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Raymond Sarlot, investor who saved Hollywood's Chateau Marmont, dies at 89

As a symbol of Hollywood lore, the Chateau Marmont knows few peers. Hard to believe the landmark hotel where Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe and countless others sought refuge as a haven of privacy was on its last legs in 1975 when developer Raymond Sarlot, looking for a tax break, bought and then fell in love with it.

Sarlot died at his Los Angeles home April 27, his wife tells the Los Angeles Times, which published his obituary today. He was 89.

Built in 1927 and nestled above the Sunset Strip in the Hollywood Hills, the Chateau Marmont never lacked for A-list regulars, even after it became raggedy around the edges and its trove of antique furnishings and fixtures began to disappear.

Actress Myrna Loy is said to have once called for a new room chair after the bottom fell out of the one she was using.

But after buying the place with a business partner Sarlot moved in and went to work renovating. He re-did walls and floors, got rid of tacky fixtures, replaced pilfered antiques, rebuilt the pool and added bungalows, including the one (Bungalow 3) where John Belushi was found dead of a drug overdose in 1982. Sarlot owned the hotel for 16 years, until selling it to hotelier Andre Balazs in 1991.

In declaring it a city historic-cultural monument the year after Sarlot purchased it, the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission noted that the hotel was "one of the few remaining landmarks to remind us of the glitter of Hollywood's past."

And who can argue with that. From The Times' obit:

The Marmont was "practically a capsule history of Hollywood itself," [Sarlot's former business partner, Karl] Kantarjian wrote in the foreword to "Life at the Marmont." Modeled after a castle in the Loire Valley of France, it became a home away from home for writers, actors and others who earned livelihoods at the nearby studios. Among the early guests were Stan Laurel, Katharine Hepburn, Billy Wilder, Mary Astor and Jean Harlow.

In later decades, playwright Arthur Miller came for weekend trysts with Marilyn Monroe. Paul Newman met Joanne Woodward there, and their pal, Gore Vidal, used it as a setting for his novel "Myra Breckinridge." In the rock era, regular guests included Graham Nash, David Crosby and Pink Floyd. "Rosemary's Baby" director Polanski lived at the Marmont in 1968 with his wife, Sharon Tate, before they moved to the Benedict Canyon house where she was murdered by the Manson gang; several years later, Polanski took refuge at the hotel while facing charges of drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl.

The Marmont became Sarlot's baby, so much so that after Bob Woodward described where Belushi died as "a seedy hotel bungalow off Sunset Boulevard" in "Wired," the Belushi biography, Sarlot and Kantarjian sued the publisher. After an apology, the lawsuit was later dropped.

Sarlot's widow, Sally Rae Sarlot, tells The Times, "Ray had spent so much time and effort bringing the hotel up to respectable condition that it was a blow to him to hear someone call it seedy. He was defending its honor."

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