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Butler at 3 a.m.? At your service

The recently expanded Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood shamelessly pampers its guests.

October 12, 2008|Valli Herman | Times Staff Writer

IN CERTAIN circles, the Sunset Marquis Hotel & Villas represents the ultimate destination for professionals for whom fast living and hard partying are job descriptions.

Yet louche lifestyles have a way of staying within conventional boundaries at the recently expanded all-suite hotel.

It is no accident that this newly glamorous West Hollywood hideaway shelters and pampers its famous guests. The place is like a luxurious asylum for the seriously needy. Need a 24-hour butler? The Marquis has it. Need a massage at 2 a.m.? They'll get it. Need a professional kitchen, private screening room, double walk-in closets, a high-tech office and three fireplaces plus an adjoining room for your bodyguard? They have it in the new 3,200-square-foot presidential villa that rents for $7,000 a night and includes use of a Bentley automobile.

In a $20-million expansion, the property grew to 152 rooms, and includes 40 new villas on 5 acres, a new ultra-private spa, indoor-outdoor 120-seat restaurant and lush landscaping. The hotel's 102 single-bedroom suites are being remodeled and may be finished by year's end.

Oh, and there's the NightBird recording studio in the basement, with tour bus parking and private elevators. Madonna, Aerosmith, John Legend, Jeff Beck and Josh Groban have recorded there.

The creed that best sums up the vibe at the 45-year-old hotel may be this: "We are shameless. We do anything." Those words were not from some depraved rock star, but from Klaus Messner, the hotel's director of entertainment sales and marketing, explaining the limits to personal service, or, perhaps, the lack thereof, at a summer grand-opening party.

That commitment to coddling may explain why the expansion took nearly two years: Construction was periodically suspended to maintain tranquillity.

I had visited the hotel over the years, but never overnight, so in late September I booked a junior villa for the $450 promotional rate ($543, including $30 parking and 14% occupancy tax).

Not 15 minutes after the bellman ushered me to my second-story room, the villa butler knocked at the door to ask about my needs. Cocktail? Reservations? At first, I was wowed by my guest room's modern Hollywood splendor: A tufted bronze vinyl headboard anchors the king-size bed, padded with down and eight pillows; a 6-foot sectional couch pairs with a granite-topped wet bar. The glistening bathroom beckons with an oval tub nearly 6 feet long, glass mosaic walls and loads of Aveda products.

Yet my villa had no desk or table, just an oversized ottoman, an especially awkward work space substitute, given that working entertainment types make up much of the clientele. And no guest will like banging his knees on a bathroom cart that's wedged between the toilet and the door.

A string of other minor oversights in design and service tamed my positive first impressions of the hotel. Studying the website, I had thought my villa would include a whirlpool tub, dining table and fireplace. Alas, it had none of these. My bathroom also lacked TV and music (only a bedside iPod-docking clock radio provided music), amenities that are common in most high-end hotels but would seem mandatory for an entertainment industry clientele.

The service can be uncommonly good, though aspects of it can get easily overwhelmed. During my stay, it took room service 36 minutes to deliver a muffin, juice and coffee ($22.08), about twice the usual time for a hotel this size.

The room's front door suffered fresh gouges each time it was opened into an ill-positioned countertop on the wet bar. The villas' Spanish-style exterior seemed better suited to a complementary motif, not the Art Deco-meets-1970s look.

Several days before my arrival, the hotel sent an e-mail offering to secure dining or spa reservations or supplies for my stay. Days later, I had no response to my spa request, but minutes after I phoned to inquire, the staff confirmed my time slot.

Most needs are immediately satisfied, and with flair. For example, I asked the hotel for a sleep mask, which I'd forgotten to pack. The concierge offered to get one at a nearby drugstore. No need, I demurred; the room had blackout curtains. I later discovered that light shined through a bare hall window directly onto my bed, but fortunately, the concierge had delivered a sleep mask to my room hours before, anyway, at no charge.

My irritations vanished as I sat on the restaurant's outdoor terrace, overlooking a waterfall and koi pond. Executive Chef Guillaume Burlion presides over the supper-clubby room, while presenting his Asian-French fusion menu.

I glanced up and saw actor Gabriel Byrne crossing the pond's wooden bridge. He's one of the hotel's regular guests, and his photo portrait by Ross Halfin is among the many of famous clients that adorn the walls here. Most of the photos are inscribed with a similar sentiment: "To my home away from home."

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