shot of Dorothy (unknown location) from 1939:

It seems that Dorothy first stayed across the street at The Garden of Allah hotel, which is currently a mound of dirt, awaiting construction of another Frank Gehry monstrosity. In a chapter titled “The Grim Weeper” from her book The Garden of Allah, Sheila Graham wrote:

Dorothy Parker used to announce that she was half Jewish, so if anyone said anything against the Jews, only half of her would walk out. She was the most unpredictable woman I ever met in the Garden of Allah or anywhere else. I had met her in New York before I came to Hollywood.…She was staying at The Lowell Hotel, and when she could not pay her bill there, she ordered an ambulance and was carried out on a stretcher. Who would dun a dying woman?

Years later, Graham would see Dorothy at The Garden of Allah (photo above), hanging out (drinking) with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Robert Benchley.

Dorothy frequently put her head in the oven, making sure that she had called someone first. I doubt whether she even turned on the gas. She often slashed her wrists. She wore bracelets to hide the scars. Benchley once said to her, “Oh Dottie, if you keep on committing suicide you’re going to injure your health permanently!”

“Being friends with Dottie,” said George Oppenheimer [screenwriter], “was like living on a volcano. She eviscerated you when your back was turned. Nonetheless, I remained close friends with her through all the ups and downs.”

Artie Shaw met Miss Parker when he lived at the Garden and thought she was a sad, strange lady. “These people who are supposed to be enormous wits, they have constantly to live up to their reputations. I found many of Dottie’s remarks quite lame, but of course one only remembers the good ones. I think she outlived her period.”

When her husband Alan Campbell died, a friend approached Dorothy and asked, “Is there anything I can do for you?” “Yes, you can get me another husband.” Shocked, the friend exclaimed, “You can’t mean that!” Dorothy replied, “Then get me a ham sandwich and hold the mustard.”

Here’s her Chateau Marmont registration card, which I found on the Dorothy Parker website:

And now we come to the bathtub incident, as relayed in the book Life at the Marmont:

When Dorothy checked into the Marmont in 1948, she brought with her a little dog, but not her husband, Alan Campbell. They had recently separated, and Parker was attempting to carry on without him, bolstered by. heavy sessions with a bottle in her suite, 47. She was often so desperate for companionship that she would pick up the telephone and chat with the switchboard operator. It wasn’t long before Parker began inviting her newfound friend to join her for drinks after work. “I would stay about a half hour, long enough for several cocktails,” the operator recalled, “then scramble for the bus.” When the operator told her sister about her visits with the famous Dorothy Parker, the duo stretched into a threesome. The women would meet for lunch—and drinks, always”then adjourn to 47, where they experimented with various hair-styles to try to brighten Parker’s ever-gloomy mood.

One Sunday afternoon, following a get-together, the operator’s sister phone Parker in her suite to thank her for “a lovely time.” Luckily, the third member of the trio had returned to her post at the switchboard. “It was a long conversation,” she remembered, “or so it seemed. The board was very busy, and an hour had passed before I realized that the connection was still up. I don’t know what possessed me, but I opened the key to make sure they were still talking. The only voice I heard was Miss Parker’s, and she sounded so far away,…crying for help. I called Gene Gordon, the garage man, and told him to hurry up to the fourth floor and see what was wrong.” Gordon found Dorothy Parker lying semi-conscious in her bathtub; she had slipped and fallen, hitting her head. An ambulance was quickly summoned, and Parker was rushed to the hospital, where she was examined and released, wrapped in bandages that all but covered her perky new hairdo. The next day, the operator spotted Parker wandering through the lobby with her bandaged head. “I left the switchboard and tried to console her, but she brushed me aside and kept on going.” The operator was at a loss to explain Parker’s sudden coolness, but then, there were other unanswered questions. In Parker’s despondency, had her slip in the tub really been accidental? If so, why was she so angry with the person who had responded to her pleas? If not, why had she cried out? And why had she left her phone off the hook? There were insiders at the hotel who wondered if the mishap had been staged simply to gain attention and sympathy.

Any ghosts when I stayed in the room? No. The only time I feel an otherworldly presence is when I am in the hallways at night.

See more Chateau Marmont photos at my main website.


Nanook said...

The stories and images about both the Chateau Marmont and the Garden of Allah never cease to amaze. Thank you so much for sharing them.

I always feel slightly 'conflicted' when hearing about the demise of the Garden of Allah, as the construction firm my dad worked for was responsible for tearing it down and then constructing in 1960, the new, "Modernist Hollywood 'landmark' " - the Lytton Savings building. (I'm uncertain what that says about the Garden of Allah, but...) Prior to its "reconfiguration", my dad and I walked the Garden of Allah property, of which I still have vague remembrances. I also saw a screening of the original The Day the Earth Stood Still in their theatre, shortly after it opened.

How amusing that "architect" Frank Gehry should describe the [now] Chase Bank building as having "lost its raison d'etre". Hmmmm, this remark coming from a man who appears to spend most of his time looking up his ass for the 'inspiration' needed to envision the design for his Monstrositrons-! With a paltry few exceptions, his 'designs' have 'no reason to exist' in the first place; let alone outlive them-! (Maybe this new project will join the 'paltry few' worthy of adulation, but breath-holders may wish to play it safe...)

Fifthrider said...

Monstrositrons. What a great word. I'm adding that to my vocabulary. Thank you.

This would be a good post for Halloween. Sometimes the building is haunted, other times it's the person. Dorothy sounded like one seriously haunted, and possibly bi-polar, woman. Tragic, but morbidly entertaining as well.

Happy Thanksgiving to Dave, Willis and everyone else who reads this.