The Chateau Marmont is a beautiful anomaly.
It's an old Hollywood building in a town of youth worshipers, a quiet refuge and a party palace, and a luxurious spot that thrives on bohemian vibes.
Make a slight right heading west on Sunset Boulevard and, suddenly, you're somewhere else. The strip clubs and liquor stores fade into the foliage when you pull up to the hotel's entrance. Don't be baffled by the absence of a front door. The pool's to your right, and the lobby's accessible by stairs or an elevator to the left. What awaits is halls and rooms full of history.
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The hotel's debaucherous past has been chronicled in films, books, and glitterati-obsessed gossip sites TMZ and Perez Hilton.
What truly makes the apartment building turned hideaway an escape is that it allows guests to disappear while staying a stone's throw from one of L.A.'s most storied stretches. And you can take comfort in the fact that plenty before you have ducked behind the high stone walls and lush landscaping.
That's a good chunk of the fun in staying at the historic mansion, which was built in 1927 and designed to resemble Château d'Amboise, a French residence that King Charles XVII called home. The West Hollywood homage has served as a home or hangout to a range of eccentrics and entertainers from Howard Hughes and Greta Garbo to Benicio Del Toro and Britney Spears. Lindsay Lohan was kicked out of suite 33 after racking up an unpaid $46,000 bill over a summertime stay. John Belushi overdosed in bungalow three.
Once you've made it to the lobby and checked in, go to your room, open your window, and poke your head out. Then start exploring the grounds. With 63 rooms and a smattering of bungalows and cottages, there's lots to see and more people-watching to do.
Naturally, vacationers will encounter celebrities of varying degrees. During a recent stay a week before the Oscars, Johnny Knoxville, Dr. Drew Pinsky, and Patricia Clarkson were spotted. Was that Ethan Hawke? That might've been Ethan Hawke.
They are not to be bothered -- and certainly not photographed. In fact, the hotel seems to employ technology to block cell phones from sending photos via text and through such social media channels as Instagram. And photography is downright banned in the hotel's restaurant. Consult your menu for evidence. Attempts to sneak pictures will be frowned upon. And this is for the best. Because much like the hotel's lore, the photo evidence is less fun than the tall tales. Keep this in mind.
Indeed, partying and playing it cool go hand in hand at Chateau, whether you're holed up at the detached Bar Marmont or lounging by the 24-hour heated pool. There's a code of conduct, a respect of privacy despite the spot's see-and-be-seen nature, and it allows for glances and quick smiles but no staring or geeking out.
Your best play? Invite friends to your room. Drink. Have dinner and stay at your table as long as you like. Don't forget to survey your surroundings every once in a while. When you've had your fill, head back to your room, with its white walls and linens and dark wooden furniture. Leave the window open and let the chattering and clinking from below drift in.
Now you're part of the story.
1. Shop at Amoeba Music. Don't bring a list.
2. If you're tipsy, take the elevator. The Chateau stairs are easy to slip on sober.
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3. See live comedy in Hollywood. iO West, the Laugh Factory, and Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre are all good bets.
4. Wake up early one morning and grab a Stumptown Coffee doughnut from Glazed LA.
5. Uber is your friend. Use the car service to quickly traverse the city, and you'll save a few bucks on valet tipping and parking -- not to mention headaches navigating the notorious traffic.