The history of Hollywood plays out in the corridors and bedrooms of an iconic hotel.
In his latest, biographer Levy (Dolce Vita Confidential: Fellini, Loren, Pucci, Paparazzi, and the Swinging High Life of 1950s Rome, 2016, etc.) turns to an inanimate subject as colorful and outrageous as some of the living subjects he’s covered—e.g., Paul Newman, Porfirio Rubirosa, and the Rat Pack. The author chronicles the history of the Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, suggesting that its story “parallels the story of Hollywood so thoroughly as to be inseparable from it.” Levy’s history is both staid and juicy. A lesser-known aspect of the history begins in 1926 when Fred Horowitz, a prominent attorney, envisioned an apartment building modeled on a French castle in the Loire Valley. Horowitz built an earthquake-proof structure of “pale stone, slate-gray gables, balconies, Gothic archways, and turrets.” The denizens of Hollywood adored the place, making it, to this day, their own. Levy diligently details the effect on the hotel over the years of its different owners. Some nurtured the property while others saw it as part of a business deal. The place changed from an apartment to a hotel; it thrived, it turned seedy, and then, in the new millennium, morphed into a luxury hotel. What kept celebrities checking in was a staff that looked the other way. Leaning on previously published accounts, the author tells what went on at the discreet hideaway. Tony Perkins and Tab Hunter began a clandestine liaison at the hotel. Working on Rebel Without a Cause (one of many films developed on the premises), director Nicholas Ray had an affair with 16-year-old Natalie Wood. The most infamous event at the hotel occurred in 1982, when John Belushi died of a drug overdose in a hotel bungalow. The Marmont survived the scandal, and, in 2018, the tiniest room went for a price of $500 per night.
A familiar but fun Hollywood tale.