Author Bob Woodward Trashed a Famous Hollywood Hostelry, Then Had to List It as a Coming Retraction

updated 07/23/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/23/1984 01:00AM

Its exterior has been described as "fakey Norman" by art critic Grace Glueck and its decor as "forgotten Moorish" by social critic Quentin Crisp. But when one of its $250-a-night bungalows was described as "seedy" by Bob Woodward on the jacket of Wired, his best-seller about John Belushi's death, the owner of L.A.'s Chateau Marmont hotel sued. "He made it sound like some place near a downtown bus station where big drug deals are made," complained hotelier Raymond Sarlot.

The $18 million action was settled last month as Woodward retracted, saying he was referring to the mess Belushi made, not to the hotel itself. "The Chateau has a charming ambience, and I would enjoy staying there myself," said the contrite Woodward.

If he did, he'd find himself in top-seeded, not seedy, company. The vintage 1927 building with the bottle-of-wine name is a funky home away from home for Richard Gere, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Jeremy Irons and a host of other illustrious out-of-towners. They prefer the Chateau's old-world charm, flowering courts, pseudo-European atmosphere and unobtrusive service to the better-known Beverly Hills Hotel, a pink-and-green confection two miles down Sunset Boulevard. "The Chateau," says writer Fred Barsten, "is for the crowd that doesn't like being paged."

That has included Rudolph Valentino, Boris Karloff, Errol Flynn, Bogie and recently Robert De Niro, who stashed his Oscar for Raging Bull in the house vault, and Peter O'Toole, who tap-danced for the staff.

The hotel also has sheltered musicians, novelists and screenwriters. Meredith Willson wrote The Music Man on the premises, Waldo Salt finished his screenplay of Nathaniel West's famous Hollywood novel, The Day of the Locust, there, and William Goldman checked in to write the script of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The films Blume in Love and Myra Breckinridge were shot at the Chateau.

Still, the hotel remained one of Hollywood's best-kept secrets until Belushi died in bungalow No. 3. "That," according to manager Suzanne Jierjian, "put us on the map."

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