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Aug 10, 2011
By: Jasmine Gokbilgin
Editor-in-Chief/TV Host Media Personality
As unpredictable life proves to be, it is full of surprises and just when you think you know your town, think again. Just when you think you experienced the most beautiful moment, you can be moments away from experiencing another one, it’s just a matter of being open and inviting to what Life has to bring your way. This being said it would be on a Wednesday afternoon that I welcomed a spontaneous moment into my life with a request to explore and write about the one and only Charlie Hotel. But did I really know what and where the Charlie Hotel was at? No but I loved the sound of the name and wondered for a minute how the name of Hotel Charlie came to be?
An hour later, I was quick to start the quest that began with a knock on an old renovated cottage like wooden door, and an exhilarating feeling inside that anticipated what was about to come NEXT.
What NEXT meant, was a true teletransportation into a fairy tale like land otherwise known as the Charlie Hotel and once on the other side of that Wooden Door, all sense of orientation vanished, because I had just entered into an enchanting world where I would soon unravel the stories that came with it.
Walking in I knew right away this place was one of those hidden jewels similar to the Houdini Estate you always hear exists but is only accessible should the right person point you in that direction. The kind of place you want to escape to for an eternity if that was possible. Concededly the kind of place Hollywood Legends like Marylin Monroe, Charlie Chaplan, Marlene Dietrich, Gloria Swanson lived in for years, which now is the kind of place todays’ Hollywood Elite resides in but under very low profile parameters.
And here I am, standing in the midst of a courtyard surrounded by the most charming, 17 quaintest British Bungalows that could come from a modern version of Snow White and only for the appreciative connoisseurs of the Ultimate Luxury Lifestyle to enjoy.
When I earlier described that exhilarating feeling inside, I referred to the feeling that magnified by the second as I continued to interact with the Charlie location and its colorful oasis of magical branches, enchanting wells, cob stone rocks, tweeting birds, flying hummingbirds and oh yes a wondering human or two.
As Mr. Menachem Treivush the owner welcomed me, he very hospitably walked me up the stairs of one of quaintest yet hippest 2 story apartments also known as the Valentino that I learned had been occupied by the one and only Liv Tyler recently, and that was just the beginning of the list of residents that brought great energy to the pad. This particular unit like many of the others were the type where one would plan for a one night stay but ended up making a 2 year residence. With an abundance of privacy as nature weaved itself so beautifully around each of the homes leaving each one its deserved privacy, it gave you a feeling of living in the most enchanting Getaway 24/7.
And what blew this apartment away was not only the fact that it was impeccably decorated but that the balcony terrace, which was attached to it cannot simply be described in words because this would do it no justice. Without fluffing the truth, this terrace attached to the Valentino Apartment blows any villa’s terrace in the south of France out of the water, even without the Mediterranean view. With its magical carpet of greens and blooms every element in it that made it feel cozy and inviting; between the Retro Orangina Bistro table where one could breakfast with an Expresso and a chocolate croissant to the lounge chairs where you could comfortably tan on a typical sunny Los Angelian afternoon to the wooden table where you could find yourself with a notepad or your macbook writing away the script you had put off writing for years. It would also be here where you would find yourself on an evening with a wine bottle, some tappas and some nice company lounging in the chairs, while dazing into the star filled sky pondering and questioning the meaning of life.
The craziest part is even though I spent two evenings, I felt like I had been on vacation for weeks. I can’t believe that in these two days, I was able to be so in tuned with my senses. It was like an unleash of stress that I left behind that wooden door. I invited to this apartment only good energy who embraced the moment as I did and could live and breathe the amazing energy that was floating in the air.
I highly advise any one who has the curiosity for such pleasure to find the Charlie Hotel. Once behind that wooden door, you will not want to leave. I had my Snow White moment now the question is what will your experience be?
Go to www.thecharliehotel.com or call for a private tour at 323 988 9000 to see what I mean
Entering the Charlie Chaplin cottage, I stooped to avoid hitting my head. At 5 feet 8, I’m about 3 inches taller than Chaplin. (It’s said the Little Tramp had the door made small so his guests would have to bow as they entered.)
I was at the Charlie, an eccentric but charming West Hollywood hotel occupying a cluster of cottages where, it’s also said, Gloria Swanson, Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich,Bette Davis and other screen luminaries once lived. They are among the famous for whom the cottages are named.
Many “facts” about this property are in the “it’s said” category and may be only lore, but it is known that it was bought in 1924 and then developed by Chaplin, who had a home in Beverly Hills and a cottage here as a pied-à-terre.
The Charlie, with its fairy-tale shingled cottages, leaded glass windows and unmanicured garden, is very English. No surprise; Chaplin was a Londoner by birth. His London, however, was no fairy tale. Born into a dysfunctional theater family, he spent part of his childhood at a home for destitute children.
The hotel is the creation of Menachem Treivush, who spotted this secluded hideaway — then in a sad state of disrepair — while walking by in 2002. The owner at the time intended to raze the cottages and build a huge condo complex, but the plan had stalled. “Condos! A travesty,” Treivush thought. So he bought the property and spent more than five years restoring it.
Treivush, an Israeli who moved to Los Angeles in 1977 and did well in the garment industry, wanted to “create an environment for creative people” at the Charlie, which opened in late 2008. Among guests Treivush mentions are Natalie Portman, Liv Tyler and “Twilight” costars Robert Pattinsonand Kristen Stewart. A Teen Vogue crew was doing a photo shoot when I was here.
For two nights in late August, I occupied the Betty (named for Davis, who allegedly slept here). It’s an upstairs unit sharing a stairwell with the Clark, as in Gable. He’s not known to have stayed here, but, it’s said, often partied here with film friends.
The Betty ($300 a night) has a nice living room with a dark wood floor, a full kitchen, a washer and dryer, a small bedroom with a king bed and no room for a chair, and a small but nicely redone tiled bath. There are two flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi. There was a lot to like — white orchids, natural light that floods the rooms, the garden view through paned windows. The décor, traditional and cheerful, includes a pair of white leather-look wing chairs and a gray pinstripe sofa in the living area, a blue-and-white palette in the bedroom.
In the kitchen, I found a toaster but no coffeemaker. Treivush’s daughter Masha, a Cornell University hotel school graduate who manages the Charlie, scared up a coffeemaker, but I had to drive to a market to buy coffee. A few other things $300 a night did not buy: Kleenex and a clock radio.
The Charlie seems more attuned to those staying longer and bringing their own stuff. Housekeeping is provided only on weekdays. Two of the 14 cottages have long-term tenants and a third is the office, which may or may not be open at stated hours. Both daily and monthly rates are quoted for the 11 other units.
The hotel is not for everyone. It has no lobby, fitness center or restaurant, but that could change. Treivush is eyeing an adjacent property where he could put a pool and cabanas and convert the existing home into a restaurant and screening room.
Renovation of the Charlie preserved or duplicated such vintage features as beamed ceilings and black-and-white bath tiles. The rose-filled garden was designed with guidance from an elderly woman who stopped one day, introduced herself and told the new owner that she had been Chaplin’s secretary-paramour.
She told him how Chaplin took tea at 5 o’clock by the shaded outdoor fireplace, how — although he was reputed to be close with a dollar — he offered the cottages rent-free to struggling actors. She told of seeing Chaplin in his cottage, writing or watching silent films.
“So many people came by and told me who was here and what was here,” Treivush said. Another source, a woman who’d been a 30-year tenant, said Monroe was a neighbor in the cottages in the ’40s.
The 27,000-square-foot property once was called La Brea Farm and, like much of West Hollywood then, was a farm. Originally, there were only a farmhouse and a stable, since razed, where Chaplin andRudolph Valentino are said to have kept horses. Treivush told me an early owner was the mother of actress-screenwriter Ruth Gordon, who lived in the farmhouse with her screenwriter husband,Garson Kanin. A cottage is named for Ruth.
Accused of un-American activities during the McCarthy era, Chaplin returned to England in 1952 and sold the property to members of the Vanderbilt family. He and his wife, Oona O’Neill, and their children eventually settled in Switzerland, where he died in 1977. There were three more owners before Treivush.
In Chaplin’s cottage, Treivush pointed out the child-sized shower that was kept as a curiosity when a new one was installed. As we stood near the stairs, he showed me a photo of Chaplin standing in almost the same spot. Over the fireplace were two crossed canes — Chaplin memorabilia unearthed in the basement along with two of his typewriters.
Each cottage has a personality. I loved the Marilyn, with its beautiful little garden-view dining room and all-white master bedroom. I also liked the Masha, with its open-plan living-kitchen-dining room. The Gregory (as in Peck) has a quiet off-street location and a lovely, large gated patio, while the luxurious two-story Valentino has an enormous master bedroom with walk-in closet.
Gravel paths with flagstones traverse the garden. There are small patios off some of the one- or two-bedroom cottages and a big wooden deck, open to all tenants, overlooking the garden. Each cottage has gated parking.
Treivush can often be found on-site, eager to talk about Charlie and the Charlie. A first-time hotelier at 66, he says, “This place has given me so much to look forward to.” One of his new hobbies: collecting Chaplin memorabilia. “Look,” he says, handing me a recent acquisition. It’s a book of paper dolls, featuring Chaplin and Paulette Goddard, said to be one of his four wives.
The Charming Charlie Hotel
by Sari Anne Tuschman
When Menachem Treivush came upon what is now The Charlie Hotel in 2002, it was in ruins—a mess of buildings and overgrown gardens in varying forms of disarray. Treivush heard the city wanted to preserve the complex for its historical significance so he met the owner and bought it that very day, only to spend five years and many millions painstakingly restoring it to its former 1920s glory when—as the story goes—Hollywood legends spent time there. Specifically, Charlie Chaplin, who is rumored to have lived in one of the 11 bungalows (post-renovation, there are 14), where his alleged mistress, Marilyn Monroe, and friend Valentino would also hang out. Treivush learned about the past of this hidden oasis in the middle of West Hollywood from Chaplin’s former secretary, who often visited him during the rebuilding, regaling him with stories about the incredible people who used to frequent this magical hideaway.
The bungalows were restored to look exactly as they once did, thanks to the endless photographs and history books Treivush consulted. The bungalow that is said to be Chaplin’s former home bears one of his canes on the wall and features a small door and shower, probably built for the actor who was famously small in stature. “I gave it all to this place,” says Treivush. “I gave everything I could afford and even what I couldn’t afford. I put everything into making this a memorial to these people. We built the most beautiful place.”
The interior of the bungalows is modern and breathtaking, at once contrasting with and complementing the old-fashioned exteriors. Today, the spectacular bungalows with their enchanting gardens and communal courtyard still serve as a getaway for the Hollywood elite, many of whom come to escape the spotlight and reawaken their creativity. “People can stay for a day or for a month, it doesn’t matter as long as they are happy,” says Treivush. “One Hollywood star said this is the only place she can run in the garden in her pajamas.”
The Charlie Hotel, 819 N. Sweetzer Ave., West Hollywood, 323-988-9000; thecharliehotel.com
PHOTOGRAPH BY KARYN R. MILLET
Please contact The Charlie directly in regards to any press inquiries!