Celeb scouting in West L.A. and the Hills.
When I told my friends I had booked a room at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, most of them thought it was a ghoulish choice.
“Isn’t that the place where John Belushi died?” they asked.
Yes, Belushi did die of a drug overdose in one of the bungalow apartments at the Chateau, a castle-like structure that looms over Sunset Boulevard. But I was attracted to the place because it’s been a Hollywood hangout since the 1930s, welcoming guests from Clark Gable to Marlon Brando to the Rolling Stones.
But I almost changed my mind the day before a recent stay, when I read an online review that said the place had become more shabby than chic, and that you were treated with icy indifference by the staff unless you were Vanity Fair cover material.
Happily, I didn’t cancel my reservation, because I had a fabulous time at the Chateau. The staff was warm and friendly, and didn’t care a bit that I was a nobody. We were ushered to a huge room down the hall from the cozy lobby. True, those demanding sleek, state-of-the-art accommodations might have been disappointed. The bathroom appeared to have the original Spanish tiles, and some of them were cracked. The light switches had push-button on and off switches, the kind I’ve seen in photographs from the ’30s. But I found that charming. And the room had all the modern conveniences I needed, from a plasma TV to a CD player.
Another nice touch that I didn’t believe at first: Atop the mini-bar was a complimentary basket of snacks, from Newman’s Own popcorn to gourmet chocolates and cookies.
I spent a lot of time sitting on the comfortable chairs and couches in the library lounge off the lobby, and swimming in the small pool in the lushly landscaped garden that had a Key West flavor. OK, I admit, I had one eye on my book and another subtly searching for celebrities. But I decided any celebrity guests were safely sequestered in one of the bungalows.
On our second night, I asked the desk clerk for help in getting tickets to the Hollywood Bowl, where the acclaimed Chinese pianist Lang Lang was playing with the Hollywood Bowl orchestra. The desk clerk said excitedly that she was going, too, and gave me great advice on which tickets to pick.
We took a taxi for the trip to the bowl, which is set dramatically in the Hollywood Hills. When we were a mile away, the cabbie did something no cab driver had ever done: He suggested that the traffic was so bad, that it would be faster and cheaper if we got out and walked!
So we did, arriving just in time for a fabulous concert that ranged from Tchaikovsky to contemporary Chinese music, with a fireworks finale thrown in. More than 12,000 people attended the performance, and I was impressed by how quiet and attentive they were. The crowd was a real celebration of L.A.’s diversity, too. There were plenty of Chinese, of course, but also Hispanics, blacks, Europeans, Russians and everybody in between. And at 57, I was by far one of the oldest members of the audience. Wouldn’t the Florida West Coast Symphony love to be drawing the young, hip audience members who surrounded me?