The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont

The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont

A definitive history of Hollywood's most iconic, storied, and scandalous hotel. For nearly ninety years, Hollywood's brightest stars have favored the Chateau Marmont as a home away from home. An apartment house-turned-hotel, it has hosted generations of gossip and folklore: 1930s bombshell Jean Harlow took lovers during her third honeymoon there; director Nicholas Ray sle...

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Title:The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont
Author:Shawn Levy
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The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont Reviews

  • The

    You cannot tell the story of Chateau Marmont without telling the story of Hollywood and highlighting the parade of stars who have called it home.

    Built as a vision, really as a fantasy, it was originally designed as apartments. The owner, forced to sell because of the crash in 1929, never saw his dream come to fruition. The Chateau, like the neighborhood it's located in, has seen many transitions. It's gone from cheap housing to its present status of grand dame. Along the way, It's provided shelt

    You cannot tell the story of Chateau Marmont without telling the story of Hollywood and highlighting the parade of stars who have called it home.

    Built as a vision, really as a fantasy, it was originally designed as apartments. The owner, forced to sell because of the crash in 1929, never saw his dream come to fruition. The Chateau, like the neighborhood it's located in, has seen many transitions. It's gone from cheap housing to its present status of grand dame. Along the way, It's provided shelter for aspiring actors and comfort for those who have already made a name but often needed a place to rest, to hide, or to find sanctuary through difficult times. Although the Chateau has had her ups and downs, she's always had a bit of mystique about her and has maintained a devoted group of followers through it all.

    Shawn Levy has written a gripping read, guiding you through the neighborhood’s flux, dropping names in a slightly gossipy fashion-The Garden of Allah Hotel once stood on a corner just across and a few doors down and you get a tour of their history too. But this is no scandal sheet. He keeps to the facts, even footnoting his research. He just happens to be a consummate storyteller, weaving some delicious details in with the truth.

    I really enjoyed this book. I worked at a bank down the block from the Chateau for two years and every workday I saw her facade. This history filled in many questions for me, and frankly made me a bit nostalgic. The neighborhood is again in flux, but I’m sure the Chateau will survive once more. I look forward to seeing how she’s refashioned to stay in step. #TheCastleOnSunset #NetGalley

  • Julie

    The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont by Shawn Levy is a 2019 Doubleday publication.

    An absolutely fascinating and absorbing piece of history!

    Everyone understands, even through its many incarnations, that Sunset Strip is an iconic part of Los Angeles. Although the Chateau Marmont has been strategically located on the infamous strip since 1929, it has somehow managed to fly under the radar, making it the perfect choice for anyone seeking premium

    The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont by Shawn Levy is a 2019 Doubleday publication.

    An absolutely fascinating and absorbing piece of history!

    Everyone understands, even through its many incarnations, that Sunset Strip is an iconic part of Los Angeles. Although the Chateau Marmont has been strategically located on the infamous strip since 1929, it has somehow managed to fly under the radar, making it the perfect choice for anyone seeking premium privacy- which of course attracted Hollywood types from actors to producers , and later on, rock stars, who flocked to the storied hotel, where they engaged in all manner of lurid and scandalous activities.

    The hotel has gone through many re-inventions over the years, rising and falling, with several owners, each with a plan or agenda for the hotel. It has mostly been a ‘no-frills’ place, devoid of many of the pricey amenities offered by other famous hotels in L.A.

    Yet, it has been an oasis for many stars because they could live there for long periods and no matter what they got up to, no one ever heard a peep about it. It was a refuge for many deeply closeted gay actors in the fifties and sixties and was also the choice location for actors and actresses going through marital woes, separations or divorces, or who were between marriages, and where they met up with their secret paramours.

    The architecture is unique, and unusual, also providing little cubby holes for clandestine activities. But, the bungalows, with private entrances and exits is where a lot of the more sordid activities transpired. The hotel has occasionally shown up in films or was at the very least alluded to.

    The people who passed through the hotel boggles the mind. So many famous people resided there for months at a time and sometimes longer, while others only passed through briefly. However, the hotel could not completely avoid the headlines, as when John Belushi famously overdosed and died. The hotel did have a hard time shaking off that bit of notoriety, but still retained its reputation for the extreme privacy it provided its guests.

    Although the hotel came precariously close to failure and closure on a few occasions, it somehow miraculously fell into the right hands, at just the right time, to survive another day. Today, the hotel is thriving in an entirely new way, but sadly, with cell phones and social media it is harder than ever to maintain the same level of privacy it once boasted.

    However, more than even in days past, it is still one of the premiere choices by A-list celebrities who find the hotel, despite some of its lack of on sight luxuries, the place to be. The hotel can still be counted on to the provide their guests with the utmost secrecy and has managed to carve out a legacy all its own in the process.

    The author had a monumental task telling the famed hotel’s history. The hotel is nearing the century mark, which is really quite amazing, but that’s a lot of history to sort through. I thought he did an amazing job with familiarizing the reader with all the owners, the staff, and the guests throughout history and managed to recreate the mood, ambience, and atmosphere of each decade and what the hotel meant to the generations of people who passed through its doors.

    For me, personally, I enjoyed reading about the guest from the thirties through the fifties best of all. The glamour and style of these decades disappeared, never to return, but it was a time when such great innovators and game changers gathered under the same roof, where the party never seemed to end and the creative juices flourished, and it was all done with great style and flourish. The scandals were titillating, but much was still left up to the public’s imagination- not like today when there is very little of the myth or mystery left which helped create true Hollywood legends.

    But, hopefully the Marmont will survive whatever the next big curve in the road brings, and will remain a steady keeper of secrets for Hollywood’s elite for decades to come…

  • *TUDOR^QUEEN*

    4.5 Stars rounded up to 5.

    Thank you to the publisher Doubleday / Random House for providing an advance reader copy via Edelweiss.

    I was drawn to this book because of my passion for rock biographies. I knew very little about the Chateau Marmont on Sunset Blvd. in California, other than a vague notion that some rock stars stayed there. One of its biggest claims to fame is the fact that original SNL comedian John Belushi OD'd there. It was an "if these walls could talk" situation I was hoping for, a

    4.5 Stars rounded up to 5.

    Thank you to the publisher Doubleday / Random House for providing an advance reader copy via Edelweiss.

    I was drawn to this book because of my passion for rock biographies. I knew very little about the Chateau Marmont on Sunset Blvd. in California, other than a vague notion that some rock stars stayed there. One of its biggest claims to fame is the fact that original SNL comedian John Belushi OD'd there. It was an "if these walls could talk" situation I was hoping for, and I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I learnt far more details than I particularly wanted to know!

    I was a tad bored in the beginning because of the build up to the meat and potatoes...the dish on rock and movie royalty celebrities. There was a great deal of background information on the persons who built, expanded upon, and refurbished this legendary edifice. It was originally meant to be an apartment building, and it was the brainchild of a Los Angeles lawyer named Fred Horowitz. He had seen a Gothic castle while traveling in France, and hoped to recreate that spectacle on an unpaved road on Sunset Boulevard. Gables, balconies, turrets, Gothic archways...this was what Horowitz had in mind for this most audacious folly that would be built in 1929 and christened the Chateau Marmont.

    It was a hard sell renting out the apartments, so it was later decided to run the place as a hotel. As time went by, Chateau Marmont was often patronized and appreciated by people in the entertainment industry. Compared to the other hotels more associated with movie royalty, celebrities could feel as if they were enjoying a home away from home with much more privacy. As the years went by and the property changed ownership, bungalows were added as well as a modest-sized pool. This "Castle on a Hill" of sorts afforded celebrities a comfortable refuge that was shabby chic and off the beaten path.

    The Sunset Strip around the Chateau developed and changed over the years, and the hotel came dangerously close to closing. It somehow survived due to the love and ingenuity of its various owners. The celebrities that found a home here are too voluminous to mention in this review. They were actors, actresses, directors, photographers, rock stars and writers. I often found myself performing internet searches on these celebrities at the Chateau as I read the book. My advance reader copy did not contain photos, but perhaps the finished product will. The Chateau is an amazing vortex of entertainment history to be experienced, and I highly recommend this thoroughly researched book.

  • Juli

    Before reading this book, the only details I knew about the Chateau Mormont were the seedy ones like the bungalow where John Belushi OD'd, Lindsay Lohan racking up $50,000 in unpaid charges, and other tales of addiction, embezzlement, and scandal.

    I'm glad I read this book. There is so much more to the 90-year history of Chateau Mormont than scandals. Shawn Levy tells the story of the Mormont from it's construction as upscale apartments in 1929, the conversion to a hotel in 1939, and its operatio

    Before reading this book, the only details I knew about the Chateau Mormont were the seedy ones like the bungalow where John Belushi OD'd, Lindsay Lohan racking up $50,000 in unpaid charges, and other tales of addiction, embezzlement, and scandal.

    I'm glad I read this book. There is so much more to the 90-year history of Chateau Mormont than scandals. Shawn Levy tells the story of the Mormont from it's construction as upscale apartments in 1929, the conversion to a hotel in 1939, and its operations, owners, and history clear up to the present day. I had to read this book in small sections. There is a lot of information and references. I read a chapter at a time and looked up many of the Hollywood stars, films, and events Levy mentions. So much history!

    The book is a nonfiction history of the famous hotel, not an in-depth look at scandals or Hollywood gossip. I like the fact that the book doesn't dwell on famous scandals, but gives the complete history of the famous hotel from it's glamorous years to falling into disrepair to its refurbishment in recent years.

    Interesting read!

    Shawn Levy has written several other books on Hollywood including biographies of Paul Newman, The Rat Pack, Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis. I'm definitely interested in reading more of his books. Levy definitely did an incredible amount of research to write this history of Chateau Mormont. He presented the facts in an interesting manner, telling the overall story not just the famous scandals. That fact makes me want to read the biographies he has written simply because I can trust him to write about all aspects of the actors, not just gossip. I will definitely be reading more by this author!

    **I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from DoubleDay Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

  • Valerity (Val)

    This book is a history of the Chateau Marmont from its inception way back before the roads were even paved that it sits on. It’s loosely modeled after the Chateau d’Amboise, a royal retreat in France’s Loire Valley. Its name comes from the small street that runs along the front, with the main street on the side being Sunset Blvd. It started out as an upscale apartment building when it first opened in 1929. It was soon found to be difficult to fill the regular apartments, let alone the luxury pen

    This book is a history of the Chateau Marmont from its inception way back before the roads were even paved that it sits on. It’s loosely modeled after the Chateau d’Amboise, a royal retreat in France’s Loire Valley. Its name comes from the small street that runs along the front, with the main street on the side being Sunset Blvd. It started out as an upscale apartment building when it first opened in 1929. It was soon found to be difficult to fill the regular apartments, let alone the luxury penthouses with balconies, a total of 63 altogether. Opening a couple of years before the Depression happened didn’t help matters either. The original investors gave it a couple of years, then regrouped and said ok, if things don’t improve in a year, it’s time to sell and try something else.

    And that is what happened, it was sold, and turned into a hotel by the new owner. It did ok under his ownership, but it was during the next owner that it really flourished. He had an eye for the long haul, and added the bungalows, a pool, made it more what it was really known for. The book shares stories of some who were part of the Marmont’s history in all different types of ways. All of them interesting. It was also interesting hearing about another place across the street that was really wild, The Garden of Allah. A good read for anyone interested in old Hollywood history stories, Schwab’s drugstore, all of the different night spots to party at. It’s filled with it. The advance electronic copy was provided by NetGalley, author Shawn Levy, and the publisher.

    My review on BookZone:

  • Basic B's Guide

    I don’t believe there is a more iconic hotel than Chateau Marmont. The hotel is legendary for its tales of celebrities and quite honestly the history of Hollywood and the Sunset Strip would be not complete without the mention of the Chateau or rather Sha…teeeaaauuu as some called it.

    If you’re expecting some fluff piece or something similar to flipping through U.S. Weekly then you will be greatly disappointed. This is a very thorough and deep dive into the hotel. Yes, we get the juicy gossip but

    I don’t believe there is a more iconic hotel than Chateau Marmont. The hotel is legendary for its tales of celebrities and quite honestly the history of Hollywood and the Sunset Strip would be not complete without the mention of the Chateau or rather Sha…teeeaaauuu as some called it.

    If you’re expecting some fluff piece or something similar to flipping through U.S. Weekly then you will be greatly disappointed. This is a very thorough and deep dive into the hotel. Yes, we get the juicy gossip but more so we see the hotel’s transformation over the years as a sanctuary to a hot spot.

    Oh, if these walls could talk! This is a place with a past and filled with more stories than you can even imagine. Levy distinguishes between truth and rumor and I appreciated his respect of not only the celebrities but of the institution the Chateau has become.

    “The lifeblood of a hotel is the people who have stayed in it, who have worked in it, who have used it as a base from which to satisfy private desires or to pursue great public acclaim.”

    Detailed, well researched and nostalgic I give this 4.5 stars.

    Thank you Doubleday books for the free copy.

  • Melissa

    A dishy yet understated history of the famous (infamous?) Chateau Marmont, a landmark hotel overlooking the Sunset Strip. Levy takes the history from bare ground covered in scrub and onions through the building’s beginning as an apartment building, an out-of-the-way hideaway for Hollywood elite needing out of the spotlight, the run-down cheap-chic of the 1970s and 80s, and its reinvention as the playground of the glitzy entertainment industry A-list. Lots of endnotes and citations. I would have

    A dishy yet understated history of the famous (infamous?) Chateau Marmont, a landmark hotel overlooking the Sunset Strip. Levy takes the history from bare ground covered in scrub and onions through the building’s beginning as an apartment building, an out-of-the-way hideaway for Hollywood elite needing out of the spotlight, the run-down cheap-chic of the 1970s and 80s, and its reinvention as the playground of the glitzy entertainment industry A-list. Lots of endnotes and citations. I would have loved more pictures though.

    Out in April 2019

  • Maine Colonial

    Thanks to the publisher for providing a free e-ARC via Netgalley.

    When you are in an old building, do you ever imagine what might have happened there over the decades or centuries? If you live in an old house, do you think about the generations who sat by that same fireplace in the winter or lived, loved and died in the bedrooms? I love to think about those things, though I don’t think in a morbid way. Naturally, some old buildings have attracted a more high-profile class of resident, and those s

    Thanks to the publisher for providing a free e-ARC via Netgalley.

    When you are in an old building, do you ever imagine what might have happened there over the decades or centuries? If you live in an old house, do you think about the generations who sat by that same fireplace in the winter or lived, loved and died in the bedrooms? I love to think about those things, though I don’t think in a morbid way. Naturally, some old buildings have attracted a more high-profile class of resident, and those sometimes get books written about them. I call histories like this “if these walls could talk” books; history told through a particular place.

    Even though I’ve spent very little time in Los Angeles, I’d heard of the Chateau Marmont before this book came along. I think most people who watched Saturday Night Live from its start know that the Chateau Marmont is where John Belushi overdosed and died. In later years, it made the national gossip news as the place Lindsay Lohan was kicked out of for running up huge unpaid bills.

    But in the decades before all that, the Chateau was home to scores of celebrity actors and others in the film industry, as well as writers. The list goes on an on; from the 1930s through the 1950s it included Katharine Hepburn, Jean Harlow, Marlon Brando, Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Anthony Perkins, Greta Garbo, John Cheever, Gore Vidal, Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier (separately), Duke Ellington, Harry Belafonte, Miles Davis, Sidney Poitier (the Chateau welcomed guests of color long before other hotels integrated), and writers blacklisted during Hollywood’s Red Scare. Because the Chateau was (relatively) inexpensive, and suites and bungalows included kitchens, some guests stayed for weeks, months, even years.

    The Chateau went through a low period in the 1960s and early 1970s, when so many landmark buildings from Hollywood’s golden age succumbed to the wrecking ball. But then rock stars and the actors of Hollywood’s 1970s cinematic resurgence discovered the Chateau. And the Chateau has continued to evolve, attracting new generations who value its unique charms.

    For me, the book lost a little bit of its life when it moved on to the period from the 1970s to the current day. I think it’s because the celebrities of the more modern-day era seem more conscious of their celebrity and self-centered. Maybe that’s just me, though; maybe I’m just less interested in people who are social-media creatures. All that exposure makes them seem, ironically, more ordinary.

    Shawn Levy not only regales us with the tales of the celebrity residents’ idiosyncrasies, sexual escapades, wildly indulgent drinking and drug-taking, he also features the Chateau itself as the lead character in the story. I didn’t know that every room, suite and bungalow at the Chateau is different, that the building is full of hidden nooks, or that one of its appeals is that guests can enter their rooms without being seen. What a different personality this gives the Chateau from the usual see-and-be-seen glitz of Hollywood hotels.

    The author has done his homework about the Chateau’s history as a building, as well as a home to such an astonishing cavalcade of guests and events. Imagine building such an impressive castle-like building on a hill above the Sunset Strip when it was just a dusty dirt road heading west through the bean and onion fields to the ocean, Levy takes us through its evolution in a way that should fascinate anybody interested in the history of architecture and of Los Angeles. If only there were more pictures in the book.

    I so wanted to make my own pilgrimage to the Chateau Marmont after reading this book. So, of course I went to their website, and now my bucket list includes spending a couple of nights at one of the Chateau’s famous bungalows.

  • Tosh

    An enjoyable romp of a read regarding one of the great hotels in Los Angeles. Shawn Levy is a good historian and has good taste in his subject matter. A lot of these stories in this book I have heard before, but then again, I used to work at Book Soup on the Sunset Strip, and therefore one comes across the citizens of this beautiful hotel. A good read for a tourist and this is not meant to be a put-down, but in actuality, an important book to have in the 'local interest' section of the bookstore

    An enjoyable romp of a read regarding one of the great hotels in Los Angeles. Shawn Levy is a good historian and has good taste in his subject matter. A lot of these stories in this book I have heard before, but then again, I used to work at Book Soup on the Sunset Strip, and therefore one comes across the citizens of this beautiful hotel. A good read for a tourist and this is not meant to be a put-down, but in actuality, an important book to have in the 'local interest' section of the bookstore.

  • Sherwood Smith

    The thing about being a kid in Los Angeles during the fifties is that, in spite of the smog, it seemed in many ways a fantasyland. There were gigantic doughnuts, a restaurant shaped like a hat, and then there were what I thought of as castles: one of these was the stately LDS Temple, up on its hillside overlooking my neighborhood some five miles south. (On rare days when the smog blew out, I could see it from the cliffs above the bean fields--now the Hughes Center--where I rode my bike.)

    The othe

    The thing about being a kid in Los Angeles during the fifties is that, in spite of the smog, it seemed in many ways a fantasyland. There were gigantic doughnuts, a restaurant shaped like a hat, and then there were what I thought of as castles: one of these was the stately LDS Temple, up on its hillside overlooking my neighborhood some five miles south. (On rare days when the smog blew out, I could see it from the cliffs above the bean fields--now the Hughes Center--where I rode my bike.)

    The other was the Chateau Marmont, which I glimpsed a few times as we traveled along Sunset, then saw more as a teen in the sixties, and finally, passed pretty much every day when I lived in Hollywood during the seventies. I never ventured indoors--too bad. I learned from this book I might have even been able to rent there in the seventies; it was certainly cheaper than our crowded apt building, with gangsters to the north of us, and call girls to the south.

    Anyway, when I saw this title on NetGalley, I grabbed it. And I'm glad I did. Shawn Levy has done a bang-up job delving into not only the history of the building, but the immediate area of Sunset Blvd around it, all familiar to me.

    Of course there's also plenty of gossip about the film, music, and other famous people who lived or visited there. Levy appears to have not just collected a ton of great quips and quotes, but done the legwork to track down the veracity of these quotes, sometimes with interesting side stories.

    There are also more chilling bits, such as the fact (I had not known this) that Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate were living in the Marmont before she, at advanced pregnancy, wanted her kid to be born in a house--so they rented a place not far away from Doris Day's son, a music producer . . . who had recently turned down Charles Manson's wish to be in a band the man had been trying to develop.

    Equally chilling was the story of John Belushi's crash and burn, which was at the Marmont; I found myself skimming the latter portion of the book, just because I'm not familiar with most of the big names of today, whose claim to fame seems mostly to be drug excesses, not interesting to me. But that's nothing against the book.

    I enjoyed the vivid descriptions of early Los Angeles (his word pictures of the area matched those of my spouse's grandmother, who used to go up there often), and how the place developed. Levy divides the book into parts, doing an excellent job of capturing the evolution of West Hollywood as overlooked by the Marmont over the decades.

    He writes with sympathy of the many diverse characters who found a welcome there over the years. While some guests/residents got the boot, these were nonpayment or destructive behavior, and not (unlike the other famous hotels of the area) for skin color or preference in partners.

    Levy's style is breezy, at times witty, vivid, packing quite a bit of information into the entertaining pages. I really enjoyed the book--and I think I've found a holiday gift for certain hard-to-shop-for relatives and friends.

    Copy provided by NetGalley

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