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10 Surprising Facts About the Chateau Marmont Hotel

Few places evoke old Hollywood glamour quite like the Chateau Marmont hotel on Sunset Boulevard. Though it has been operating as a hotel for 85 years, the hotel—which was designated as a cultural landmark in 1976—has lost none of its sheen, and continues to attract actors young and old, who make use of the property as a party venue, press conference setting, low-key hideaway, or site of debauchery. Celebrity-spotting is almost inevitable, but it’s important to keep your cool; staring is considered very unsophisticated at the Chateau.

1. IT BEGAN LIFE AS AN APARTMENT HOUSE.

Given its close association with Tinseltown, it seems appropriate that the Chateau Marmont—which was loosely modeled after France’s Château d'Amboise (one-time home of Mary, Queen of Scots and assumed to be Leonardo da Vinci’s final resting place)—opened in 1929, the same year as the very first Academy Awards ceremony. Originally functioning as an apartment building, the property struggled to retain tenants during the Depression, leading its owner to sell the building, which was converted to a hotel in 1931.

2. LOTS OF CELEBRITIES HAVE GOTTEN UP TO NO GOOD WHILE LIVING HERE.

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Too many stars to list have set up temporary home at the Chateau Marmont, most without incident, so let’s just focus on those that got up to no good. “If you must get in trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont,” Columbia Pictures founder Harry Cohen famously advised his young stars, and many generations of actors and musicians have taken him at his word. Jean Harlow was rumored to have conducted an affair with Clark Gable here; 44-year-old film director Nicholas Ray shacked up in one of the bungalows with 16-year-old Natalie Wood, whom he would later cast in Rebel Without a Cause; and James Dean jumped through the roof of Bungalow Number Two while auditioning for the same movie. Jim Morrison said he used up the “eighth of nine lives” trying to swing from the roof; Howard Hughes spied on women lounging by the pool through binoculars from his penthouse suite (room number 64); and Billy Idol trashed his room because his French fries came with truffle oil poured over them rather than on the side, as he had so reasonably requested.

3. LINDSAY LOHAN AND BRITNEY SPEARS WERE BOTH BANNED FROM THE HOTEL.

Michael Buckner/Getty Images for GQ

If that all makes it sound like it’s impossible to be banned from the hotel, note that Lindsay Lohan was kicked out of Suite 33 for running up a $46,350.04 bill in 2012 and, previously, Britney Spears had been ejected when guests complained about her smearing food across her face (2007 was a dark time for Britney). However, publicly reporting on bad celeb behavior is much more frowned upon by the discreet hotel, as writer Jenn Hoffman found out in 2011 when she tweeted about “hot mess” model Rachel Hunter being so drunk “she was doing splits and trying on random people’s glasses.” Hoffman was banned for a year.

4. A FEW CELEBRITIES HAVE BEHAVED QUITE ADMIRABLY.

Lest you think it’s all hedonism and naughty behavior at the Chateau, some more touching stories have taken place there. After a near-fatal car crash in 1956, Montgomery Clift was nursed back to health at the Chateau by none other than the divine Elizabeth Taylor, who, at the scene of the accident, had saved him from choking on his own tooth by picking it out of his tongue.

5. JOHN BELUSHI DIED IN BUNGALOW THREE.

Those who have lived long-term at the hotel include Greta Garbo and Robert De Niro, but it is perhaps more famous for a notable death. On March 5, 1982, a few weeks before the Oscars, John Belushi—the 33-year-old star of SNL, The Blues Brothers, and Animal Housepassed away in Bungalow Three after injecting a speedball of heroin and cocaine. Belushi is said to have been on an all-night binge that night, beginning at The Roxy on the Sunset Strip before returning to the hotel, where he spent some time with Robin Williams and Robert De Niro (they left before the incident).

German-Australian fashion photographer Helmut Newton also lost his life at the Chateau Marmont, where he had retained a residence for a few years and shot many photographs. While leaving the hotel, the 83-year-old’s Cadillac sped out of control and hit a wall.

6. IT HAS INSPIRED MOVIES, MUSIC, AND LITERATURE.

Not just a hangout for those in the entertainment industries, the Chateau has also provided inspiration for writers, filmmakers, and musicians. It appeared in Sofia Coppola’s 2010 film Somewhere, and in the opening scene of the ill-fated Lindsay Lohan and James Deen vehicle The Canyons. Lana Del Ray namechecked the hotel in “Off to the Races” and Scott Weiland named a whole song after it. The Day of the Locust and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were both written here, and Hunter S. Thompson and Dorothy Parker both produced work while staying at the hotel. While it has never been confirmed, it is assumed that the hotel was the inspiration for The Eagles’ “Hotel California.”

7. NO, F. SCOTT FITZGERALD DID NOT HAVE A HEART ATTACK HERE.

Contrary to rumor, F. Scott Fitzgerald did not have a heart attack at the Chateau. Rather, it happened across the street, at Schwab’s Drug Store, in 1940. Nevertheless, the hotel plays up its connection to the writer by naming one of its signature cocktails the “Daisy Buchanan.”

8. ITS AMENITIES ARE IMPRESSIVE.

Star-studded history and discreet service aside, the Chateau offers a stellar roster of Hollywood starlet-ready amenities. It can arrange a private trainer for you, if you wish, and will even provide you with a rolling rack to store all those movie premiere-ready gowns you simply must travel with for a mere $30 a day. Pets are welcome, too, for a $150 non-refundable deposit.

9. ITS HISTORY DOESN’T COME CHEAP.

Chateau Marmont/Facebook

Starting at $911 a night, you can take your pick from 63 rooms, including 23 suites and four bungalows. But to really go for the A-list Hollywood vibe, opt for Number 64, the two-bedroom penthouse with a 1500-square-foot terrace—which can be yours for a mere $4500 per night.

10. IT’S EARTHQUAKE-PROOF.

Worried about the Big One? Designed as Los Angeles’s first earthquake-proof apartment building, the Chateau Marmont has survived every major earthquake since being built, standing tall throughout the quakes of 1933, 1953, 1971, 1987, and 1994 without any major structural damage.

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Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
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The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, MLive.com reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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15 Fascinating Facts About the Brooklyn Bridge
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Don't agree to buy it, but you can never know too much about the most famous way to get across the East River—which officially opened 135 years ago, on May 24, 1883.

1. THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE NEEDED A LITTLE BRIBERY TO GET STARTED.

In its initial conception, the Brooklyn Bridge had an honorable goal: Providing safe passage across the rough and frigid East River for Brooklyn residents who worked in Manhattan. In the 1850s, Prussian-born engineer John Augustus Roebling dreamed of a suspension bridge that would make the commute easier for these working class New Yorkers.

However, the methods employed to get the project rolling weren’t quite as honorable. After Roebling was hired by the New York Bridge Company to help span the river, infamous political kingpin William “Boss” Tweed funneled $65,000 in bribes to city aldermen to secure funding for the bridge.

2. THE BRIDGE HAS GONE BY SEVERAL NAMES.

“Brooklyn Bridge” seems like a natural handle for the hybrid suspension and cable-stayed bridge connecting lower Manhattan to its neighbor across the East River, but the name evolved over time. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle first referred to the project as the “Brooklyn Bridge” in 1867, but in its early days it was still referred to as the “Great East River Bridge” as well as the “Great East River Suspension Bridge." At its 1883 dedication, it took on the clunky official name the “New York and Brooklyn Bridge.” (Brooklyn wouldn’t become a part of New York City until 1898.) Brooklyn civic pride led to the name officially changing to the “Brooklyn Bridge” in 1915.

3. ROEBLING PAID A HIGH PRICE FOR THE BRIDGE.

The Brooklyn Bridge was Roebling’s brainchild, but he wouldn’t live to see its completion. While making measurements for the future bridge in 1869, a ferry crushed Roebling’s foot. The engineer developed tetanus as a result of these wounds and passed away in July 1869.

4. ROEBLING’S SON TOOK HIS PLACE AND HAD EQUALLY BAD LUCK.

After Roebling’s death, his son Washington Augustus Roebling stepped in as the bridge project’s chief engineer. The younger Roebling soon developed a problem of his own. To build the structure’s massive foundation, workers labored in caissons, sealed chambers that kept the riverbed dry and allowed for digging. Breathing and working deep in the caissons required compressed air, which meant workers who came up from the depths were vulnerable to “caisson disease,” better known today as the bends. In 1872, Roebling came down with this decompression sickness and was confined to bed.

5. THE PROJECT BECAME AN EARLY FEMINIST VICTORY.

After Washington Roebling fell ill, a third Roebling stepped in as the de facto chief engineer of the bridge, his wife, Emily Warren Roebling. Although Emily began her tenure running orders between her husband, who was laid up in a Brooklyn Heights apartment with a view of construction, and his workers, she soon took bona fide command of the project, overseeing the design, construction, and business management of the tremendous undertaking. Emily Warren Roebling is now widely recognized as a pioneering female engineer and a driving force behind the bridge. Following her work on the bridge, Emily went on to earn a degree in law from New York University and published essays in favor of gender equality.

6. A ROOSTER MADE THE FIRST TRIP ACROSS THE BRIDGE.

Technically, the rooster was tied for first. Emily Warren Roebling earned the honor of being the first human to make the trip across the historic bridge, riding proudly in a carriage a week before its official opening in front of an audience that included President Chester A. Arthur. Sitting in Emily’s lap all the while was a rooster, a symbol of good luck.

7. THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE WAS THE WORLD’S FIRST STEEL-WIRE SUSPENSION BRIDGE.

John Augustus Roebling himself is credited with introducing the steel-wire innovation into bridge design. The engineer proudly referred to steel as “the metal of the future.”

8. A SNEAKY CONTRACTOR INTRODUCED LOW-QUALITY WIRE INTO THE MIX.

Construction materials were accumulated under the watch of John Augustus Roebling, who failed to notice that he had been swindled on his cable wire. Contractor J. Lloyd Haigh snuck a substantial amount of inferior, even faulty, wire into the mix. The flaw went unrecognized until after the wires were incorporated into the standing bridge, at which point replacing them was impossible. Instead, the construction team doubled down on its security measures, introducing far more wire than calculations deemed necessary while working desperately to keep the discovery from reaching the public. For his part, Haigh escaped prosecution for this crime, but was arrested and convicted for forgery in an unrelated case. 

9. THE BRIDGE WAS THE SITE OF A STAMPEDE SOON AFTER OPENING.

The Brooklyn Bridge opened to the public on May 24, 1883 and enjoyed a fairly harmonious first five days in operation. On May 30, however, disaster struck when either a woman tripping or a rumor of a pending collapse sparked a panic among the massive crowd of pedestrians crossing the bridge. The mob’s frantic race to escape the bridge resulted in the deaths of 12 people and serious injuries to 36 more.

10. TWENTY-ONE ELEPHANTS WALKED ACROSS THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE IN 1884.

How do you convince one of America’s busiest cities that its newest bridge can offer safe transport to its many commuters? Elephants. Since the most common haven for trained elephants in the 1880s was a circus tent, the city called upon entrepreneurial showman P.T. Barnum to march 21 elephants across the Brooklyn Bridge in May of 1884 to show just how sturdy the span was.

11. COMPARTMENTS IN THE BRIDGE WERE USED FOR STORING WINE.

If you think a nice glass of wine would be the perfect companion for a moonlit stroll across a river, this is the bridge for you. Engineers built sizeable vaults that were up to 50 feet tall into the bridge beneath its anchorages. Thanks to their cool temperatures, these granite-walled storage spaces made the perfect wine cellars, and they were rented out to the public until World War I. The company A. Smith & Co. Productions forked over $500 a month as rent for the Brooklyn-side vaults, while the liquor distributor Luyties Brothers paid a pretty $5000 for the prime real estate beneath the Manhattan anchorage.

12. ANOTHER COMPARTMENT WAS TURNED INTO A FALLOUT SHELTER.

At some point during the Cold War, one of the bridge’s compartments transformed into a survival shelter stocked with food and water rations and medical supplies. After fading into obscurity after the close of the Cold War, this fallout shelter was rediscovered in 2006 during a routine structural inspection of the bridge.

13. NOBODY CAN FIGURE OUT EXACTLY WHAT COLOR THE BRIDGE WAS.

Upon the announcement of a plan to repaint the Brooklyn Bridge in 2010, controversy erupted over the landmark’s original color. Some historians insisted that the young suspension bridge wore a proud buff color, renamed “Brooklyn Bridge Tan” for the modern makeover. (The option of “Queensborough Tan” drew groans.) On the other side of the battle, old documents and hand-colored lithographs supported the argument that the icon’s original color was “Rawlins Red,” a hue derived from the iron-oxide from the eponymous mountain town of southern Wyoming. In the end, Brooklyn Bridge Tan won out.

14. THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE STANDS WHERE GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT.

The Manhattan anchorage of the Brooklyn Bridge features a bronze plaque commemorating the land below as the former location of the country’s first presidential mansion. Known alternatively as the Samuel Osgood House and the Walter Franklin House, the Lower Manhattan mansion served as the home of George Washington during his first ten months as America’s Commander-in-Chief. The residence stood at the intersection of Cherry Street and Pearl Street for 85 years before its demolition in 1856.

15. THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE WAS THE LONGEST IN THE WORLD FOR 20 YEARS.

Just two years before starting work on his New York project, John Augustus Roebling made a bit of suspension bridge history with the humbly named John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, which spanned 1057 feet over the Ohio River between Covington, Ky. and Cincinnati. Roebling put that endeavor to shame with the Brooklyn Bridge, which bested its predecessor’s principal span by about 50 percent. Boasting a main span of 1595 feet and a total measurement of 5,989 feet, the Brooklyn Bridge held the superlative of longest suspension bridge in the world for two decades. When it finally lost the title in 1903, its successor was none other than its fellow East River crossing the Williamsburg Bridge. The latter’s main span bested the Brooklyn Bridge’s by only four and a half feet, though its total length reached 7308 feet.

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