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