"If you must get into trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont." These words, once uttered by Columbia Pictures president and co-founder Harry Cohn, have come to sum up the hotel reputation as a bad behavior haven for celebrities. When it was built in the late 1920s, Hollywood had just introduced purity laws, which restricted both what stars could do on screen and how they behaved off-screen. But they still needed to let off steam. Chateau Marmont soon gained a reputation for their discreet staff, code of silence and thick walls—what happened at Chateau Marmont, stayed at Chateau Marmont.
While the rise of celebrity culture, tabloids and social media means the antics at Chateau Marmont get disseminated more quickly than before, an emphasis on discretion remains. Don't think you can get away with Instagram the sunglass-clad celebrity arguing with their beau over lunch. According to regulars, the unofficial vow of silence contributes to the homey atmosphere of the hotel. As west coast editor for Vogue Lisa Love commented, Chateau Marmont feels like an extension of your living room. It might not be Hollywood’s most expensive hotel, but it is its most inviting.
Over the years the hotel has cycled through owners, periods of disrepair and moments of extreme hedonism. In 1990, the hotelier behind such names as Chiltern Firehouse and The Standard André Balazs acquired Chateau Marmont and renovated its then thread-bare interiors. He was insistent on keeping the bones the same thought so regulars would continue to feel at home. It seems to have worked and celebrities are just as likely as ever to shell out $500 a night to live at the hotel for months on end. In 1976, it was named a Los Angeles cultural landmark.
When discussing Chateau Marmont it's impossible not to name drop. But it's also difficult to figure out what stories are true and which are rumors. We've rounded up some of the best stories to emerge from the hotel and figure out whether they're true, false, or yet to be determined. Can you tell which are which?
1. The Chateau Marmont started life as an apartment building.
True. It opened its doors in February 1929, but was reinaugurated as a hotel only two years later in 1931. That's why many of the suites and all of the bungalows have kitchens.
2. Architect Arnold. A Weitzman modeled Chateau Marmont after the chateaux of the Loire Valley.
True. Owner William Douglass Lee fell in love with Chateau d'Amboise and decided it would add a touch of European sophistication to his new edifice.
3. Chateau Marmont was the first apartment building in Los Angeles to be built according to earthquake proof conventions.
True. It's survived earthquakes in 1933, 1953, 1971, 1987 and 1994 without major structural damage.
4. F. Scott Fitzgerald suffered from a heart attack at the hotel in the late 1930s.
False. He had a heart attack across the street in Schwabs drug store while buying cigarettes.
5. James Dean leapt from a window while auditioning for Rebel Without a Cause.
Unverified. Though director Nicholas Ray did live in a bungalow at the time (he was having an affair).
6. Jim Morrison threw himself from the roof, but was so high he managed to walk away unscathed.
Probably false. This story has more than a whiff of urban legend about it. Depending on who's telling it, the roof morphs into a terrace or drain pipe. Still, we're not saying that Morrison didn't get up to some antics during his time at the hotel.
7. John Bonham of Led Zepplin rode his motorcycles through the lobby.
We hope it's true! Since the hotel was run down during the late '60s when Bonham got up to his antics, it seems possible.
8. Jean Harlow would leave a note at reception saying she had "Gone Fishing" when she was entertaining her lovers in her room.
True. Her most famous affair is probably with Clark Gable—which she conducted during her honeymoon.
9. Nathanael West wrote The Day of the Locusts at Chateau Marmont.
True. Screenwriter Billy Wilder, the man behind classic films such as Sabrina and Double Indemnity, also launched his career from the hotel.
10. You can bring your pet with you, so long as you're willing to pay a non-refundable $150 deposit.
True. You can also book a personal trainer and a rolling rack for any gowns you have while you're at it.
11. Chateau Marmont was the site for Annie Lebovitz's famous Vanity Fair Birthday Suit photo of Demi Morre
True. It took 15 hours to paint on the suit and Moore even had to sleep in it.
12. On March 5, 1982, comedian John Belushi died in bungalow two after overdosing on speedball.
False. Unfortunately, it happened in bungalow three.
13. Johnny Depp and Kate Moss made love in every room in the hotel during their time as lovers.
Probably false. Although they stayed there together, Depp's statement is most likely overstatement.
14. Chateau Marmont is the hotel in The Eagles' "Hotel California".
Probably true. Lana del Rey also mentions the hotel in her song "Off to the Races."
15. Lindsay Lohan once ran up a $46,350.64 tab on cigarettes, candles, iPhone chargers and copies of Architectural Digest while staying in suite 33.
True. She was later banned from the hotel as well.
16. Britney Spears was banned in 2007 after smearing food on her face in the restaurant.
True. According to sources, it disgusted the other diners.
17. Elizabeth Taylor nursed Montgomery Clift after he crashed his car into a telephone pole outside the hotel.
True. Taylor even prevented him from choking on a tooth and tended to his fractures.
18. Howard Hughes used binoculars to spy on women at the pool.
Probably false. As the story goes, he spied on them from his favorite two bedroom penthouse at the hotel, room 64.
19. In 2004, Benicio del Toro and Scarlett Johansson hooked up in the elevator before the Oscars.
Probably false. It sounds great, but this seems too perfectly pressed from the Hollywood rumor mill.