James Dean at Chateau Marmont

The cast and crew of “Rebel Without a Cause” in Nicholas Ray’s bungalow. James Dean is hunched in front of the TV; Natalie Wood is center rear; Ray is lighting a cigarette, left.

Among the myriad celebrities who called Chateau Marmont home over the years, the great actor James Dean, born on this day in 1931…wasn’t one of them.

But Dean’s connection to the hotel is deep and important.

One night in 1954, Dean showed up at a bungalow in the back of the hotel where director Nicholas Ray was living. Ray was working on a new movie about the traumas of modern youth that was to be called Rebel Without a Cause. It needed a star. And in Dean, who was just about to debut in East of Eden, Ray thought he found one.

Dean got the part, and he began to visit Chateau Marmont regularly for Ray’s famous Sunday salons, full days of swimming, bongo playing, boozing, chatting, a little sex, a little reefer — whatever the mood suggested.

Other of Ray’s Rebel stars began to frequent the Chateau, most notably Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo, both of whom were underage and both of whom were bedded by their director. Less sensationally, Ray often invited the whole cast to his bungalow for read-throughs of the script, one of which is pictured above.

The last time Ray saw Dean was at the Chateau, when Dean came by to borrow a book about how to take care of a cat. (His Giant co-star Elizabeth Taylor had given him a kitten as a gift when that film wrapped.) Ray and Dean were planning to travel to Nicaragua to research a new movie idea. Dean was killed in a car wreck mere weeks later, and the prospective film was forgotten.

But the movie that resulted from their very first encounters at Chateau Marmont, Rebel Without a Cause, remains one of Hollywood’s classic melodramas, and much of the story of its making is indelibly connected to the grand old hotel.

Read the whole story and more in my upcoming The Castle on Sunset:  Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont, coming May 7 from Doubleday and Orion.

A tip of the hat from “Vanity Fair”

In this great story about Chateau Marmont at 90, “Vanity Fair”‘s Mark Rozzo calls my upcoming book “fantastically fizzy” and quotes me several times on the hotel’s history and place in Hollywood lore. My book’s due May 7, but this’ll hold you till then.

https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2019/02/secrets-of-the-chateau-marmont

Happy 90th, Chateau Marmont!

Chateau Marmont, 1930s

On February 2, 1929, Fred Horowitz, a downtown Los Angeles attorney, officially cut the ribbon on a luxury apartment house alongside an unpaved stretch of Sunset Blvd.

Horowitz had the nutty idea that the area, a bridle path lined with onion and poinsettia fields that connected Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, would soon blossom. As he liked to point out, it sat 20 minutes from anywhere you’d want to be, it was convenient to movie studios in Hollywood and Burbank, and it was both governed not by the city but by the county, which meant taxes, licenses and building fees were relatively cheap.

Chateau D’Amboise — Loire Valley, France

The building, which Horowitz modeled on a chateau he’d admired in the Loire Valley of France, was anything but cheap. Horowitz insisted on steel reinforcement to make the building earthquake-resistant, on double-thick walls to keep noise down, and on maximizing the number of penthouses — large apartments with terraces that commanded stunning views from the mountains to the ocean to downtown. As a result, although it may have been situated in the middle of not much, it was durable, it was quiet, and it was, most of all, private.

Los Angeles Times, February 2, 1929

He called the place Chateau Marmont.

And over the next nine decades, everyone would stay there, and everything would happen there.

You can read all about it in my new book The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont, coming May 7 from Doubleday and Orion.

Till then, raise a glass to the Grande Dame of the Sunset Strip!

Advance Praise for “The Castle on Sunset”

COMING MAY 7, 2019 FROM DOUBLEDAY AND ORION

“Fantastically fizzy”  Vanity Fair

“Fascinating, dishy, and glimmering with insight…a must-read for anyone interested in the rich and racy history of Tinseltown….This is the definitive book about Hollywood’s most storied hotel.”
—Cheryl Strayed, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Wild

“I felt like I was sneaking around the hallways of the Chateau after midnight and peering through keyholes in history….Lovingly researched and wonderfully dishy.” —Joe Hagan, author of the national bestseller Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine

“Levy has managed to make the hotel itself a living, breathing, and wonderfully endearing character. The Castle on Sunset is thoughtfully researched and gorgeously executed.” —Jacob TomskyNew York Times bestselling author of Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality

“As elegant and naughty as the hotel’s guests, The Castle on Sunset tells a secret history of American film, fame, and decadence. It’s a spellbinding read.” —Peter Ames CarlinNew York Times bestselling author of Bruce and Homeward Bound

“An irresistible, deliciously dishy deep-dive…told in prose so witty and alive, you feel you’re sitting at the bar with Dominick Dunne. This is a book worthy of its glamorous, alluring subject.” —Wednesday Martin, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Primates of Park Avenue and Untrue

“Filled with show business stories and lore, etched against the backdrop of an ever-changing L.A., The Castle on Sunset gives the Marmont the splendid biography it deserves.”  —Steven GainesNew York Times bestselling author of Philistines at the HedgerowPassion and Property in the Hamptons and The Sky’s the Limit: Passion and Property in Manhattan

“For years, Shawn Levy has been shaming the rest of us who write about movies with his contagious high spirits, elegant phrasemaking, Stakhanovite appetite for research, and maddeningly natural reader rapport….Check in, call room service, draw yourself a hot bath and luxuriate!” David Kipen, author of Dear Los Angeles: The City in Diaries and Letters
 
“[An] engrossing account of the L.A. hotel’s 90-year history of decadence.…This eye-popping and entertainingly lurid tale of Hollywood scandal and intrigue will delight readers.” Publishers Weekly

“Levy delivers all the goods on Hollywood’s iconic, storied, and scandalous hotel.” The Portland Tribune

20 Years En Route

koc-hbPardon the self-promotion, but, really, who else would do it? 😉

Twenty years ago last month I published my first book, “King of Comedy: The Life and Art of Jerry Lewis.” It appeared in a single hardback edition and, the following year, a single paperback edition. There were no ebooks at the time (my second book, published in 1998, was the first of my work to be published digitally, and that was after an amendment to the contract). The book has had a pretty good reputation over the years, but it’s been unavailable outside of the resale market for two decades, more or less.

TODAY, for the first time ever, “King of Comedy” will be available as an ebook for your digital reader, tablet, phone, what have you. You can buy it here.

For some reason, I am more than a little tickled by this.

And, again, thanks for your indulgence. This writing thing can get kind of lonely. Grateful to have a place to crow a little and a murder of fellow crows around who won’t…murder me for it.

Outta here (via TheFinalImage)



Outta here (via TheFinalImage)

“You win this round, Internet….” (via DoublePantomime)



"You win this round, Internet…." (via DoublePantomime)

Movin’ on (via ModRules)



Movin’ on (via ModRules)

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My inner life (via TheMobileMovement)



My inner life (via TheMobileMovement)

Lads (via AllFilmStills)



Lads (via AllFilmStills)

Being geniuses together: Eartha Kitt & Nat King Cole (via…



Being geniuses together: Eartha Kitt & Nat King Cole (via LoseTheBoyfriend)

Woodses (via WoodNNatalie)









Woodses (via WoodNNatalie)

The kid De Niro (with & without his old man)





The kid De Niro (with & without his old man)

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Gent (via ShyOfTheMoon)

Indeed. (via TheComicsVault)



Indeed. (via TheComicsVault)

Material (via LoveLifeEffLimits)



Material (via LoveLifeEffLimits)

That girl: Ann-Margaret (via ModRules)



That girl: Ann-Margaret (via ModRules)

On second thought, I’ll have the Hoo Hash…. (via…



On second thought, I’ll have the Hoo Hash…. (via ArcaneImages)

“Well, doctor, I think I started disliking Christmas when I was…



"Well, doctor, I think I started disliking Christmas when I was a girl…." (via WeirdVintage)

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Lay Zimmy lay (via ShyOfTheMoon)

Shoulda left him at the orphanage (via ArcaneImages)



Shoulda left him at the orphanage (via ArcaneImages)

Being geniuses together: Jack Dempsey & Charlie Chaplin (via…



Being geniuses together: Jack Dempsey & Charlie Chaplin (via ChaplinForTheAges)

Party snap



Party snap

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Mommy kissing Santa Claus

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But baby it’s bad out there…. (via IAmPiperChapman)









But baby it’s bad out there…. (via IAmPiperChapman)

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Bah. (via RogerWilkerson)



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That girl: Jean Shrimpton (via SixtiesCircus)



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“De Niro: A Life”: A big pile of reviews, interviews and whatnots

DeNiro Cover

It’s been a remarkably busy few weeks for “De Niro: A Life,” and I’ve been negligent in sharing the results of the activity.  That ends now.

REVIEWS

— Lisa Schwarzbaum weighed in for the New York Times Book Review

— Peter Tonguette did the same for the Christian Science Monitor

— In the Washington Post, Sibbie O’Sullivan  had a go

— At Flavorwire, Jason Bailey compared my De Niro book with my chum Glenn Kenny’s

— Maybe your Portuguese trumps mine; if so, check out this nice notice from Cassio Starling Carlos in O Vale

— Finally, Michael Chasin took a turn at IAFT.net 

 

MENTIONS

A few news outlets included the book in their holiday book roundups:

The Austin Chronicle

The Toronto Star

The Vancouver Sun

 

INTERVIEWS

— I spoke with April Baer on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s “State of Wonder”

— And I chatted with Dr. Alvin Jones on his Dr. Alvin radio show and web site.

 

As before, the book is available in print and/or in digital formats at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, and other purveyors of words-on-paper and/or -screens.

 

That girl: BB (via TheSwinginSixties)



That girl: BB (via TheSwinginSixties)

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