Shawn Levy‘s “The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont” won’t be out until early May. But it can’t hurt to remind everyone of the contrast between today’s Chateau and the the way things were during a low-rider period in the ’70s.
The storied hotel has 63 rooms and suites that run from from $575 to $3,000 per night. (It began as an apartment building in 1929, but became a hotel in ’31.) But as recently as the mid-’70s, it was possible to get a single room at the Chateau for $12 per night (about $55 today) and a suite for a little more than twice that.
And those were the published rates. Many of the longtime residents negotiated far better prices. After buying the place in ’75, Ray Sarlot was stunned to learn that he had a fully-booked hotel that was actually losing money.
Anecdote #2: During World War II, the hotel was bought by a German banker named Edwin Brettauer who had helped finance a number of classic films back home, including M and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse. In Hollywood, in addition to real estate deals, he funded several films by Douglas Sirk and Fritz Lang (including Hangmen Also Die!).
During Brettauer’s reign, which lasted until 1963, he built the hotel swimming pool and the modern bungalows on the northeast corner of the hotel grounds and, more impressively, he integrated the place. At his insistance, the Chateau Marmont became the first Hollywood / Beverly Hills showbiz hotel to host black guests.
The first time the hotel was ever mentioned in the N.Y. Times was when Sidney Poitier was forced to stay there while making A Raisin in the Sun because nobody in Beverly Hills would rent a home to a black family, even if the paterfamilias was a movie star.”
Those were the Chateau’s proud days. It was a pretty great place also in the ’90s and aughts. Then, of course, managing director Philip Pavel left to run the NoMad hotel in downtown Los Angeles. And then some people with snooty, dicky attitudes took over, and eventually this policy collided with Hollywood Elsewhere in late July of 2017.
“Chateau Marmont to HE: Not This Time,” posted on 7.27.17:
“This morning I sent the following to Amanda Grandinetti, identified on her Facebook page as the food and beverage director at the Chateau Marmont but, according to a longtime Chateau employee who insists that Grandinetti’s Facebook page is out of date, currently the managing director. Philip Pavel, who ran the Chateau for a long stretch, is now the big cheese at the soon-to-open NoMad hotel in downtown Los Angeles:
“Mellow greetings, yukey dukey. I’m Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere columnist (www.hollywood-elsewhere.com) and longtime industry reporter going back to the early ’80s. I’m writing to convey a mild form of displeasure about a no-big-deal incident that happened last night at the Chateau Marmont, or more precisely at the outside entrance.
“I don’t want to sound like an entitled asshole, but I’ve been attending industry parties at the Chateau for eons (mainly during Oscar season), and every so often I’ll pop by to meet someone for a drink at the restaurant bar, or maybe order breakfast or dinner or whatever. (Svetlana Cvetko and I met Guillermo del Toro there for dinner a year or so ago.) Or I might be with a visitor and just want to show them the Chateau’s to-die-for interior.
“This was last night’s agenda — showing the interior to my wife Tatyana, who’s only been in Los Angeles for seven months and has never had the pleasure. But I was told by a polite young lady at the valet desk that we couldn’t enter without a room or dinner reservation. I said we were just looking to order a drink at the bar, no biggie. “The bar is filled,” she said. Obviously she couldn’t have known that. We went back and forth but her mind was made up.
“What she meant, I presume, is that she sensed we were riff-raff, and so she was following an instinct to protect the hotel guests from people who might gawk or snap iPhone photos and otherwise generate un-coolness.
“I totally get the ‘keep out the riff-raff’ thing. If I was guarding the gate I would actually take pleasure in politely rebuffing any would-be visitors who looked like they’d just gotten off the tourist bus. Overweight types, noisy kids in tow, wide-eyed expressions, low-thread-count T-shirts, dorky sandals and a general approach to attire that’s more suited to a mall in Henderson, Nevada.
“Your predecessor Phillip Pavel, who served as the Chateau’s managing director for a long stretch, said it succinctly a few years ago: ‘The Chateau Marmont has built its success on creating an environment where the privacy of our guests is paramount. Please know that the decision to not allow certain guests in our hotel is based solely on this concept.’
“The problem is this: I’m not riff-raff, and I don’t look like riff-raff. I have the snooty cool thing down pat, and I was nicely groomed last night. I was wearing a dark blue Kooples shirt and white pants and shiny black loafers. The beautiful Tatyana was nicely dressed also. Nothing about us radiated “uh-oh…don’t let these chumps past the gate!” Granted, we didn’t arrive in a big black SUV and had just approached on foot, but still…what’s the deal here?
“Call me presumptuous or entitled, but I have a long (if sporadic) history with the Chateau Marmont, and I feel…well, a certain comfort and investment in the place. It’s not ‘home’ but I’ve been casually visiting since the Reagan era with no one saying boo or looking at me sideways, and so I felt…well, my feelings were kind of hurt when the door lady said ‘sorry.’
“So is this the new post-Pavel Chateau policy — room or restaurant reservations or you can’t come in? I’ve been visiting top-tier hotels in all the great cities of the world for decades without anyone raising an eyebrow or aggressively addressing me as ‘sir’.
You and I know that if Tatyana and I had been with Matt Damon or Jim Gianopulos or some WME agent that we just would have strolled on in.
“Was it the white pants?
“Next time I want to show the hotel to a friend I’ll need to make a dinner reservation in order to gain entrance, and then after we’ve had a drink or two I’ll politely inform management that we’ve changed our minds and have to leave…right? Is that how I need to play it?
“I’ll be posting this letter in my column today. If you have any kind of explanation or response I’ll be happy to pop it in. Thanks & best wishes.
“Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere”