Saturday, June 7, 2008

No. 151 - Chateau Marmont

Chateau Marmont

Chateau Marmont
1929 – Arnold Weitzman
8221 Sunset Boulevard – map
Declared: 3/24/76

Huh. I would’ve bet the farm Chateau Marmont was not in Los Angeles but in West Hollywood. I would’ve lost, too, as the old hotel is, obviously, in the city of L.A. But just barely.

Chateau Marmont
Chateau Marmont

Inspired by Chateau Amboise in France’s Loire Valley, attorney Fred Horowitz was looking to create a more old-school-styled apartment house in L.A. to attract the movie industry’s talent flowing in from the east coast. He pulled in partners Inez Fredericks, who coughed up some cash, and Florence Dean, who donated her land at the intersection of Marmont Lane and Monteel Road. Horowitz thought the hillside spot next to the unpaved Sunset Boulevard perfect. (It was probably also a bonus that it overlooked the Garden of Allah.)

Chateau Marmont

Horowitz hired his brother-in-law, Arnold A. Weitzman, to design the L-shaped, seven-storied, steel and concrete, 43-room Marmont. The original, Gothic main entrance was on the west side, on Marmont Lane. (Also on the west side, but much higher, is still a Baroque letter ‘h’, for ‘Horowitz’). On April 3, 1929, crews broke ground.

Chateau Marmont
Chateau Marmont
The Baroque 'h', for Horowitz.

The Marmont officially opened February 1, 1929. Eight months later – BAM! – the stock market crashed. To save the apartment building, Horowitz brought in property manager Ben Weingart to trim costs and generally whip things into shape. Things didn’t pick up enough, though, and the partners sold the Marmont in October 1931 for a cool $750,000 (at a profit of several hundred thousand dollars). The new owner was Albert E. Smith, co-founder of Vitagraph. Smith dumped Weingart, turned the building into a hotel, and, with his wife, Lucille, took advantage of the fallout of the Depression by buying up classy furnishings at local estate sales and auctions to re-stock the hotel. It was Smith who is credited for giving the hotel “the Marmont look.”

Chateau Marmont

Smith sold out to the Ajax Corporation at the beginning of WWII, but the company turned around and sold the hotel to Edwin C. Brethauer in late 1943. The German held onto the Marmont for nearly two decades.

Chateau Marmont

In the 1940s, Brethauer bought and added to the property nine neighboring cottages built a decade earlier. Craig Ellwood, in 1956, created four additional bungalows as miniature versions of the types of the Case Study houses he was designing. Brethauer had the swimming pool installed in 1947.

Brethauer sold the Marmont in March 1963. A string of owners followed over the next decade, but, in early 1975, Raymond Sarlot and Karl Kantarjian bought the building and began an ambitious restoration project.

Chateau Marmont

By the late 1980s, Messers Sarlot and Kantarjian’s relationship began to sour, and hotelier Andre Balazs bought the Marmont in 1990 for just more than $12 million. He hired set designers Shawn Hausman and Fernando Santangelo to refurbish the landmark. Today, Balazs is getting closer to owning Chateau Marmont longer than anyone else in its history.

Chateau Marmont

For a hotel that’s famous for its discreet handling of celebrities, providing them with the utmost privacy, there sure are a lot of legendary stories – and rosters of its well-known guests – coming out of the Marmont. From Jean Harlow’s “honeymoon”, Garbo, creepy Howard Hughes renting out the penthouse, script-readings for Rebel Without a Cause in one of the bungalows, John Belushi's dying in another, Billy Wilder, Boris Karloff, Stan Laurel, Jim Morrison hanging from a balcony, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Diahann Carroll and Sidney Poitier, Nick Ray and Natalie Wood, Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate, Erroll Flynn, Helmut Newton’s dying while pulling out of the parking lot, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, William Holden and Glenn Ford (“If you’re going to get into trouble…”), Montgomery Clift, Vivien Leigh moping over Laurence Olivier, Grace Kelly letting loose, Warren Beatty, Led Zeppelin, Robert DeNiro, to Lindsay Lohan, Heath Ledger, and Britney Spears, a steady stream of really big names and somewhat big tales have made the Marmont the place in L.A. which can make the best claim to being a timeless Hollywood haunt.

Chateau Marmont
Chateau Marmont's Bar Marmont
A look at the door to the trendy Bar Marmont on Sunset Boulevard.

I’ve had lunch at Chateau Marmont a couple of times and, except for stressing about parking, I don’t remember them all that well. Also, I had planned on renting a room here for one night just for the sake of exploring, but, in the end, I think I went bowling instead. Now, if the Garden of Allah were still around, that’d be a different story.

Surprise: photography at the Marmont is, um, discouraged (unless you're Helmut Newton and you're shooting a series of domestic nudes – click here for a not-safe-at-work photo).

Chateau Marmont


Webb, Michael “Chateau Marmont Revisited” Architectural Digest Dec 1996 p. 76

Nathan, Jean “What’s Up in the Old Hotel?” The New York Times, Aug 1, 1993

Sarlot, Rayomnd R. and Fred E. Basten Life at the Marmont Roundtable Publishing, Inc. 1987 Santa Monica

Up next: Faith Bible Church


Diallo said...

I used to work for Andre (still DJ occasionally at Bar Marmont), but even I had no idea about some of these stories (in particular the period from 63-89).

Great post

Floyd B. Bariscale said...

Thanks, Diallo. I think, in that 26 years you mention, I would've most liked to have had that bird's eye view of the strip in the 1960s (Pandora's Box was right across the street).

Diallo said...


i would love to find a book detailing (with pictures) all the great clubs and discos of the 60s and 70s in LA.

the Daisy (where Aaron Spelling used to find starlets for his shows), Pandora's Box (of course), Wheelers (a roller disco on the corner of Santa Monica and La Cienega in the same building where there is now a far more exciting Sav-On Drug store)

any suggestions? any websites? i need pictures!

Unknown said...

My good friend from Israel, Sam Heigmans, was GM there for a brief time (1980-81). He walked in looking for a part time job at night, and walked out of the interview as GM. Imvisited with him in LA for a couple of weeks in 1980, and would go with hi. To work at the hotel daily, and then would take his car for the day, picking him up at work later on. I recall having met Joel Grey there, and Sam (Shmuel) pointed out Ava Gardner to me, as she was sitting by the pool.
Sam was a gambler, big time. I heard that one weekend he went to Vegas,and...was never seen again. As he was a batchelor, no one really followed up on this.. I was living in Philly at the time, and only heard about it one day when I called him to say hi...sad end to a fascinating life.
He was a Dutch Holocaust survivor, saved by American troops, made his way to Israel, then met and married an American tourist, and moved to NY, THAT didn't work out, so he found his way back to Israel, where we eventually met in 1977, working together at the Tiberias Plaza Hotel.