From James Dean to John Belushi to La La Land: the Secrets and Scandals of the Chateau Marmont
La La Land’s singing and dancing stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone may be center stage in the Oscar-nominated film, but movie history buffs (and Angelenos) likely noticed another small but significant cameo right at the end when, ahem, the big thing happens. (No spoilers here.)
The Chateau Marmont, Hollywood’s most infamous hotel, makes an appearance, as the final real-life Los Angeles location featured in the film, which has been called a love letter to the city. But it’s not simply a quaint bit of nostalgia like the Rialto Theatre or Angel’s Flight.
The French-style castle — grand in style but small in scale with only 63 rooms — has been tucked into the edge of the Hollywood Hills since 1929, when the Sunset Strip was unpaved and West Hollywood was a newly established town on the Western fringes of civilized Los Angeles. Over nearly a century, it’s made appearances in several films including Oliver Stone’s biopic The Doors andSofia Coppola’s 2010 drama Somewhere. But the hotel’s most memorable role has been offscreen, as a mysterious, sometimes scandalous, haunt of Hollywood’s elite.
The running tab of compelling goings on starts long before Lindsay Lohan’s well-documented eviction from Suite 33 for running up a $46,350 bill in 2012, further back than Kate Moss and Johnny Depp’s period as rather handsy regulars in 1994 or even John Belushi’s death in Bungalow 3 in 1982.
Of course, the further back in time you go the more mythological the events and the characters involved become. Jean Harlow is rumored to have had an affair with Clark Gable at the hotel in 1933 while on her honeymoon with her third husband. Howard Hughes reportedly ogled sunbathers from his balcony in the 1950s. James Dean won his role in Rebel Without a Cause, in part, by jumping through the roof of Bungalow 2. Led Zeppelin’s drummer road his motorcycle through the lobby, and Jim Morrison either leapt from either a fourth floor window or fell from a drainpipe, depending on who’s recounting the tale.
Perhaps the most telling — and easily most frequently recited — statement made about the hotel came from former Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn, who told his stars, “If you are going to get into trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont.”
The Chateau is still hosting, housing, and occasionally hiding A-listers. In fact, it will likely make an appearance in the Oscar-night plans of Academy Awards attendees on February 26. In the days leading up to the show, it will put on a dinner hosted by Vanity Fair and Barneys in celebration of La La Land, another VF gathering to toast the magazine’s Hollywood issue, and a Cadillac event in honor of the Awards.
But there’s no need to make it in Hollywood to get a glimpse of the inside. You can stay there for about $415 per night.