Front entrance and valet of Sunset Marquis hotel in West Hollywood

The Sunset Marquis Hotel and the 1970’s – Queen, Bowie, Springsteen and more!

In January 2017 we saw the anniversary of both birth and departure of David Bowie. Another icon that inhabited the Sunset Marquis, may he rest in peace. What a remarkable experience to visit a location that still hums with the vibrations of genius past and present. I always feel honored entering the Sunset Marquis; I feel as humble as I do when visiting a national monument and as reverent as I am when entering a place of worship.

The Epicenter of Music In Los Angeles

In 2018, we have the newly-minted 69 Club, but in the 70s it was the 27 Club. The deaths of famed musicians in the 27 Club and the expansion of Vietnam’s horrors slowed and stopped the hippie movement, as well as shifted the rock and roll landscape. But the Sunset Marquis continued to beam onto the Sunset Strip, via Alta Loma, as the epicenter of musical talent and the Eden of the entertainment industry. Plus, business was superlative.

Bowie, Queen, Springsteen, The Who…

David Bowie and Mick Ronson, Train to Aberdeen, Scotland 1973. Photo: Mick Rock
David Bowie and Mick Ronson, Train to Aberdeen, Scotland 1973. Photo: Mick Rock

1973 marked the start of the Sunset Marquis’s second decade. To set the tone of the music scene, please think Led Zeppelin, The Who, Queen, Springsteen, Bowie; the greatest films were The Sting, American Graffiti, and The Exorcist. Elaine May and Mike Nichols edited the film of Mikey and Nicky as it was strewn across several suites in the Sunset Marquis. L.A. was bursting with new recording studios.

Now, please picture Neil Young’s 1947 Buick Roadmaster plowing into the depths of the Sunset Marquis’s subterranean private garages next to the classic cars of star guests Bob Marley, ABBA, The Runaways, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Richard Branson, and Paul Newman. In 1977, before his sold-out show at the Forum, Bruce Springsteen stayed at the Sunset Marquis, playing Born to Run at night, while mixing tapes and working on his 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town until dawn.

An Adult Disneyland in West Hollywood

Steven Tyler of Aerosmith on Stage. Photo: Neal Preston, Date Unknown
Steven Tyler of Aerosmith on Stage. Photo: Neal Preston, Date Unknown

“The Sunset Marquis was like adult Disneyland,” Oates of Hall & Oates reminisced. “It was all focused on the swimming pool and the surrounding building. People were hanging over balconies, windows were open…It just seemed tailor-made for a party”. David Coverdale similarly described, “The Marquis is indeed a United Nations of Unlikely Drinking Partners”.

In 1979, the Clash dropped anchor at the Sunset Marquis while on their first tour. Bob Bruen, who was photographing the band, remembered guitarist Mick Jones dropping his bags on the then astro-turf floor of the pool deck and hollering, “Honey! I’m home!” It was the camaraderie between artists and staff alike that made the Sunset Marquis a safe haven; a home for debauchery to be hidden, not only in plain sight but in a garden.

Growing Up On Sunset

The Sunset Marquis also showed its first buds of maturation. Over the next decades, an astounding, defining feature of the hotel will be its intuitive growth and renovation that continually aligned with the changes in clientele. Magically, the Sunset Marquis remained a space for the inebriated in the 70s, while beginning to solidify itself as a place for the diligent. It was a place to be hidden doing what you shouldn’t and (or) a place to network with the premier artists of the time (who may be doing what you shouldn’t).

“You just knew you were in a very cool rock and roll place,” remembered Eurythmics manager Matthew Murphy. “You’d always see, and even to this day, I always see everybody I know the minute I come to the lobby, the pool, you always ran into people. In terms of the music business, this was THE place”.

Walkway at the Sunset Marquis Hotel West Hollywood
Walkway at the Sunset Marquis Hotel West Hollywood

The Sunset Marquis is still THE place to be for people in the music and entertainment industry. Stop by Cavatina at any time of day, and you will find meetings both casual and serious in nature: an iconic actress in sweatpants or a world-famous musician having an afternoon whiskey – casual and serious, respectively, in my opinion.

Watch for my next blog where I’ll explain what I’ve learned about the 1980s and bacchanalia.  And if you are thinking about a night of musical exploration in West Hollywood, maybe I’ll see you at the Sunset Marquis at Bar 1200!

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