Los Angeles for Film Fans: West Hollywood 3
West Hollywood is home to the celeb hideout Chateau Marmont, 8221 Sunset Boulevard. Opened in 1929 as a residential apartment building, the Chateau was a countryside retreat away from Hollywood before its all-but-invisible entrance made it the perfect base for some of the biggest names in the movie business. Highlights from its colourful history include Led Zeppelin's John Bonham riding a motorbike through the lobby (unlikely – its lobby is reached by elevator), John Belushi succumbing to one final speedball in bungalow No.3 and Nicholas Ray meeting with the cast for the first read through of of Rebel Without a Cause.
Hiding in plain sight, the retiring Chateau rarely appears on screen, and frankly, hasn’t chosen its screen appearances too wisely, appearing as the ‘Mon Signor’ hotel in the near-unwatchable 1995 portmanteau indulgence Four Rooms, and as itself in Mike Sarne’s jaw-droppingly watchable 1970 car-crash adaptation of Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge. It fares better in Oliver Stone’s The Doors, with a post-breakdown Jim Morrison (Val Kilmer) enjoying a drink on his window ledge above the Sunset traffic, and in Sofia Coppola’s award-winning Somewhere, with Stephen Dorff suffering a bout of movie star angst.
From an old classic to a cheeky young contender. The West Hollywood branch of the über-stylish Standard Hotel, 8300 Sunset Boulevard is hip and – like its trademark inverted logo – studiedly eccentric (performance art in the lobby?), but it’s surprisingly affordable. It’s featured on-screen in Michael Gondry’s film of The Green Hornet, with Seth Rogen surprisingly cast as the masked vigilante.
It’s so rare to catch Woody Allen among West Coast airheads that it’s safe to assume his purpose is satirical. Mexican restaurant Cabo Cantina, 8301 Sunset Boulevard, at Sweetzer Avenue, used to be health food restaurant Source, where Allen was given the heave-ho by flaky Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) over a plate of yummy-sounding alfalfa sprouts and mashed yeast before scooting back to the comfort of New York pizzas.
Unarguably the most beautiful landmark gracing this stretch of Sunset is the Sunset Tower Hotel, 8358 Sunset Boulevard. Built in 1931, this graceful deco tower once housed Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Howard Hughes and the Gabor sisters. Gangster ‘Bugsy’ Siegel had a suite here, as did John Wayne, who kept a cow on his balcony to provide a steady supply of fresh milk. No, I don’t know who did the actual milking.
The highrise was substantially restored in the Eighties and, after several incarnations, is now a luxury hotel. It’s been a screen favourite since 1944, when a drugged-up Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell) was held captive here by villainous Jules Amthor in Farewell My Lovely.
Devious studio exec Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) has an assignation with a mysterious screenwriter calling himself ‘Joe Gilles’ by its pool in Robert Altman’s The Player; and Chili Palmer (John Travolta) stays here in Get Shorty.
The Sunset Tower has also been seen in Katherine Bigelow’s dark sci-fi Strange Days and in 2003, Charlie Croker’s crew plan their heist on its roof in F Gary Gray’s remake of The Italian Job. More recently, the Sunset Tower became the home of Tim Conrad (Paul Rudd) in Jay Roach’s Dinner For Schmucks.
Almost opposite stands the Andaz West Hollywood, 8401 Sunset Boulevard, which has calmed down a bit since the days when it was the Hyatt Regency – known to all as the ‘Riot House’. This is where the venerable rock tradition of chucking the television out of the window was instituted (by one of the Keiths, Richard or Moon, according to which legend you believe).
Celeb rioters have included Led Zeppelin (again), who trashed it, the Stones, who trashed it (see Robert Frank’s 1972 documentary Cocksucker Blues), and Jim Morrison, who dangled out of a window (a scene moved to the Chateau Marmont in Oliver Stone’s The Doors). That retiring wallflower Little Richard called the place home for many years.
Still catering to visiting rock royalty, the hotel appeared as itself in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, and its rooftop pool supplied not only the ‘Beverly Hills’ penthouse of Carlito in amped-up 2006 thriller Crank, but was used for the penetratingly insightful poolside interview of the band in This Is Spinal Tap.