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

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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 s 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 slept with his sixteen-year-old Rebel Without a Cause star Natalie Wood; Anthony Perkins and Tab Hunter met poolside and began a secret affair; Jim Morrison swung from the balconies, once falling nearly to his death; John Belushi suffered a fatal overdose in a private bungalow; Lindsay Lohan got the boot after racking up nearly $50,000 in charges in less than two months. Perched above the Sunset Strip like a fairytale castle, the Chateau seems to come from another world entirely. Its singular appearance houses an equally singular history. While a city, an industry, and a culture have changed around it, Chateau Marmont has welcomed the most iconic and iconoclastic personalities in film, music, and media. It appeals to the rich and famous not just for its European ambiance but for its seclusion: Much of what's happened inside the Chateau's walls has eluded the public eye. Until now. With wit and prowess, Shawn Levy recounts the wild revelries and scandalous liaisons; the creative breakthroughs and marital breakdowns; the births and deaths that the Chateau has been a party to. Vivid, salacious, and richly informed, his book is a glittering tribute to Hollywood as seen from inside the walls of its most hallowed hotel.


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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 s 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 slept with his sixteen-year-old Rebel Without a Cause star Natalie Wood; Anthony Perkins and Tab Hunter met poolside and began a secret affair; Jim Morrison swung from the balconies, once falling nearly to his death; John Belushi suffered a fatal overdose in a private bungalow; Lindsay Lohan got the boot after racking up nearly $50,000 in charges in less than two months. Perched above the Sunset Strip like a fairytale castle, the Chateau seems to come from another world entirely. Its singular appearance houses an equally singular history. While a city, an industry, and a culture have changed around it, Chateau Marmont has welcomed the most iconic and iconoclastic personalities in film, music, and media. It appeals to the rich and famous not just for its European ambiance but for its seclusion: Much of what's happened inside the Chateau's walls has eluded the public eye. Until now. With wit and prowess, Shawn Levy recounts the wild revelries and scandalous liaisons; the creative breakthroughs and marital breakdowns; the births and deaths that the Chateau has been a party to. Vivid, salacious, and richly informed, his book is a glittering tribute to Hollywood as seen from inside the walls of its most hallowed hotel.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    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…

  2. 4 out of 5

    *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.

  3. 4 out of 5

    JanB

    We’ve all heard of Sunset Strip. But how much do you know about the Chateau Marmont, the iconic hotel overlooking the strip? I knew very little but the subtitle of Love, Art, and Scandal piqued my interest and I was not disappointed. The book details how the Chateau was built in 1929 to replicate the Chateau d’Amboise, a royal retreat in France’s Loire Valley. The hotel somehow survived through the Depression and the ups and downs of the economy, and because of the unparalleled privacy provided We’ve all heard of Sunset Strip. But how much do you know about the Chateau Marmont, the iconic hotel overlooking the strip? I knew very little but the subtitle of Love, Art, and Scandal piqued my interest and I was not disappointed. The book details how the Chateau was built in 1929 to replicate the Chateau d’Amboise, a royal retreat in France’s Loire Valley. The hotel somehow survived through the Depression and the ups and downs of the economy, and because of the unparalleled privacy provided to its guests, it became the home and playground of the most famous Hollywood personalities. The history these walls contain boggles the mind. From the 1930’s to the present, the list of celebrities and the scandalous stories that took place at Chateau Marmont are titillating and addictively readable. From the glamorous Golden Days of Hollywood (my favorite!) to the present, the book is filled with juicy details of the stars of film, music, and other celebrities. There are far too many personalities to list here, but even a partial list reads like a Who’s Who: Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Judy Garland, Coco Chanel, Marilyn Monroe, Anthony Perkins, James Dean, Paul Newman, Robert DeNiro, Jim Morrison, Led Zeppelin, and many, many more. The short, sad life of Jean Harlow, the night leading up to John Belushi’s death in a bungalow at the Marmont, and the fateful decision of Sharon Tate, who was 8 months pregnant, to move out and rent a home so her baby’s home wouldn’t be in a hotel, are among the many stories I won’t soon forget. I am as far from a fan of celebrity gossip as you can get but I could not put this book down and finished it in two days with my phone and laptop by my side to google the pictures and the stories. Kudos to the author for compiling an incredible amount of research into such a fascinating narrative. *many thanks to Doubleday and Edelweiss for a copy of the book for review * this was a buddy read with Marialyce, one we both enjoyed and highly recommend For our duo review of this and other books please visit https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)

    If you are at all curious about the lives of the rich, the famous, the stars, and the denizens of Hollywood past and present, Jan and I suggest you take a walk down the lane to the Chateau Marmount, courtesy of the book The Castle on Sunset. Hollywood....can we ever really get enough of the lives of the stars and the ways in which they came to stardom, fame, and fortune? We find them alluring, their stories, their climb up the ladder of success, fraught with some failures, along the way, with so If you are at all curious about the lives of the rich, the famous, the stars, and the denizens of Hollywood past and present, Jan and I suggest you take a walk down the lane to the Chateau Marmount, courtesy of the book The Castle on Sunset. Hollywood....can we ever really get enough of the lives of the stars and the ways in which they came to stardom, fame, and fortune? We find them alluring, their stories, their climb up the ladder of success, fraught with some failures, along the way, with some losing the battle to win what others seems to always aspire to. This was a fascinating book, that kept me riveted to its content. The names of the past stars were there along with their stories, sometimes tragic in their telling, oftentimes scandalous, as they all embarked on a career that would make them famous. The stars of today also make their way to the Chateau and so many of the names we come to know have made their stay at the Chateau memorable and often scandalous. (think Lindsay Lohan, John Belushi) and yet the Chateau really is the star of the story for it houses many of the secrets, many of the goings on, many of the intimate details of the eras of Hollywood. Imagine the stories these walls could tell. The stories of hidden assignations, of drugs, of alcohol, of sex, of homosexuality, of the stars being what they were and not an image of what Hollywood wanted them to be. It was the dream of the Fred Horowitz, a prominent Los Angeles attorney, to construct the chateau. On February 1, 1929, Chateau Marmont opened its doors to the public as the newest residence of Hollywood. Through the vision of Mr Horowitz, the chateau became something special, a hideaway from the rigors of stardom, a place where anything goes was a motto, and where discretion was the key. Down through it existence and it owners, the chateau saw times of depression and though it suffered the ravages of neglect for a time, today it stands as a Historical-Cultural Landmark. I so enjoyed this story and do recommend it to those who love a story about a building, its creators, and it impact of the lives of others. Take a walk through the chateau and you will not be disappointed. Now if only walls could talk! Thank you to Shawn Levy, Doubleday Books, and Edelweiss for a copy of this alluring story.

  5. 5 out of 5

    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: https://wordpress.com/post/bookblog20...

  6. 4 out of 5

    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.**

  7. 5 out of 5

    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

  8. 4 out of 5

    ❀⊱RoryReads⊰❀

    3 Stars Not nearly as interesting as the description leads you to expect; with plenty of repetition. There are some stories here worth reading interspersed with a few funny quotes, but all in all quite tame for a hotel with such a naughty reputation.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Burnett

    This book is one of my favorite non-fiction reads of the year. Levy’s gossip-filled tale of the Chateau Marmont and its storied life will entertain everyone who chooses to read it. Originally opened as an apartment building but eventually converted to an exclusive hotel, the Chateau has remained a fixture overlooking the Sunset Strip for nine decades. While Hollywood and the entertainment industry have undergone numerous changes, Chateau Marmont has remained a locale to which the rich and famous This book is one of my favorite non-fiction reads of the year. Levy’s gossip-filled tale of the Chateau Marmont and its storied life will entertain everyone who chooses to read it. Originally opened as an apartment building but eventually converted to an exclusive hotel, the Chateau has remained a fixture overlooking the Sunset Strip for nine decades. While Hollywood and the entertainment industry have undergone numerous changes, Chateau Marmont has remained a locale to which the rich and famous flock with the knowledge that most of what happens there will stay within the Chateau’s walls. From John Belushi’s fatal overdose to Lindsey Lohan’s removal from the property for failing to pay her bill, the Chateau Marmont has seen more than its fair share of scandal, and Levy chronicles it all in a highly readable and entertaining fashion. A fabulous read from start to finish! Listen to my podcast at https://www.thoughtsfromapage.com for fun author interviews. For more book reviews, check out my Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/thoughtsfro....

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette (Now on StoryGraph)

    The writing style was generally dry and uninspired, but I really wanted to know the history of this landmark. So after about 40 pages of the print version, I switched to the audio book, and it was definitely worth the listen.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Janelle Janson

    Review to come

  12. 4 out of 5

    Saturday's Child

    When I first noticed this book on Goodreads I could hardly wait to get my hands on a copy of it. When I finally did I could hardly put it down. What a story Chateau Marmont has to tell.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Thank you, Julie, for sharing this book with me! I really enjoyed it. This book traces the history of the Chateau Marmont and the 5 (I think) owners it has had throughout its lifetime. Each owner impacted the hotel differently. My favorite parts, of course, concern early Hollywood all the way up to the late 50s. The rest of the book was still interesting, mainly because of how the current owner, Andre Balazs, is working to turn it into the kind of place it really never was, but always kind of wan Thank you, Julie, for sharing this book with me! I really enjoyed it. This book traces the history of the Chateau Marmont and the 5 (I think) owners it has had throughout its lifetime. Each owner impacted the hotel differently. My favorite parts, of course, concern early Hollywood all the way up to the late 50s. The rest of the book was still interesting, mainly because of how the current owner, Andre Balazs, is working to turn it into the kind of place it really never was, but always kind of wanted to be. The Chateau was never really a "see and be seen" place, but it's becoming more so these days. I hope they are able to keep it open and viable for a long time; there is a lot of history in this place! As the rest of the Sunset Strip is slowly being replaced, it's nice that some of the original buildings are still there. On another note, I'm really sad that another hotel of similar vintage, The Garden of Allah, is long gone. It would have been another one to see. Its last owner tore it down to build a branch of Lytton Savings and Loan. This building was a modernist building with a zig-zag roof; the architect went on to design other commercial and industrial buildings in LA. However; it is now scheduled to be razed and a Frank Gehry development is coming in: "a five-building, 2.5-acre project called 8150 Sunset that would hold 65,000 square feet of commercial space, pedestrian plazas, and 229 housing units, 38 of which are affordable." (https://la.curbed.com/2019/4/23/18512...)

  14. 5 out of 5

    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

  15. 4 out of 5

    SuperWendy

    I listened to this on audio and it was a fine way to pass my daily commute. The history was interesting, although sometimes I felt the author strayed too often, and spent a little too long, on the history of the Sunset Strip in general. I "get" that it's important, but I was into this book for the hotel and the juicy celebrity gossip. In fact, just give me all the celebrity gossip. Not awesome, but still worthwhile. I listened to this on audio and it was a fine way to pass my daily commute. The history was interesting, although sometimes I felt the author strayed too often, and spent a little too long, on the history of the Sunset Strip in general. I "get" that it's important, but I was into this book for the hotel and the juicy celebrity gossip. In fact, just give me all the celebrity gossip. Not awesome, but still worthwhile.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Karyn

    A fun 3.5 rating of a book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    After sitting on my shelf for ages, I finally gave this book a listen. it is fantastic. It really delves into the history of the Chateau Marmot. The narration is wonderful & this book really transports readers to California. Learning about the storied history of the Chateau Marmot really makes me want to visit the iconic location. This is a great listen for any travel aficionado, lover of Hollywood & any history lover. I really enjoyed it!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    4.5 stars Very interesting book about the hotel Chateau Marmont on Sunset Strip from it’s beginning on a dirt hill to it’s current Hollywood status. We are taken on a journey through all the owners and what they improved upon/added and along the way we get a little (or maybe a lot) of Hollywood dirt and gossip. The author did a great job of keeping my interest up! It really made me want to read about several old Hollywood stars. Great nonfiction read!

  19. 4 out of 5

    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.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    I received this as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. When I first saw this, I was super excited about this book. I have been loving historical and historical fiction books lately, so this one really intrigued me. I honestly have to say that I was very disappointed. The book started out interesting with the history and start of Chateau Marmont in Hollywood. By the middle I was struggling to get through and had to take a very long break. I finally picked it up again and forced I received this as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. When I first saw this, I was super excited about this book. I have been loving historical and historical fiction books lately, so this one really intrigued me. I honestly have to say that I was very disappointed. The book started out interesting with the history and start of Chateau Marmont in Hollywood. By the middle I was struggling to get through and had to take a very long break. I finally picked it up again and forced myself to continue on till the end. The Castle on Sunset is the history of Chateau Marmont. It has been a home away from home for Hollywood’s greatest stars. Known for their discretion, many stars appreciated the ambience and seclusion that the Chateau Marmont provided. From Jim Morrison to Lindsay Lohan, the hotel has hosted many, developing gossip through the ages. When starting this book, it was very interesting to learn about how the Chateau Marmont came to be and the work that was put into it to start a name for itself. The tales were very entertaining in the beginning, learning which were fact, fiction, or a little of both. It’s always a great thing to start unraveling a mystery. I really started to struggle by the middle of the book. It just seemed to become a giant history textbook on the hotel. I was starting to lose interest in the stories and did not find the book entertaining. I wanted more of the stories from the past. I live in this day and age, so reading about more current events just seemed like news. The beginning, and the early days were what made the book for me. I do think that Shawn Levy presented a lot of great information. Levy did his research and knew the history and events surrounding this historic hotel. I do think that someone who really enjoys history would enjoy this book. Although I have been liking this genre, this was a bit too much for me. I do think there is an audience for this story though. Levy did an excellent job, so someone with more of an interest would really enjoy this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Anton Prosser

    There's some interesting stuff in here but there's some weird decisions about how certain things in the Marmont's history are covered. The early chapters make a big point of emphasizing that the building was frequently patronized by people who struggled to find acceptance in various ways, such as black entertainers and LGBTQ people. But I was super uncomfortable with the author writing a significant chunk about Polanski with one line spared for the victim and a weird attempt to make comparisons There's some interesting stuff in here but there's some weird decisions about how certain things in the Marmont's history are covered. The early chapters make a big point of emphasizing that the building was frequently patronized by people who struggled to find acceptance in various ways, such as black entertainers and LGBTQ people. But I was super uncomfortable with the author writing a significant chunk about Polanski with one line spared for the victim and a weird attempt to make comparisons between Polanski's legal situation and WWII era persecution and genocide in Poland. It was fucking bizarre honestly. Ultimately the book provided a timeline and some explanation of the Marmont's peculiar place in history but the choices on which Marmont legends to detail never seemed to make much sense. There's some excellent info on how the wider trends of Hollywood/social currents of the region affected the Marmont and its patrons.

  22. 5 out of 5

    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.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    It was fine. It wasn't what I was hoping for. I wanted to read more about the hotel itself and less about celebrities who have stayed there over the years. I am most likely in the minority here, wanting fewer celebrity anecdotes. Don't get me wrong, celebrity gossip can be fun to read. However, in this case I was looking more for a biography of a building. I read a book about the history of the Dakota apartment building in NYC and it was fascinating. Lots of details about the construction, the d It was fine. It wasn't what I was hoping for. I wanted to read more about the hotel itself and less about celebrities who have stayed there over the years. I am most likely in the minority here, wanting fewer celebrity anecdotes. Don't get me wrong, celebrity gossip can be fun to read. However, in this case I was looking more for a biography of a building. I read a book about the history of the Dakota apartment building in NYC and it was fascinating. Lots of details about the construction, the design, the day to day running of the building.....too bad this book wasn't more like that one.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bob Schnell

    Chateau Marmont is often the setting of scandalous gossip, rock-n-roll debauchery and Hollywood legend. Author Shawn Levy gives us a chronological history of this storied hotel/residence that highlights how it has changed over six distinct periods, based on new owners and managers. What is amazing is how little it has changed in the minds of famous bohemian-types who became lifelong fans and would never consider staying anywhere else while in Los Angeles. Many actors, writers, musicians, artists Chateau Marmont is often the setting of scandalous gossip, rock-n-roll debauchery and Hollywood legend. Author Shawn Levy gives us a chronological history of this storied hotel/residence that highlights how it has changed over six distinct periods, based on new owners and managers. What is amazing is how little it has changed in the minds of famous bohemian-types who became lifelong fans and would never consider staying anywhere else while in Los Angeles. Many actors, writers, musicians, artists and socialites have been long-term residents, not because it is in the heart of the creative city, but because it is apart from it. Though the book occasionally dips into gossip, it is more about how celebrities were able to avoid paparazzi at Chateau Marmont. Thanks to its location, it is hidden in plain sight. Until recently, there were few of the usual hotel amenities other than a staff well-trained to help residents avoid the spotlight. Yet, many movies and books have Chateau Marmont as a setting (though filming there is greatly discouraged). I look forward to spotting it now in films where I didn't notice it before. Recommended for readers with an interest in Hollywood history and the hospitality industry.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    If it had not been for all the gossipy Hollywood material, I would have flung this book repeatedly at some shabby hotel wall in irritation. Although many people will be enthralled by cheap thrills of peeping into lives of the rich and famous (like me), frankly this wasn't a well-written effort for the most part. I am surprised a reputable publisher let it get by without much heavier editorial scrutiny. Levy loves the word "and" too much, followed close behind by "but"; he is enamored by lists as If it had not been for all the gossipy Hollywood material, I would have flung this book repeatedly at some shabby hotel wall in irritation. Although many people will be enthralled by cheap thrills of peeping into lives of the rich and famous (like me), frankly this wasn't a well-written effort for the most part. I am surprised a reputable publisher let it get by without much heavier editorial scrutiny. Levy loves the word "and" too much, followed close behind by "but"; he is enamored by lists as well as frequent use of repeated phrases, often in the same sentence. There were many instances I wanted to pull out a blue pencil and go to work, but it might have lead me to my own bout with illegal substances. It is horribly repetitious, as if the readers can't even recall its location despite being reminded regularly (for instance), or the activities of actors and other tenants. That it was a den of iniquity, well, that is why most of us were fascinated into reading this history of a hotel in the first place. I felt that later chapters were stronger, though he sure spent a lot of time on Belushi's demise. I thought he did pretty good research and was interested in many of the sordid stories, though I have been dissuaded from ever picking up any of his other books, even if he is supposedly a respected journalist.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Onceinabluemoon

    As a native Californian, i really enjoyed the history of the who, what, when and where all the famous glided, trampled or quietly partook in the famed chateau. I was greatly surprised to read about the bank built across the street, my father was the president back then and I was too young to know how close he was to all the craziness. Reads like a whose who in hollywood over all the decades.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    3.5 stars

  28. 4 out of 5

    Marti

    After hearing the name of this hotel crop up a lot in books about Hollywood I purchased this on impulse. Constructed when the Sunset Strip was literally an onion field, the hotel has been "hiding in plain sight" until the 1990s when it became another overpriced velvet rope type hangout for the "new" Hollywood, which at that time consisted of the likes of Lindsey Lohan and Paris Hilton. It also gained notoriety as "the place where John Belushi died." Prior to that though, it was reminiscent of the After hearing the name of this hotel crop up a lot in books about Hollywood I purchased this on impulse. Constructed when the Sunset Strip was literally an onion field, the hotel has been "hiding in plain sight" until the 1990s when it became another overpriced velvet rope type hangout for the "new" Hollywood, which at that time consisted of the likes of Lindsey Lohan and Paris Hilton. It also gained notoriety as "the place where John Belushi died." Prior to that though, it was reminiscent of the Chelsea, (the rooms were a lot nicer even if the hotel changed hands many times, and went from from luxe to decrepit and back again). It was still cheap. However, the biggest selling point was that it had no amenities that attracted outsiders, and guests did not even have to go through the lobby to get to their rooms. Thus, it was the place to get up to no good without the paparazzi and gossip columnists finding out. It seems many of the clientele were Hollywood stars going through divorce, or New Yorkers in town for temporary long-term projects; the latter were fine with a Hollywood hotel that did not even have a pool (it was added much later). In addition to "Golden Age" icons, there are tales of more bohemian types like Gore Vidal, Hunter S, Thompson, Nicholas Ray, and photographer, Helmut Newton (who was remembered for having made the most spectacular final exit there). I have to admit, this book made me want to re-read/watch Myra Breckenridge which was written in the hotel, and was partially filmed there. Raquel Welch's character was based on a tacky sign advertising a Vegas casino which was visible from many of the rooms. It featured a revolving, scantily clad, showgirl dressed as a "cowgirl." Most of the guests hated it as it was inescapable. As Roger Debris would say: It's filled with historical goodies like that.

  29. 5 out of 5

    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.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    This book caught my attention because the Chateau Marmont pops up now and then in celebrity news, namely John Belushi. I have wondered "what's the big deal" -- and now I know. This is a really interesting and well put together history of the "apartment rental building" since it was built in 1929 up through current day (2019). The unique setup of the rooms, the emphasis on privacy, the long-term stays are unique from the standard "hotel". I enjoyed reading about this interesting establishment and This book caught my attention because the Chateau Marmont pops up now and then in celebrity news, namely John Belushi. I have wondered "what's the big deal" -- and now I know. This is a really interesting and well put together history of the "apartment rental building" since it was built in 1929 up through current day (2019). The unique setup of the rooms, the emphasis on privacy, the long-term stays are unique from the standard "hotel". I enjoyed reading about this interesting establishment and spent a long time getting through the book because I had to stop every page or two to google people and places mentioned. Very interesting!

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