647: Life at the Marmont by Raymond Sarlot and Fred Basten

by Gerard


647.9279494: Sarlot, Raymond and Fred E. Basten. Life at the Marmont: The Inside Story of Hollywood’s Legendary Hotel of the Stars—Chateau Marmont. New York: Penguin, 2013 [1987]. 328 pp. ISBN 978-0-14-312311-8.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 600: Technology
  • 640: Home and family management
  • 647: Management of public households (Institutional housekeeping)
  • 647.9: Specific kinds of public households and institutions
  • 647.92: Dwellings for long-term residents
  • +79494: Los Angeles

In Life at the Marmont, Raymond Sarlot and Fred E. Basten gives us a dazzling array of Hollywood stories, city history, and film trivia. The Chateau Marmont was conceived as a home away from home for the Hollywood elite, a place to establish a residence where you wanted to escape the film lots. Marmont was built as one of Los Angeles’s first earthquake-proof buildings. This, as well as its signature posh look, attracted a full range of famous clientele. It served as the playground for the likes of Hedy Lamarr, Clark Gable, Ernest Borgnine, Dorothy Parker, Jean Harlow, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and many more.

If you’re a lover of old-timey Hollywood figures, then this book will be a treasure trove of trivia and tabloid info. Nellita Choate Thomsen, writing for the Hearst newspapers as Pauline Payne, uncovered delicious details about chateau residents and her gossip columns form the basis for much of the early day-to-day history of the hotel. After that, the authors reconstruct the goings-on from check-in cards, employee scrapbooks, and personal recollections. He tracks the hotel’s history from its construction through the late 1980s.

In addition to all the celebrity glitz, they also makes a concerted effort to applaud the work and dedication of the employees of the Marmont. From the iron horse maid Frieda to the ageless manager Meemi Ferguson to the ever-rotating gaggle of boys parking classic cars in the garage, the author understands that without their tireless service and quasi-tight-lipped adoration, the Marmont would not have the mystique it has today. Even now, the Chateau is host to such celebrities as Robert De Niro, Johnny Depp, and Penelope Cruz.

There were just so many details, I couldn’t stop reading this one—I just gobbled it up. Granted, I found the bits about the Golden Age of Hollywood a bit more interesting, but seeing the hotel change and adapt to more modern problems was also charming. This book has an overwhelming gossipy feel to it, but sometimes that’s just what you need after a shelf-load of dry nonfiction. It’s fun to escape into a glamorous time for a while, and Life at the Marmont was just that—an escape.