June 4, 2017

Chateau Marmont, West Hollywood, CA. October, 2007

The first time I went to Los Angeles was on business in 1981. I was working at The Caption Center at WGBH Boston, and just before my trip, we were told that there was a real chance our department would shut down. I quickly changed my reservation from the Motel 6 to the Chateau Marmont. I knew nothing about the hotel except what I’d read in Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckenridge: that Garbo had always stayed there, that it had a faded splendor, that a huge lady cowboy sign revolved outside, that it had history. That was more than enough for me. I arrived to the great news that The Marmont had no more single rooms available, would a small suite be OK? I loved the place right off -- the small, shaded pool, the Spanish colonial atmosphere, the whispered conversations, the cool tiled floors, the huge sunglasses everyone wore, the haunted secrecy of it all. (Who, I wondered, had occupied my suite in the past?) That night, I took a walk along Sunset Boulevard (I had to!) and was stopped by the police: Why was I walking? I quickly learned that respectable Los Angelinos rarely walk anywhere, least of all along The Sunset Strip, least of all at night. Whatever. Years later, the Chateau Marmont was the scene of John Belushi’s highly publicized drug overdose, and since then it has undergone a major facelift with a consequent skyrocketing of prices. Still, that magical first visit remains with me to this day.

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