Spike Lee has supped in the restaurant. Julia Roberts and Jason Patric have sipped in the bar. Denzel Washington, Mickey Rourke, Mike Myers, and Drew Barrymore have all slept here. When in New York, Hollywood’s hippest players stay at the Paramount — the Chateau East, they call it — which was the site of the Oscar bash last spring. Originally opened in 1927 as the Century Paramount — no relation to the studio — it was given a dramatically spare, ultrahip face-lift by club owner-turned-hotelier Ian Schrager (Studio 54) and French designer Philippe Starck in 1990, and the rest is neo-history.
Rooms are simple, sometimes tiny, and go for as little as $100 a night (though suite prices rise to $430). The Paramount relies on what Schrager calls ”magic,” rather than on standard hostelry opulence. ”The only formula here is there is no formula,” he has said. We weren’t quite sure what that meant, so we checked in and checked it out.
* 6:30 p.m. Check-in It’s just down West 46th Street from the Gaiety, the all-male burlesque house where Madonna shot part of her book, Sex, and next door to the Church of Scientology. A tall, dark, monolithic doorman wearing the staff uniform — a baggy black Freddy Leiba suit over a white shirt — opens the door to a dim, chilly lobby. Clusters of guests on purple and green sofas buzz in many accents. A severe metal chaise sits empty in the corner, like a discarded prop from Dead Ringers.
A Robert Downey Jr. look-alike directs me to the registration desk, where an efficiently friendly Mare Winningham look-alike does the honors.
* 6:40 p.m. The Room Black-and-white carpet. Two Philippe Starck chairs — no arms, tall backs. Two double beds with crisp white linens and black headboards. Not an inch of extra space. The bathroom centers on a silver, conical sink (seemingly inspired by a Gaultier bra), so otherworldly it doesn’t seem right to spit toothpaste into it.
* 7 p.m. The Sport Room Weights, aerobic equipment, fresh apples, ice water. Next door is the kids’ playroom, with cartoons and a giant chair made entirely from entwined plush Pink Panthers. It’s usually empty.
* 8:30 p.m. The Whiskey The packed lobby bar is co-owned by Matt Dillon. Models pose indiscriminately. Handsome lawyers unwind. Martinis are $7.
* 9 p.m. Mezzanine Restaurant The deep easy chairs and sofas at the small tables seem to be positioned light-years away from the plates, but the $12 chicken tostada is heavenly. In the men’s room, silver urinals stand side by side on a mirrored wall. No dividers. Is exhibitionism hip?
* 11 p.m. The Lobby Not 15 feet from a bank of pay phones, a man in a Romeo Gigli suit chats on his cellular. A dashing young Parisian tourist sits alone, sadly scanning the place — leering, actually — obviously hoping to score.
* Midnight, Bedtime Every room has a VCR and a list of nearly 1,000 movies available from room service at $7.50 each. For insomniacs: Thelma & Louise and Jungle Fever. For the lonely: Naughty Nymphs and T & A Team.
* 9 a.m. Breakfast in the Mezzanine A friend tries to call me while I’m having coffee. The front desk curtly tells him I’m not registered here, nor was I ever. Schrager hires his good-looking staff — notorious for bad phone manners — from ads in the show-biz newspaper Back Stage.
* 10 a.m. Checkout A Julia Roberts look-alike tallies the bill. One night (room, dinner for three, local calls, late-night coffee, and tax) is $279.14. In the coffee shop, the Frenchman is drinking cappuccino with an American man, but this time he’s laughing. Now, if only the doorman would smile….