The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont
by Shawn Levy
This month’s book selection was recommended by listener Peter Blackmore. Thanks Peter.
I directed hundreds of commercials over the years in Los Angeles and while on those many trips, one of my favourite spots was the infamous Chateau Marmont hotel.
One day on the way to the airport, I was notified my flight was cancelled. So I turned the cab around, called the Chateau to make a reservation and arrived 20 minutes later. It would be my first time staying there. When I got to my room, there was already Chateau Marmont stationary on the desk with my name printed on it, saying “Terry O’Reilly – in residence.” Pretty amazing considering they pulled that off within 20 minutes of my call.
This book is a rollicking read. The hotel opened in 1929 and as author Levy says, the Chateau is a vault of secrets. Old Hollywood loved the hotel – welcoming guests like Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, Clarke Gable and Greta Garbo.
Many affairs were secretly carried on behind the doors of the Chateau. Dezi Arnaz had so many trysts there he became a semi-permanent resident. The hotel was also a favoured place to go when stars were going through divorces.
Many famous screenplays were written there – including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Color Purple and Rebel Without a Cause. As a unique touch, the hotel places a screenplay on the coffee table in every room.
Boris Karloff stayed there for seven years and liked the manager so much he sent a single, chilled martini down the elevator for her every night.
Bands like Pink Floyd and Led Zep loved the Chateau because it would tolerate just about any kind of behaviour. You could trash your room – as long as you paid for it. Nobody was ever kicked out.
Maybe the most infamous incident happened in 1982 when John Belushi died there in bungalow #3. The inside story of this night is unforgettable.
One day, I was having lunch outside in the beautiful garden bar at the Chateau. It was a sunny day, the bar was quiet and there was only one other table occupied. When I looked over, it was Yoko Ono.
That’s the kind of place the Chateau Marmont is.
Top 3 Reasons To Read This Book:
1. If you love movie lore, you will experience the various eras of Hollywood as viewed through the decades of the Chateau’s existence. Sooo interesting.
2. There is a very meaningful chapter on how the Chateau was one of the only major hotels in Los Angeles that would rent to people of colour. Sidney Poitier and his family rented there for a long time because no one would rent a home to him.
3. Most of all, it’s the inside stories of who stayed there, what they were up to and how the staff had to either cater to them endlessly – or – had to turn a blind eye to what was going on. The stories are delicious.