The Sunset Marquis Hotel and the 1970s – Queen, Bowie, Springsteen, and More!
In January 2017, we celebrated the life and mourned the loss of David Bowie, a creative icon who revolutionized the music industry and just so happened to inhabit the Sunset Marquis. 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 the Vietnam War’s horrors slowed the hippie movement, while shifting the rock and roll landscape. But the Sunset Marquis continued to beam onto the 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…
1973 marked the start of the Sunset Marquis’s second decade. To set the tone of the music scene, think Led Zeppelin, The Who, Queen, Springsteen, Bowie. The films of the day were The Sting, American Graffiti, and The Exorcist. Elaine May and Mike Nichols edited the film Mikey and Nicky at the Sunset Marquis, their work strewn throughout several suites. L.A. was bursting with new recording studios.
Now, picture Neil Young’s 1947 Buick Roadmaster plowing into the depths of the Sunset Marquis’s subterranean private garages, parking next to the classic cars of star guests like 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” all night, while mixing tapes and working on his 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town until dawn.
An Adult Disneyland in West Hollywood
“The Sunset Marquis was like adult Disneyland,” John 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 remarked, “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 would 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 while doing what you shouldn’t and (or) a place to network with the premier artists of the day (who may also 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.”
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 Bar 1200 at the Sunset Marquis!