When the Standard Hollywood opened its doors 22 years ago, on the cusp of a new Millennium, it could not have been more cutting edge or of the moment. Its airy lobby featured an enormous egg-shaped chair, hung from the ceiling, and behind the slick, minimalist reception desk, The Box, a glass case inspired by Damien Hirst but containing, in place of a shark, a real-life human, reclining or reading, often scantily-clad.
Notable occupants of The Box over the years have included the poet Jacqueline Suskin, who used the space to take requests for personalised poems, counterculture figure Roger Steffens, and the photographer Shaniqwa Jarvis.
Now, with travel and tourism in Los Angeles – as across the US and most of the rest of the world – devastated by the ongoing pandemic, plus a significant increase on its already hefty lease, the iconic hotel is closing, leaving a gaping hole.
The end of the Standard’s very glamorous era is openly being mourned by celebrities on social media, including musicians Sam Smith and Adam Levine (‘too many memories to count’), heiress Ivy Getty, and artist Signe Pierce, who writes: "I’ve had some of the best nights / best sex / best 'dream life' scenarios in this place… Here’s to hoping that you can hatch another oasis on the Sunset Strip in the future."
The Standard Hollywood has never doubted or played down its identity. If you pulled up to the sliding glass doors of the white, retro property looking for a peaceful, relaxing lunch out by the pool, surrounded by its distinctive blue astroturf, or a quiet afternoon drink at its adjoining bar, Desert Nights, this was probably not the spot for you. The Standard has, since its launch, been a reliably party-hard hotel, with a permanent vibe and a DJ spinning tunes from just after lunch.
Nor would you want to have booked in with the hope of having the best sleep of your life. Though the beds in the expansive rooms were large and comfortable, traffic from Strip was hard to block out; the hotel did thoughtfully supply earplugs, left prominently on the bedside table.
And then there were the other guests – young, hip, often working in entertainment and invariably keeping unsociable (or very sociable, depending on your perspective) hours. This writer vividly recalls one Oscars weekend, holed up at the Standard with a streaming head cold and cursing the non-stop parties all along the corridor, which appeared to have become the unofficial after-party for the Vanity Fair bash next door. As a regular guest, though, with my own propensity for burning the candle at both ends, the 24-hour diner, as well as the well-stocked minibar, rarely went unappreciated or unused.
The Standard’s popularity and place in pop culture was cemented with its cameos television and film. It was the hotel owned by Brad Pitt’s Rusty Ryan in Ocean’s Twelve, the spot where Carrie and co stayed on a trip to LA in season three of Sex and The City, in the episode ‘Escape from New York’, and featured in the third season of entertainment industry send-up, Entourage.
Originally built in 1962 as the Thunderbird Motel, the property had become a retirement home when hotelier Andre Balazs purchased it, bringing it firmly out of retirement and breathing new life not only into the building itself, but to its stretch of the storied Sunset Strip, which had, in recent years, lost something of its sparkle. Initial investors Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz didn’t do its image any harm. Along with its neighbour, the heavily design-focused Mondrian, The Standard quickly established a reputation, and its immediate area, as a destination in itself.
"It was really Andre’s masterpiece," says former chief operating officer of the Standard group, and now co-founder and CEO of Salt Hotels, David Bowd. "It was the first Standard and it set the tone for all the hotels that followed," which now include New York’s Standard High Line, the Standard Spa Miami, and the Standard London. Balazs also went on to open LA’s Chateau Marmont and London’s Chiltern Firehouse.
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That tone, from the start, was louche, playful, and above all else, fun. Bowd recalls dining with Annie Lennox and Amy Poehler who, ‘bored’ with the more sedate atmosphere at the Chateau Marmont across the street, headed to the Standard to dance until the small hours in the basement nightclub Giorgo’s instead.
Formerly known as the Purple Lounge and Mmhmmm, the tiny club with its mirrored walls became popular with movie sorts, rock and pop stars and designers, including Lenny Kravitz, Naomi Campbell, Daphne Guinness and David LaChapelle. Even Giorgio Moroder, the legendary DJ and producer after whom the club was named, popped in on occasion.
Though the entrance to the club, down a concealed flight of stairs and through the kitchens, bestowed a sense of secrecy and exclusivity, in reality, the Standard was eminently more accessible than its sister property, the Chateau. In fact, the see-and-be-seen atmosphere was very much the point. It attracted a crowd of up-and-coming Hollywood sorts and musicians, who would later graduate to the Chateau when they no longer wanted or needed to have their movements (or conquests) known.
Its closure is a sad indication of the hotel industry’s current and serious struggles. "Tourism will come back, eventually," says Bowd. "But right now, we need government help and support, aid and grants, to help our industry survive."
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