Like the Chateau Marmont, its ancient rival down the street, the Sunset Tower was originally conceived as an apartment building that catered to the Hollywood elite. The Marmont opened in 1927, the Sunset Tower opened in 1931. It advertised itself in the early days as “Hollywood’s most distinguished address.” And like the Marmont, the Sunset Tower, at 8358 Sunset Blvd. [map], is a hotel today.
During its career as an apartment building, famous residents included Marilyn Monroe, Errol Flynn, Elizabeth Taylor, Preston Sturges, Frank Sinatra, Zsa-Zsa Gabor, and others.
“I am living in a very posh establishment, the Sunset Tower,” Truman Capote wrote in a letter to a friend back east in 1947, “which, or so the local gentry tell me, is where every scandal that ever happened happened.” (If the “local gentry” told Capote this–and there is a better than even chance it’s something he made up–they were wrong. The best venue for scandals in that era was the Garden of Allah Hotel down the street.)
Like all places where celebrities gather, the Sunset Tower has its legends. For example, it is true that Bugsy Siegel, one of the most powerful mobsters in the country, was arrested there in May 1944 on a penny ante bookmaking charge.
It is also true that Howard Hughes rented the penthouse for a time, as well as about 30 other apartments, where he housed women he was seeing. Less certain is whether it was the favored address of Hollywood’s top call girls.
But here’s one that’s false. It is not true that John Wayne kept a milk cow on his balcony. Practical considerations about the hauling of hay up 10 floors and the commensurate disposal of manure aside, the Los Angeles Conservancy contacted the Wayne estate who confirmed that there is no truth to the rumor.