Written by James Frey
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Yesterday, Could be Today, Maybe Tomorrow
Looming over Sunset glowing neon sign. Built in 1927 as a high-end apartment building. The stock marketcrashed people were jumping out of buildings not moving into them. Converted to a hotel in 1931, though the premises were not changed. Studios became rooms, apartments became suites. There’s a pool, four bungalows, a restaurant and a garden. Stone walls and thick foliage surround. Entrance to parking is tight and guarded. Long a playground for the rich, the famous, the exiled, the infamous. They live there, eat there, drink there, fuck there. Fall in love, get in fights, go on honeymoons, benders, drug binges, periods of isolation and seclusion, periods of intense productivity. Books are written, films are made, songs recorded. Careers bloom, and in some cases, careers end. F. Scott Fitzgerald went there at the end of his life, his wallet empty and his pants covered in piss. Rock Hudson met his boyfriend and planned out his future. Jim Morrison swung from the roof and fell, landing on a shed and laughing, his life flashing before his eyes. Vivian Leigh mourned Olivier, her suite covered with photographs of him. Jim Belushi died. Anything you want you can find, love hate noise silence companionship solitude chaos peace. It sits there, waiting, living, existing, for eighty years, for as long as Los Angeles exists. Looming over Sunset glowing neon sign.
One bedroom suite. Producer. Male age forty-three. Makes TV commercials. Married and lives in NY. One child. Has been in the hotel for seven days. At home he is a loving husband, doting father. A responsible neighbor, and a model citizen. At home. He is in town working on a spot for a deodorant brand. He hasworked with the director for eleven years and the director doesn’t need him on-set. He hasn’t left the property in three days. Hasn’t left his room in two. He orders food and drink from the restaurant, drugs from a local dealer, and girls from a discreet escort service. Since his arrival he’s used six grams of cocaine and fucked nine escorts, the oldest of whom was twenty. As a young man in Maryland he dreamed of being a rock star. Of traveling the world and partying and fucking anyone and everyone he wanted to fuck. It didn’t happen. He went to college and became a loving husband, doting father and responsible neighbor. But when he goes to LA, at least part of his fantasy becomes real. And he knows that within the walls, no one will judge him, including the people he works with, and no one will speak of what occurs. It is how it is at the Chateau. Part of the unwritten agreement one enters into when they walk into the lobby. Live and let live. Do not judge. Whatever happens, remains. Do not talk. He knows it, everyone who goes there somehow knows it. Do not judge. Do not talk. Thus he feels no guilt when he looks in the mirror. When he calls home. When he sends his wife an email. He’ll leave in three days. Go back to his life. And he’ll enjoy it. Because of what happened at the hotel, and what will happen again. Because despite the fact that he’s not a rock star, and he doesn’t tour the world and fuck anyone and everyone he wants, part of the dream is still alive.
Bedroom. Young couple, twenty-two and twenty-four. Met in undergraduate theater school in Central Florida. The first night they were together it was over. They talked about their dreams, the future, agreed to go to Los Angeles together. He graduated and took a job as a character at Disneyworld and waited for her. They lived together off-campus. Went to touring theater productions, movies, watched TV together. Spoke passionately about their craft, about what they needed to do to improve, about what they needed to do to succeed. After her graduation it became real. They set a date and started getting ready. They got new headshots, researched agents online, sent out cover letters, enrolled in acting classes in West Hollywood. They visited real estate sites and job boards and checked their savings and made preliminary budgets. They bought plane tickets and packed. They made a reservation at the Chateau. For one night. Their first night. To imagine themselves as stars before it happened. And they know it is going to happen. They lie in bed still flush still breathing heavily and they know. They look into each other’s eyes young and beautiful and new, everything unknown and everything still possible, everything still ahead, and they know.
One bedroom suite. French photographer, age seventyone. In the 60’s he shot Bardot and Julie Christie and Catherine Deneuve and Elizabeth Taylor. In the seventies he shot Bianca Jagger and Raquel Welch and Farrah Fawcett and Twiggy. In the 80’s he helped create the supermodel, and they all called him, and they all loved. In the 90’s it started to fade, he didn’t believe in heroin chic and missed the glamour and beauty of times past. As the century turned he realized he was old. And he realized he would die. And he tried to deny age and death and make himself relevant. He doesn’t understand reality TV. Paris and Lindsay and Kim K. make him sick. And he sits in his room, waiting for the phone to ring. He comes four times a year. And he sits in his room, waiting for the phone to ring.
One bedroom suite with dining room and balcony. American photographer, age thirty-two. Phone rings, dings, buzzes. Never stops. Paris, Lindsay, Kim K., Brittany, Rihanna, and Katy. Gaga. He doesn’t even answer it anymore. Has someone to do it for him. Carries a camera in his pocket. Two assistants have four more. On the balcony right now with a girl who sent him an email. She’s lifting up her skirt and fingering herself. He’s laughing and egging her on. This is downtime. He has four shoots in the next four days. Two editorial shoots for fashion magazines. Two fashion shoots for designers in Europe. Though he’s American, he lives in Paris. Never been married, says he never will. He’s drinking a glass of Ott and a beautiful eighteen year-old girl is playing with herself on his balcony and telling him she wants his cock in her mouth. Phone never stops. Says he never will.
Arrivals between 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm on a Thursday night:
Producer. Male. Forty-four. Makes high concept action films. Meeting a writer for a drink.
Model. Female. Age twenty-two. Lives in New York.
Dates a rock star who lives in Laurel Canyon. Coming to see an ex-boyfriend, also a rock star, who is staying in one of the bungalows.
Director. Male. Age thirty-six. Meeting an actress for a drink under the pretense of giving her a role in a film. Hoping to take her home and fuck her. Three Tourists. All male. Ages forty-six, forty-eight, forty-six. Hoping to see the bungalow where Belushi died and some hot models in the bar. They are asked to leave.
TV Studio Executive. Female. Thirty-four. Meeting a playwright from NY for a dinner, hoping to convince him to write a medical procedural for the Network, may go to his room and suck his cock if he’s cute. Three agents. All male. Aged forty, thirty-five, twentyeight. Meeting an actor currently represented by another agency for a drink.
Escort. Female. Age twenty. Meeting an actor in his room for an hour of bad sex.
Pop Star, Famous Actress, Model. All female. Twentythree. Having dinner together.
Producer. Male. Forty. Meeting actor and director for dinner.
Record Executive. Male. Thirty-six. Meeting band from his label in room for a night of drugs booze and girls.
Writer. Male. Forty-two. Arriving from NY for a week of work and meetings.
Model and Boyfriend. Male. Twenty-eight and twentysix. Date night.
Heiress. Female. Twenty-five. Dinner with friends.
Actress. Female. Twenty-four. Meeting director for drink to talk about film role. If she thinks it’s real and she has a chance she’ll go back to his house and let him do anything he wants to her.
Heiress. Female. Twenty-eight. Dinner with friends.
British Comedian. Male. Thirty. Hotel guest returning James Frey James Frey from set.
Studio Executive. Thirty-eight. Meeting with director about new high-concept action franchise
Two bedroom suite. Husband and wife. Married twelve years. Two children, boy six and girl eight. Live in Cleveland. He’s a lawyer and she’s at home with the kids. Her sister is an actress. Moved to LA seven years ago. Tonight sister has a premiere. Her first big starring role. In a studio film. Sister flew husband and wife out for the event. Got them the room. Wanted to celebrate with them. Walk down the red carpet together. Share the dream that actually came true. Wife has been ill. Headaches and fatigue. Went to doctor four days ago for check-up and tests. Didn’t tell sister. Didn’t want to dull the shine. Just had breakfast in bed, the first time in almost a decade. The phone rang. Wife answered. The doctor subdued, serious. Delivers the news. Worst case scenario, brain, lungs, liver, blood. Terminal. Husband is holding wife as she cries. Telling her he loves her. They both know that when they leave the room, the news will stay within it. That tonight is about the sister, her dreams, years and years of work, her joy, her success. They both know that however long they have together, this night may be their last fun, exciting, over-the-top evening. Husband is holding wife as she cries. Telling her he loves her.
They met in a clothing store. He was in town for a day, going to see the Lakers in the playoffs, forgot to bring a sweater and went to get one. She was looking at a handbag, an expensive handbag, nothing she could afford, just something she wanted to see. He lived in Seattle, where he retired at twenty-six after writing some indispensable code. She was the best-looking girl in her small town in North Dakota and moved here for the sun. He saw her and more than love at first sight, he felt an overwhelming urge need desire to take her, have her, own her, fuck her in every way he could and she would let him. Love actually had nothing to do with it. It was brutal, beautiful physical lust. She saw him staring at her and thought he was cute. He said hello and asked her to lunch. Although he was nervous and scared (software geeks, even though rich, aren’t known for scoring hot chicks), he couldn’t stop himself, and started rubbing her thigh under the table. She was impressed by his boldness and didn’t stop him. They went from lunch to the bungalow, where they have been for the last three days. He’s had her in every way he wanted, and several that she taught him. She’s fallen for a type of man she never expected to meet in LA. They haven’t spoken about the future. They have a bed, a TV, room service, the pool the restaurant, and fresh sheets every day. The future will come. Right now they have each other.
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It’s small, oddly bean shaped, the bottom is scratchy. The patio around it is concrete. The chairs simple folding chaise. A couple spots for lunch. A ping-pong table. At any given time, it could be empty, there could be a topless supermodel, a rockstar getting drunk, a fat studio executive getting sunburned while his mistress gets a massage, a couple in the water fucking (could be man/woman, could be man/man, could be woman/woman). There are English smoking, French smoking, Italians smoking. Writers sitting and reading, maybe a notebook next to them, maybe a phone, artists with pencil and paper, actors with scripts. There are lunches, dinner, parties, fights. Epic battles with the paddles and ball. Quiet moments away from everything outside the walls. And there is the sun, always the sun, ever the sun.
They come in and out of the back gate, where it is harder for the photographers to find them. They rent both of the hillside bungalows so no else can come near them, the studio pays for both. They met three years ago on the first of the series’ three films. He was unknown, she was unknown, he was cast as a brooding shapeshifter who had lived for 500 years, she was cast as his human love interest. The films were based on bestselling teen novels with a loyal and maniacal fanbase. They kissed their first day on set, in front of 200 people with cameras rolling, and neither enjoyed it. They kissed for twelve of the next fourteen days, always in front of 200 people, with cameras rolling, and both started to enjoy it more. They hung out between takes, ate lunch together, became friends. Pictures leaked, and assumptions were made, they were in love, madly impossibly in love, just like the characters they played. And while it wasn’t true, both knew, and the producers, director, publicist and studio knew, that the speculation was good for the film. So played it up, held hands, kissed at the end of every day, went out in public together, until they no longer could because of the swarm of paparazzi that started following them. It was fun, a game, acting on top of acting, a public role to go with the roles they were playing in the film, which came out and made 250 million dollars. They continued between the films, and at some point it stopped being a role, and became real, two kids, barely twenty, famous beyond their dreams, living in a bubble, legitimately in love. There was nowhere to hide. Wherever they went they were followed. Their every move documented, examined, commented upon. They went overseas it didn’t stop. They bought a house it didn’t stop. They used decoys it didn’t stop. There was nowhere to hide. So they didn’t. They just checked-in, took over the hill, both bungalows, and never left. Everything they needed they had brought. They used one bungalow to sleep, one for hanging out. They slept in the grass, swam in the pool, ate in the restaurant. No one cared. Because of the young audience, and highly commercial nature of their work, the other inhabitants of the hotel didn’t actually think they were that cool. And the paps couldn’t get to them, see them, take their picture. And though they knew their lives were no longer normal, they did their best, within the bubble, within the boundaries. They checked-in and never left. Still there today. And though the last of the films has come out, they don’t plan on leaving. They have money, time, privacy and each other.
Bedroom. Male. Age fifty-one. Dude loved the 80’s. Fucking loved them. The strip was jumping and the world was on fire. The era of Zeppelin and The Who and Pink Floyd and high-concept British bands was over and rock ‘n’ roll had returned to where it belonged. The United Sates of motherfucking America. LA Rock City. Sunset fucking Boulevard. He came west from Missouri, drawn by hair and drugs and guitars and amplifiers and pussy. His daddy had been a farmer who taught him country guitar as kid and he could play metal solos like a motherfucker. He joined a band, they played loud and hard, and rocked till fucking dawn, and the band got a deal, just like every other band playing around the Strip at that time. They released four albums, had six songs on the Billboard charts, and toured with Mötley Crüe and Poison. More importantly, he got drunk, high and laid all over the goddamn world. Whatever money came, went. On cars, blow, leather and girls. From ’81 to ’89, metal ruled the world, absolutely ruled the world. And then it ended. Like a line of blow up a frontman’s nose, the whole movement just disappeared. Dude was confused, angry, upset. The clubs were empty and the records stopped selling and he had to figure out what to do. Aside from shredding metal, he had no skills, no experience. He went to Europe, hoping the universal metal spirit was still strong on the Continent, but alas, those fuckers were rocking Nirvana and Pearl Jam same as America. So he went back to Missouri. And he got a job at a bar, where he made extra tips telling stories about his days in LA. And once a year, he went back. He pulled out the leather, blew out the hair, and stepped into the boots. Carefully applied the eyeliner. Painted the motherfucking nails. And got a room at the Chateau Marmont. Not just any room, but room 69, the best fucking room in LA, for all of the memories, and all of the possibilities. Staring into the mirror before he heads down to the Rainbow Room, he’s smiling. It might not be 1986, but he’s still got it, and he can still fucking rock.
Random sampling of people eating and drinking at the outdoor garden tables on a Thursday evening at 9:00 pm.
Fourtop: Two movie producers working in partnership, a director, his actress girlfriend.
Twotop: Two entertainment journalists
Fourtop: Australian model, British rockstar, American actor, stylist.
Fourtop: Studio executive, agent, writer
Twotop: Actor and actress
Sixtop: Novelist from NY, novelist from LA, two agents, boyfriend of LA novelist, manager.
Eight-top: American female pop star, English female pop star, two actresses, Brazilian model, hairdresser
Fourtop: Record executive, manager, two lawyers
Twotop: Cuple visiting from Boston, slightly overwhelmed
Fourtop: Two actors, two actresses
Twotop: Writer and director
Fourtop: Actor, manager, agent, lawyer
Fourtop: French model, actor, female pop star, drug dealer
Two bedroom penthouse. If walls could talk. If floors could talk. If couches and tables and mirrors and plants could talk. If terrace stones and balcony rails could talk. Oh, if the beds could fucking talk, the stories they’d tell, the stories they’d tell. Hedge Fund Manager from NY visiting clients. Wakes in the morning and does yoga on the terrace as the sun rises. Eats breakfast and reads the journal and speaks to the office in NY, changes some positions, leaves others. Says good morning to his wife and wishes his children a fine day before their driver takes them to school. He showers, gets dressed, spends the day talking about money and growth and basis points and investment strategies. When he comes back, his boyfriend, who lives in a house in West Hollywood paid for by the Fund Manager, is waiting for him. They make love, sweet sweet love, after which they each get massages from masseuses brought into the hotel. They shower, separately, and dress for the dinner party they are having on the terrace. Six other men arrive, they spend the evening drinking Ott and nibbling on scallops. After they leave, the Manager and the boyfriend make sweet sweet love a second time, before the boyfriend departs for his own home. The Manager spends one week a month in the hotel. Each day is the same, though the number of dinner guests varies.
Male or female, they dress well, smile, are extremely polite. They answer questions, and if they do not know the answer, they find it. They will make reservations, get directions, find tickets, rent cars, schedule doctors appointments, whatever a guest may want or need. They are young, good-looking, friendly. When you arrive they hand you a key from a cupboard behind them, an old school key hanging from a maroon tassel, almost impossible to lose. The key, which is functional, is also symbolic. You have entered a world. It is not the outside world, nor is it a world for everyone. You can do what you want here, as long as you’re respectful to other guests, and to the property, and to the history of the place, of which you are now part. Enjoy yourself. May all of your dreams come true, and should they become nightmares, may you survive them. The front desk, and those who stand behind it, dressed well, smiling and extremely polite, have seen and heard things you can only imagine, they happen every day, and you shouldn’t get lost in them or let them scare you. Take a deep breath and relax. You’re home now. There’s nothing sweeter.
© 2016 James Frey