The Legend of Chateau Marmont
“Going down?” a voice in a thick Irish brogue asked as I entered the elevator. It was Colin Farrell.
I wished I was, but alas, I was not. “Actually I’m going upstairs. Party in the penthouse,” I replied.
“Maybe I’ll pop by there later.”
One could only hope.
Legendary studio honcho Harry Cohn famously remarked, “If you must get into trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont”.
Shrouded by well-placed foliage and hidden from the throngs of bar hoppers and wannabe starlets, the French-castle styled Chateau Marmont sits quietly above Sunset Boulevard. L.A.’s most infamous and racy hotel is not about trends or press. It is not the loudest one in the class screaming to get noticed. Paparazzi are notoriously shunned here as much as they are welcomed outside the Ivy. Instead, the Chateau is more like that quiet sultry kid with swagger. The one you know is a bad ass, swigging whiskey and smoking cigarettes underneath the bleachers, but never uttering a word about it.
This is where James Dean jumped through a window to audition with Natalie Wood for Rebel Without a Cause, Elizabeth Taylor nursed Montgomery Clift post car crash, Led Zeppelin rode their motorcycles through the hallways and John Belushi took his final breath.
It’s all of this glorious lore that drew me to the Chateau. As someone who moved to the City of Angeles partially in the hopes of reliving its worst days of hedonism (after all I was a hair metal fan), I became quickly intoxicated with the allure of the Chateau. The Chateau represents a time before US Weekly and Star were exposing every celebrity exploit. It’s debauchery on the DL.
The Chateau Marmont dates back to 1929 when it was constructed as an apartment complex. But the Depression kept renters away and by 1931 it was transformed into a hotel. With its luxurious interiors, thick soundproof walls and low-key atmosphere, it’s no wonder the Chateau has been a haven for those behaving badly for almost a century.
It wasn’t as though I was fascinated with celebrities; I often found them dull and uninteresting. But sex, drugs and rock n’ roll was something that I had always been drawn to, back to the days when I would hide piles of metal and classic rock magazines under my teenage bed like contraband porn. Alas, when I first moved to L.A., I realized those days were long gone. Hair metal was dead and the remaining members of Led Zeppelin were old enough to be my parents and hardly riding motorcycles down hallways or pleasuring weird groupies with a shark (although if you’re reading this Robert Plant, I will always heart you).
Unfortunately, most of the good stuff had happened way before my time. So the Chateau Marmont was all I had. The last remnants of a lifestyle that had long since died. There I could at least remotely pretend that I swung from the chandeliers instead of realizing I was just another wannabe actress living with my boyfriend and shopping at Trader Joe’s on Saturdays. At any other spot in L.A. (or New York for that matter), the haves are very distinctly separated from the have-nots. Not at the Chateau. Everyone mingled together in a sort of utopian society of fabulosity. Everyone got to be fabulous — as long as you could get past the bouncers.
The restaurant, penthouses, lounge and patio served as a sort of playground for troublemaking. The backyard does not have a blaring sound system. There is no DJ. Instead, all is quiet, as people are actually able to converse without shouting over the blare of music. There are no velvet ropes. There isn’t even a bar. Instead, the tree and shrubbery-laden patio twinkles with lights at night, while the low murmur of conversation filters through the otherwise silent air, making one feel as though they are in some sort of magical Alice in Wonderland garden. Secrets are being told and deals are being made, but one would never know.
The penthouses, which boasted balconies bigger than my apartment with soaring views of Los Angeles, are where I spent some of my more entertaining evenings. It was at the Chateau that I saw Lindsay Lohan seemingly high as a kite staring off into outer space at a magazine party, Courtney Love stumbling drunk through the hallways with Frances Bean in tow and Calista Flockhart crumbling a pizza crust underneath her seat. It was also at Chateau that I met the Johnny Depp look-a-like and infamous staple on the nightlife scene, Shannon, who actually invited me to the bathroom to makeout. Tempted as I was, I had to decline.
But this was not why I cared for the Chateau. No, my favorite moment came when I was waiting in line for the bathroom at one of the many parties I was attending. As I gazed at the tall blond male form in front of me, it dawned on me that I recognized him. It was Matt Sorum, the drummer from Guns N’ Roses, one of my favorite bands of all time. I tried not to pee before I made it to the bathroom. He turned around.
“Are you waiting for the bathroom?” he asked.
“Yes, I am.” Of all the ways I dreamed of meeting the various members of Guns N’ Roses, this was not one of them.
“You can go in front of me. I’m just waiting for someone.”
“Thank you.” I stepped in front of him, my heart bursting with joy and happiness. After several years living in L.A., I had finally had the rockstar moment I had so dreamed about as teen, and it was at the Chateau Marmont.
By Rachel Khona
[Chateau Marmont by Nels Israelson/Flickr]
About the Author
Hailing from a magical land called New Jersey, Rachel is a writer and performer living somewhere in the 5th dimension. In addition to serving as contributing editor for Vaga, she has written for Cosmopolitan, Inked, and Ask Men and been featured as an expert on How About We and the Broadminded show.
She has performed at the Word Bookstore, Inner Monologues, Standard Issues and Speakeasy Stories. She is currently working on a memoir about being raised by a conservative Indian family, swindling European cab drivers and scaling glaciers. Find out more about Rachel at RachelKhona.com or follow her on Twitter at @RachelKhona.