The Sunset Marquis Hotel | The 1980s Bring Free Shampoo for Steven Tyler
West Hollywood is the place for the souls that seek to live big, proud, and out loud. It is a place built by and for the creative and extravagant, people like Steven Tyler, Cindi Lauper, and the Beastie Boys. WeHo is a fiercely proud city and excellent at throwing parties to celebrate itself and its people! West Hollywood’s favorite bacchanalia – the L.A. Pride Parade – had a novel, historical twist this past year. On June 11th, 2017, the West Hollywood parade returned to her roots, and we marched for human rights, as Hollywood and West Hollywood had done at the parade’s inception in the ’70s. There was also, of course, a pride parade this year, because tradition is tradition, and any tradition in WeHo that dates back to the 1970s cannot be ignored.
Rock and Roll Tradition
That includes the historical tradition of rock and roll at the Sunset Marquis. Simply watch Rod Stewart’s “Tonight I’m Yours,” which was shot at the Sunset Marquis, for evidence of the hotel’s thriving presence in the ’80s. Ronald Reagan was elected, and the hardcore punk scene rose to prominence on the Strip. Hip-hop and hair metal also scribbled ferociously in the guestbook at the Sunset Marquis. An ’80s ad for the hotel featured the waist-length hair of four rock stars and stated, “Free Shampoo. Unique. Even by Hollywood Standards.”
However, not even the cult-like guests that sought the Sunset Marquis as an almost holy destination could prevent the hotel from confronting two issues:
Mark Rosenthal Moves Forward
First, the hotel had taken a physical beating in the ’60s and ’70s. While George Rosenthal was a fabulous entrepreneur, he was not an operations guy. Fortunately, his son Mark – or “Markey,” after whom the hotel was named – had come of age and was ready to oversee. In this new, competitive age of luxury hotels in West Hollywood, Mark Rosenthal had to first clean up and then update. Thus, the second challenge was relevancy.
Everyone from Dolph Lundgren, Cheap Trick, Depeche Mode, Michael J. Fox, David Bowie, George Michael, Gloria Estefan, Gary U.S. Bonds, Christopher Reeve, and Rodney Dangerfield witnessed the ’80s transition. “Cyndi’s Garden” was named after Miss Lauper, and The Beastie Boys were banned for inappropriate behavior in the hot tub in front of Easter Sunday brunchers.
The Butler is Back
To keep this family of rock stars contented, a new butler service was initiated. Envision ad #2: a cartoon of a butler performing menial – yet important! – tasks, such as carrying a passed-out woman slung over his shoulder to her room or looking upwards to catch a falling television. The ad read: “The butler is back. The new villas at the Sunset Marquis now come with a butler trained to serve the Queen of England. And people a lot more demanding.” As for re-branding initiatives, the butler service lasted much longer than the sponsored polo match in Indio.
Many guests, including Ozzy Osbourne and Phil Collins, had moved their families into the hotel, and the butler service was well-suited to their needs. As guests’ reservations grew from one or two occupants to whole families, the hotel needed to grow also, and the Rosenthal’s looked into buying the property behind the Sunset Marquis that bordered La Cienega Boulevard.
Billy Bob Thornton – Mayor of the Sunset Marquis
Billy Bob Thornton – the self-proclaimed mayor of the Sunset Marquis – Steven Tyler, and Julio Iglesias also lived at the Sunset Marquis in the ’80s. Reuben, who played on the Steinway in the piano bar Notes, often shared the spotlight with Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, and Lionel Richie. Slash moved in. So did Julian Lennon, as well as most of the guys from The Cult. In this wonderland of talent and art, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty wrote “I Got My Mind Made Up” and “Jammin’ Me” on their respective albums, as well as several other Top 20 tunes.
The new generation’s venerated opinion of the rock and rollers of the past two decades kept guests coming. The marketing team kept them out of the news. The hotel’s history and diehard following, in combination with the its unwritten policy of seclusion and discretion, kept the Sunset Marquis pressing on.
Steven Tyler, Roger Water, Lou Gramm and Mick Jones Are Here
The hotel continued to progress as its third decade concluded. Fans of The Who, Aerosmith, Metallica, and U2 closed the ’80s by camping outside the Sunset Marquis. Mark brought on the dearly beloved, long-time and current GM of the Sunset Marquis, Rod Gruendyke, in January of 1991. And in 1992, during the Los Angeles Riots, Roger Waters hid out with his girlfriend at the hotel. Lou Gramm and Mick Jones re-formed the band Foreigner during the seemingly apocalyptic political noise, and the infamous hot tub was filled with raucous partying meant to outdo the riotous clashing outside.
“In 1992,” Gruendyke remembers, “I was being interviewed by a magazine around the pool and they asked me if the hotel still had its rowdy reputation. I said, ‘No, it’s much more of a business, and we really cleaned things up.’ As soon as I said it, I hear a scream and Flea jumps off the roof, four floors up, into the pool, and then the rest of the Red Hot Chili Peppers jumped in right after him.” Functionally, the hotel was cleaned up, while the lore and mystique and freedom were intact.
Michael Schlow and Cavatina
Having had dinner there tonight, I can attest: the hotel is “cleaned up”. Michael Schlow is the extraordinary talent at the helm of the Sunset Marquis’s restaurant, Cavatina. Not only is he an incredibly intelligent person and exceptional chef, but he is also another player in the Sunset Marquis’s staff whose passionate love for the hotel drives him to perform at the top of his game. From the burrata, bruschetta, jam, and toasted pain, to the uni pasta, inspiration served as his guide for our feast! In my glossy-eyed, heaven’s-gates state, I said to him and Rod Gruendyke, who was also dining after our meeting, “How remarkable we all get to do what we love.”
If you are looking for something a little unexpected – but not out of the way! – stop by the Sunset Marquis for a coffee, a weekend stay, or a few years of your life. Say hi to me too, please! I will be there next to the orchid tree at Cavatina.