Friday, February 3, 2012

Iconic LA: Chateau Marmont

THE WORDS "Chateau Marmont" are synonymous with old glamour and luxury. The name alone conjures up pictures of stony castle walls and a high, imposing tower rising above Sunset Boulevard, appearing as a beacon to celebrities. The words, written on a lightly faded brown sign in lightly faded white letters, rise above the foliage that surrounds the hotel and glow softly in the nighttime. This stands in stark contrast to the other sign nearby - the one that glows brightly and draws people in with the promise of one thing: Liquor. Though the hotel is modeled after a royal residence in France, the scenery surrounding it couldn’t be any further from that depiction. Across the street, a strip mall complete with a McDonald’s shines in the darkness. Head lights and tail lights rush past. Everyone has somewhere to be.

Go there and the probability of running into a celebrity is high. The probability of getting in to the restaurant, as I understand, is substantially lower unless a reservation has been made far in advance, or you enjoy a certain “status.” It is a miniature castle peering out over the palm trees and billboards. The hotel is surrounded by bushy vibrant shrubbery which partly obscure it and add a barrier to keep out the rest of the boulevard.

At night the driveway to valet for the bar is usually softly lit, but drive by after a big event and it will be punctuated by the flashing bulbs of the paparazzi clamoring to take the best picture of the most important celebrities in attendance.

Chateau Marmont is a promise of old glamour, different from the promises of newer, modern hotels like The Standard which feature sleek lines and colorful lights. The stony hallways of the Chateau are filled with stories; legends of celebrities who have lived there, who have died there, and who have partied there.

Every time I drive by, I want to go in. Every time, there is an excuse. What if it doesn’t live up to my expectations? Worse, what if it does and I only get a moment there? I am not going to be a regular there, but there is that clinging hope that that’s only temporary. That one day, at some point, I will be a part of the mystery. Not just an outsider trying to look in.

The Chateau remains elevated and imposing, enveloped in its own mythic splendor, and this is the very reason it stands out from the rest of the street. Even the nature is excessive. Where else on a busy Los Angeles street could so much foliage be found? The Chateau has managed to create its own little world; an escape protected by castle walls and hazy glamour.

--Allie Flinn
photo credit: Keturah Stickann via flickr creative commons

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