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The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont Shawn Levy Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, May 7, 2019
Credit: Knopf Doubleday

The following is an excerpt from The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont by Shawn Levy. The book tells the history of Hollywood’s most iconic, storied, and scandalous hotel; John Krasinski and Paramount Television are developing a television series out of it. In this selection, Levy revisits Lindsay Lohan‘s birthday party at the hotel in the summer of 2012, which ended in scandal and “staggering debt.” Read on below. The Castle on Sunset publishes May 7 and is available for pre-order.

On July 4, 2012, Lindsay Lohan threw a little birthday-slash–Independence Day party at the Chateau, where she had been living on and off for several months. The revelers spent several hours in the garden restaurant ordering food and drinks, and several more hours in Lohan’s suite—number 33—calling room service to send up yet more goodies. Not content with the fireworks they could see from Lohan’s perch, they ordered up a pay-per-view movie and lit one of those candles with which posh hotels decorate rooms on a you-light-it-you-pay-for-it basis.

After the last guest departed, the bills for all that Lohan and company had consumed added up to $2,649.60. Throw in another $710.33 for rental of the suite (the corporate rate, by the way) and $75.00 for rental of a laptop from the hotel, and taxes and whatnot, and the actress’s total bill came to $3,563.67.

For one day.

That wasn’t a lot in Hollywood money. Lohan was staying at the Chateau while she was playing the role of Elizabeth Taylor in the TV movie Liz & Dick, for which she was being paid a minimum of $300,000. And as far as she was concerned, her hotel bill didn’t matter, because, as she believed, the producers of her film, or the network that would air it, would be paying it.

Except they wouldn’t be.

Lohan had a history at the Chateau. The garden restaurant was one of her favorite places to party, but that didn’t always mean happy times. In the spring of 2010, she got into a shouting match there with singer Avril Lavigne that ended when Lohan, rebuffed by security guards in her pleas to get Lavigne ejected, stormed out of the place. This time around, Lohan had arrived at the hotel in February, when she gave up a townhouse in the bohemian beachside community of Venice and moved into a suite that a friend had been renting but not living in. She only began running her own tab on June 5, living at first in a small suite and then a bigger one, and living in it fully.

Over the next 57 days, during which time she wasn’t always actually at the hotel but merely renting a room there, she spent $3,000-plus each on room service, hotel restaurant bills, and minibar charges, in addition to more than $700 on cigarettes, $600-plus on laundry, nearly $400 on pay-per-view movies, and more than $100 on magazines and iPhone chargers from the hotel gift shop—plus, the room rate and the taxes and the parking charges and other miscellaneous fees.

In all, she accumulated a bill of $46,350.04 in less than two months, and she kept insisting to hotel management, which was understandably inquiring after payment, that she wasn’t responsible for it—which was true on many levels.

On July 31, general manager Philip Pavel presented Lohan with a 16-page itemized bill for her stay, along with a note basically ordering her to vacate the premises as of noon the next day. “I regret to inform you,” he wrote, “that we will no longer be able to extend any further credit for you to remain in the hotel.” The letter didn’t say so, but the word was that she was effectively banned from the premises—hotel, restaurant, bar: all of it.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 11: Actress Lindsay Lohan attends the party hosted by the Weinstein Company and Audi to Celebrate Awards Season at Chateau Marmont on January 11, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for Audi)
Credit: John Shearer/Getty Images

It was only the latest misadventure of an actress who had only a few years earlier seemed destined for real superstardom. In 2005, on the strength of such hit films as The Parent Trap, Freaky Friday, and Mean Girls, she was one of the top stars in Hollywood, commanding a salary of $7.5 million for such films as Just My Luck, Georgia Rule, and Herbie Fully Loaded, all made before she turned 20. She had hit records and a clothing line and was a massive presence in print, electronic, and digital media. She was also deeply troubled, having been raised in a turbulent household and been thrust into the limelight since she was barely twelve years old. In the years before her spree at Chateau Marmont, she had been cited twice for driving under the influence and for violating the terms of the probation stemming from those charges. She was in and out of rehab. The studio boss financing one of her highest-paying jobs wrote her an angry letter about how her lifestyle was detrimental to the production, calling her “discourteous, irresponsible, and unprofessional … a spoiled child [who has] alienated many of your co-workers and endangered the quality of this picture.” Like so many of her poor choices, the diatribe went public.

There was always hope she could rebound; her exorbitant birthday party at the Chateau was only her 26th. But even as she was celebrating it, she was under a particularly sordid cloud, being named as a person of interest by the Los Angeles County district attorney in the alleged theft of $100,000 in designer watches and sunglasses from the home of an acquaintance, a suspicion of which she was eventually cleared. And as her hotel bills showed, she was still living at a torrid pace and burning bridges in the process.


The news of Lohan’s staggering debt to Chateau Marmont surfaced about a month after she received her notice of eviction, when the entire hotel bill and Pavel’s letter were published on the TMZ gossip website. For Lohan, this was yet another awkward bit of negative publicity, but for Chateau Marmont it was a potential disaster. Fearful of scaring away other celebrity guests who might avoid the place if they thought that details of their activity at the hotel would emerge, the Chateau immediately issued an exculpatory statement: “Chateau Marmont places guest privacy as a core value and upholds this privacy with paramount importance. After investigation, it appears that a private correspondence between Chateau Marmont’s general manager and Miss Lohan was leaked by a member of her entourage. We are as horrified, disappointed and troubled by this occurrence as Miss Lohan surely is.” Lohan’s publicist was mum: “We are not commenting on anything to do with Chateau Marmont.” The Lifetime network, which would air Liz & Dick, washed its hands of the whole situation, offering no comment other than to tell journalists that it wasn’t responsible for Lohan’s bills.

From the hotel’s vantage, the situation called for a fine hand—and so, in stepped the owner himself. André Balazs was said to have relationships with both Lohan and her mother, Dina, and working with them, he managed to find a way to settle the actress’s debt. Before very long, she was seen at Chateau Marmont again as well as at other of Balazs’s hotel properties in the United States and London, though never for so long a stay again, and probably not throwing herself any parties. (In an amusing coda, Lohan would go on to sue the makers of the Grand Theft Auto video games because the fifth edition of their franchise included a character that she claimed was based on her, down to the fact that the fictitious movie star once had a scandalous stay at Chateau Marmont.)

From the Book: THE CASTLE ON SUNSET: Life, Death, Love, Art and Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont
Copyright © 2019 by Shawn Levy. To be published by Doubleday, an imprint of The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

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