As far as the storied history about this location is concerned, Truman Capote once stated, “I am living in a very posh establishment, the Sunset Tower, which, or so the gentry tell me, is where every scandal that ever happened, happened…”
The History of the Sunset Tower Hotel:
This building was the first quake-proof structure in the city, and offered what were then very modern conveniences, such as electrical outlets in the bathrooms, and panoramic floor-to-ceiling-windows. According to the information provided in the room, it was considered very chic to live at the Sunset Tower during the Golden Era of Hollywood. You have already seen a short list of celebrities that made this location their home.
Some of the more humorous stories told about the Sunset Tower residents include the one about John Wayne, whose apartment has now been converted into the Argyle Spa and Salon. In this space, he apparently kept a cow on his balcony, which was used to provide guests with fresh milk in their coffee.
Another funny story regards the eviction of Bugsy Seigel, whose former apartment is now the Tower Bar. Apparently, he was arrested and asked to leave because he was running an illegal gambling ring. Howard Hughes, a long-time resident, was known for keeping additional apartments within the tower for his mistresses. According to legend, some were in residence at the same time. One of my favorite stories, especially because I enjoy staying in the 12th floor balcony suites, is that of Frank Sinatra yelling down to Ava Gardiner from the balconies asking, “Ava, can you hear me?” These calls were followed by engagement, marriage, and ultimately divorce. One of the most notorious guests, Iggy Pop, was said to have jumped from his balcony into the swimming pool, missing on occasion. Apparently, the ambulance was sent to treat him monthly, while in residence.
During the late 1960’s, the Sunset Tower began to lose its klout as the Sunset Strip fell into general disrepair. In the 1980’s, the tower almost had an encounter with a demolition crew, narrowly being saved by Werner Klemperer, who refused to move out. Despite the fact that the building was recognized as a historical landmark, there were not laws to protect such a structure from being demolished. Thanks to Werner, his delays allowed for the laws to change, and the structure remains 30+ years later.
In 1986, the St. James Club bought the now Sunset Tower and completed $46M in renovations, restoring the Art Deco look and feel that this posh hotel deserved. In 1992, the hotel changed hands again, this time it was the Lancaster Group that bought it, renaming the property to the Argyle. Finally, in 2005, Jeff Klein bought the property, hired designer Paul Fortune, reconfigured the Tower Bar, and created the masterpiece that is today known as the Sunset Tower Hotel.
Personally speaking, I find that the Sunset Tower Hotel provides me with a unique experience and feeling that I really cannot describe. I do not stay here because of the celebrities. I do not stay here because it is the most affordable adequate accommodations in West Hollywood. I stay here because I love it and I feel at home here. Having stayed thousands of nights in various hotels around the world, there are very few that I feel a sense of comfort at like the Sunset Tower. Maybe it is the welcoming staff? Maybe it is the warm cookies they place next to my bed in the evening? Maybe it is just the special feeling that you get when you walk in the door. I cannot explain it, but I can tell you that I keep coming back.