Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Hollywood's notorious celebrity hideout: great for people watching, but little else
Perched on a hill overlooking Sunset Boulevard, the Chateau Marmont has been a bastion of old Hollywood -- and a way of life for many a celebrity -- since it opened in 1929. With its faded oriental rugs, velvet couches, beveled mirrors, and brass candelabras, the atmosphere is brooding and nostalgic, as discreet as it is decadent. As Harry Cohn, founder of Columbia Pictures, famously told screen legends William Holden and Glenn Ford, "If you're going to get in trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont."
Loosely modeled after a chateau in France's Loire Valley, this temple of romance and hedonism has a history as thick as the stains on its carpets. Former residents include Greta Garbo, Robert DeNiro, and Lindsay Lohan. John Belushi overdosed in a bungalow, F. Scott Fitzgerald had a heart attack here, and members of Led Zeppelin rode motorcycles through the lobby.
While there's no debating that the Chateau is an icon, it's not a hotel for ordinary people. Those who love the Chateau tend to be part of the Hollywood tribe. They're drawn to its history, its distressed décor, and the air of exclusivity that pervades every nook and cranny. But the Chateau can prove to be one of the most overrated hotels in L.A. As Philip Truelove, a former manager at the Chateau (and current manger of Robert DeNiro's Greenwich Hotel in New York City) told Entertainment Weekly in 1992, "This is not a hotel for tourists." And 20 years later, that still holds true -- this is a hotel for celebrities, celebrity voyeurs, and connoisseurs of celebrity life.
Oyster wasn't allowed in to photograph any room other than our own, nor did the hotel allow us to take photographs inside the hotel (other than the few that were snuck with a small camera). So the quality of the 62 other rooms, suites, cottages, or bungalows can't be vouched for. But the standard rooms are small (300 square feet) and shabby (stained carpets, grime around the baseboards), with an outdated bathroom -- and overall a letdown. With the exception of minor renovations, rooms haven't been redone since 1990.
Tourists are paying for the cachet of staying at one of the most storied hotels in the world. You can't put a price tag on celebrity sightings. But you'll find a better standard room almost anywhere else in West Hollywood. One of the best, most spacious rooms in all of L.A. is also less expensive. Oyster's advice? Book a room at the London West Hollywood and head to Bar Marmont to satisfy your urge to sight a celebrity.
A little stuffy, but service requests are answered promptly, and guests get preferential in-house reservations
The service is a smidge warmer than anticipated after reading countless reviews about the stuffy (yet courteous) treatment guests received. That said, the air of exclusivity is impossible to penetrate. It's safe to assume that celebrities and regulars get the most attentive treatment, and usually the best tables. However, hotel guests (even a noncelebrities) are entitled to priority reservations at the restaurant and bar, a privilege otherwise reserved for studio directors and names that appear in the IMDB database.
8221 Sunset Boulevard, a renowned address in the heart of West Hollywood
Located in the heart of West Hollywood on the Sunset Strip, the Chateau Marmont planted its flag at 8221 Sunset Boulevard decades before nearby celebrity haunts like the Mondrian and the Standard Hollywood showed up a half-mile down the road. The Sunset Strip, which has long been known for music clubs like the House of Blues, the Roxy, Viper Room, and Whisky A Go-Go, has become significantly more upscale since its strip club and head shop days in the '70s and '80s (a head shop remains, however, across from the hotel).
The bungalows where celebrities stay are probably really nice, but the small standard rooms (300 square feet) are less so. Though they feature charming midcentury furniture, shabby carpeting and an outdated bathroom are a let down. For a much lower price, book a standard room at the London West Hollywood -- it's immaculate, more than double the size, and comes with a balcony and enormous bathroom with a double-headed shower and gleaming sunken tub.
The real attraction here is the people watching. With the exception of the free Wi-Fi and extensive DVD and CD lending libraries, almost everything else, including the pool and the dark, depressing gym, is a letdown.
Pets treated like celebs, for a fee
Dogs and cats are allowed for a nonrefundable fee. Guest pets get a monogrammed bowl, plastic bags for poop scooping, and a bundle of dog (or cat) treats.
Leave the kids at home, or go to another hotel.
Nothing about this place screams bring the kids, even though free cribs come with soft, luxurious Frette linens. For 80 years the Chateau has been where Hollywood's moguls and starlets come to do their Hollywood mogul and starlet things, which doesn't include entertaining kids, even if those children happen to have been conceived there. Which is always a possibility.
It's so dark in the main areas that you don't really notice any substantive cleanliness issues, but it's a different story in the rooms. The carpet in the standard room was dirty and worn, and there seemed to be years of grime around the baseboards, especially near the minibar. The grounds and areas around the pool are immaculate.
Excellent food -- and fairly reasonably priced, considering
The Chateau has two places to eat: the main restaurant inside, with its infamous outdoor patio where the A-listers flock like it's the last piece of real estate in L.A., and Bar Marmont, which is also on the property, but you have to walk outside and down a small hill to get to the entrance.
With its butterfly-covered ceiling, stuffed peacock in the corner, and plush banquettes, the 1930s Vietnam-inspired bar feels more relaxed than the significantly pricier restaurant, but both share the same executive chef, Carolynn Spence, who was poached in 2007 from The Spotted Pig, a popular (and delicious) New York restaurant. The food is excellent at both places -- and reasonably priced considering the haute locale.
As Hollywood's most notorious celebrity hideaway, the Chateau Marmont is the best spot for A-list sightings, especially in its two fantastic (yet reasonably priced) restaurants. Unfortunately, for tourists, most everything else disappoints. The pool's small, the gym's dark, and the standard rooms are dowdy. Book a room at the London instead, and head here for dinner to get your celebrity fix.