Historic Hotels | Social Sciences, May 2019

Will appeal most to Hollywood history buffs, but may also pique the interest of general readers with its yarns of various stars; highly recommended for history or hospitality aficionados

Levy, Shawn. The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont. Doubleday. May 2019. 384p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780385543163. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385543170. HIST
Chateau Marmont has a long history in Hollywood. Its original design as stand-alone apartments that were converted to a hotel and bungalows provided the ideal location for extended stays, and many celebrities came to value its privacy and low-key ambience. Former film critic Levy (Rat Pack Confidential) tells the history of the hotel in six significant parts, following it throughout the decades as it passed through the hands of both adoring and indifferent owners. Throughout Chateau Marmont’s evolution, Sunset Boulevard below also underwent many changes, from a small strip in the 1920s surrounded by undeveloped hills to its current incarnation as a tourist destination. Levy shows how these changes in culture and clientele created a lasting impact and effectively describes the various imprints people left on the hotel, as movies were filmed and songs were written there, and people chose to spend the last moments of their lives on the property.
VERDICT Levy focuses on Chateau Marmont as a living entity, bringing it to life through its guests and the changes on the Sunset Strip. This will appeal most to Hollywood history buffs, but may also pique the interest of general readers with its yarns of various stars.—Stacy Shaw, Denver

Satow, Julie. The Plaza: The Secret Life of America’s Most Famous Hotel. Twelve: Grand Central. Jun. 2019. 384p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781455566679. $29; ebk. ISBN 9781455566662. HIST
There is more to the Plaza Hotel than Kay Thompson’s famous character Eloise, although she remains one of its most ­well-known residents. Over its 111-year history, the Plaza has had multiple owners, even passing through Donald Trump’s hands before he lost it in a bankruptcy filing in 1992. Of course, there have also been myriad celebrated guests, starting with Alfred Vanderbilt (Guest No. 1) and continuing on through the Beatles, Truman Capote, and various princesses. In this debut, journalist Satow brings it all to light, combing through newspaper articles to regale readers with stories not only of the rich and famous but also those of the union workers who built and run the hotel, the exotic pets that have lived there with their owners, the prostitutes and bomb threats in the 1970s, and the string of international scandals that have befallen recent owners. In its current rendition, there are more condominiums and storefronts, but it still stands as a landmark luxury hotel.
VERDICT Well researched and documented yet fun to read, this work provides both a front- and back-of-the-house look into a grand dame of New York architecture. Highly recommended for history or hospitality aficionados.—Susan Hurst, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing