Los Angeles’s Chateau Marmont is modeled after a royal hideout in France’s Loire Valley and has also long been a place for the world’s rich and famous to hide out and act like assholes without fear of having that behavior leaked to the press. For example, the historically creepy Howard Hughes is rumored to have rented room 64 for its pool view in order to watch women through binoculars while simultaneously refusing to share elevators with Black employees or let them park his car.
After speaking with 30 employees at the Chateau, The Hollywood Reporter makes it sound like not a whole lot has changed in the 30 years since hotelier André Balazs made the Chateau the crown jewel of his collection. Former employees say that Black guests are routinely seated in the secluded dining area rather than the more visible and trendy garden area and that even celebrities like Tiffany Haddish have been questioned about what they’re doing at the hotel.
For employees, of course, it’s reportedly even worse. Latinx kitchen workers say a supervisor routinely yelled racial slurs at them, but that they feared retaliation from HR for reporting and remained silent. Another employee, a Black man, says that he reported a white woman colleague for sending a series of sexually explicit text messages—including an image of a used condom reading, “I’d just appreciate some more compassion”—but that he received “constant ghosting” by everyone from his supervisor to an HR rep when he attempted to follow up on the complaint.
Stories of predatory sexual behavior are part of the Chateau’s notoriety; it’s the place where 43-year-old director Nicholas Ray lived with a then-16-year-old Natalie Wood while filming Rebel Without a Cause. And Balazs allegedly has kept up that tradition as well. After being accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and assault in 2017, including Jason Bateman’s wife Amanda Anka, who says he grabbed her crotch at a premiere of Horrible Bosses 2, five employees say that Balazs similarly touched them inappropriately while inebriated. Others say he often does cocaine in full view of the guests, which is again in accordance with the hotel’s often tragic place in Hollywood history; the Chateau is where John Belushi died of an overdose and Jim Morrison once fell from its second story in the final year of his life.
The high-profile clientele and reported culture of permissiveness take a toll on staff, who say that they often don’t bother telling anyone about encounters that make them uncomfortable, since management does not seem to take complaints seriously. A member of the cleaning crew told The Hollywood Reporter that a guest who masturbated in front of her continued on as a regular at the hotel and others say that VIP guests, called AB at the hotel, routinely ask staff for weird favors, like rubbing lotion on them or taking photographs of employees for “keepsakes,” but the behavior is so common they’ve ceased to inform management.
In response to the allegations, Balazs wrote to THR that the hotel’s employee handbook prohibits sexual harassment, assault, and verbal abuse, but if such things manage to happen anyway, he’ll definitely look into it:
“If, for any reason, our exceedingly clear ‘Code of Conduct’— which everyone must read and sign as a pre-condition of their employment — has been violated, it is my first, singular and moral obligation to correct it — and I will!” his statement read, in part.
It seems the owner isn’t the only person simply stunned to learn that working at a hotel with a reputation for holding no rich people accountable for bad behavior isn’t fun for the people tasked with coddling them:
A veteran business associate of the hotelier, made aware of the scope of THR’s inquiry, lamented: ‘I’m reconsidering the Chateau through a totally different lens now. All of the talk of it being a ‘playground,’ of it exalting ‘privacy.’ It really was just a system that protected white men in power.’
One of my all-time favorite pieces of Chateau Marmont lore is the one about Lindsay Lohan being banned in the aughts after living in a suite for three months before bailing on a $46,000 bill spent ordering Marlboros and copies of Architectural Digest. And while I certainly believe the employees challenged with coddling Lohan most likely have their own horrific stories to tell, I do love the idea of Lindsay speeding away down Sunset Boulevard with a convertible full of cigarettes and magazines stolen from a man who couldn’t deserve it more.