This story originally appeared in our June 2014 fiction issue.
Photo by Santi Visalli Inc./Archive Photos/Getty ImagesThe thing about the Chateau Marmont in LA is that it isn’t very easy to navigate. If you approach it uncertainly, it’s unlikely you’ll make it to the lobby. You enter the hotel through the driveway. You go past a parking lot with two attendants who look like graduate students in French literature, through a little portico, and then walk into the hotel’s basement. You take either the elevator or the stairs up to the lobby. Behind the desk are cubbies full of tasseled keys, and to the left is a room with a lot of nice old mismatched couches and armchairs. Not blocking the chairs, so you might not notice it, just against the far wall, is a podium. An attractive person is always standing there, and if you try to sit in the lobby, he or she says, “Are you staying here?” If you are, then you can sit. If you aren’t, you are informed that you must make a reservation, and reservations must be made two weeks in advance.
When we recently stayed at the Chateau we brought our friends Carol and Tony to the lobby. Carol is a writer for a Comedy Central show, and Tony is a well-known comedian.At the table next to ours, two round-bellied men in their 40s, dressed like they’d just come from a baseball game, were gossiping about the movies they were working on. One said, “We called Matthew McConaughey in for it, and we actually had him on the phone, but he’s such a bitch. The guy is such a bitch. So then we got Al Pacino’s agent, and I said, ‘You know, it’s a small part.’ He said, ‘Guys, there’re no small parts, only small paychecks.’ So we told him we’d pay 50k, and he wouldn’t even take it to Pacino.”“So $50,000 is a small check these days.”“That’s why you never see the guy in anything anymore.”The waitress brought Tony and Carol another round of whiskey sours and us another round of Diet Cokes.Clancy said, “There’s one! That guy’s somebody famous.”The cast of Mad Men had come in. The women were wearing floor-length ball gowns, and Jon Hamm wore a blue three-piece suit and a bright red tie.“I play poker with him,” Tony said. “He’s a nice guy. He doesn’t usually dress like that. He usually just wears, like, a V-neck sweater. I’m not sure that’s him, actually.”“It’s him.”Tony stood with his drink. He took a few steps toward Jon Hamm, then turned back to us. “I don’t think that’s him.”He sat back down and said, “The first time I met him he told me he really liked my work, and I felt like such a jerk. He’s a really nice guy. He’s been with the same woman for 15 years.”
Paul Rudd and the overweight actor from that movie in which the medical students try to have near-death experiences in search of enlightenment came in. Paul Rudd went off on his own, but when the overweight actor and his daughter met up with several of her friends—all of whom were remarkably attractive, even by LA standards—Paul Rudd came back to the table and joined them.“I really feel like I should go say hi. I would, but I’m pretty sure that’s not Jon Hamm,” Tony said. “Hell, I’m just going to go and buy him a drink.”Carol rolled her eyes but didn’t say anything.Tony walked ten feet (which could have been crossing a gorge for all the social boundaries he was disregarding) over to Jon Hamm. We saw Jon Hamm not watching, not watching, not watching—then, when Tony stood directly before him, reaching out his hand. He shook Tony’s hand with a polite, tense expression, then said, “Will!”Will Arnett was passing by. Jon Hamm turned away from Tony and took a few steps toward Will Arnett, who was startled and lit up under the glow of Jon Hamm’s sudden attention.Tony crossed the gorge back to our table. Jon Hamm turned away from Will Arnett, who looked momentarily bereft.Carol said, “What’s going on over here?” and started to climb over our sofa to the table behind us, where Elizabeth Moss and other members of the Mad Men cast were celebrating the end of the series.Tony said, “Carol! Honey! Sit down!”
We had been guests at the Chateau Marmont for just three days, but the power of the place was so strong that we felt like we were at home.“It’s weird that so many celebrities still come here,” Tony said. “I can count like 30 famous people right now just having dinner.”Carol had snuck back over the couch and was making eye contact with Elizabeth Moss, who seemed to be charmed by Carol and was perhaps on the point of asking us all to join their table.Amie said, “OK!” and stood up to indicate the night had come to an end. A waiter—who apparently agreed—was already there with our check.When we headed back upstairs to our room, Carol and Tony were lingering around the bar, and then we saw them headed to the front desk to see about getting a room.