Hallowed Ground: The Riot House

“Hallowed Ground” is a regular feature on Clore Chronicles, exploring important physical locations in music history.

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The Sunset Strip in Los Angeles is one of my absolute favorite places to be. There is a constant vibe of rock and roll felt in few other places. It is simply magical.

The location best known as the “Riot House,” currently (officially) referred to as Andaz West Hollywood, is a hotel on the Sunset Strip where some of Rock and Roll’s most “rock and roll” events took place. Quite archetypal stuff: TVs thrown out of windows, people trying to kill themselves, naked women, extensive hedonism, renting entire floors of hotels. You know, normal things.

And we’re talking about some of Rock and Roll’s most iconic and legendary bands, literally the heart of the canon by which all other mainstream Rock and Rollers are judged: Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Doors. (Zeppelin’s John Bonham and The Who’s Keith Moon alone could have warranted the name the “Riot House.”)

Located at 8401 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood and originally opened in 1963, the hotel has had five different names, in order: Gene Autry House (1963-1966), Continental Hyatt House (1966-1976), Hyatt on Sunset (1976-1997), Hyatt West Hollywood (1997-2009) and its current name, Andaz West Hollywood.

From Ralph Hulett and Jerry Prochnicky’s book, Whole Lotta Led: Our Flight with Led Zeppelin:

For the tour’s [Zeppelin’s 1973 tour] final ten days Zeppelin used an entire floor at the Continental Hyatt House in L.A. as its base. Locals began calling it the “Riot House” because of all the zaniness that went on. Only [John Paul] Jones seemed to avoid the tour antics. Reports claim that he always insisted on his hotel suite being at least two floors away from the rest of the band. Having an entire floor was like having one big playground taken from the script of Animal House. It was crazy, it was mad. There were wheelchair races in the hallway. TVs were thrown out the window. Groupies were tied to the beds. “Coke Lady,” an aide employed solely for the purpose of passing out white powder to band members and crew, was kept busy. Bonham played his records very, very loud at three or four in the morning and somebody would go downstairs and complain. The hotel ended up moving the person who complained. It was just the idea that, “We can get away with anything because we’re Led Zeppelin.”

The following 30-second video clip from This Is Spinal Tap was filmed on the roof of the hotel.

In Richard Crouse’s book, Big Bang Baby: The Rock Trivia Book, he shares,

…The hotel has a rich rock and roll history. In the 1960s Doors singer Jim Morrison lived at The Riot House, causing a traffic jam one afternoon when he hung out a window by his fingertips. He wasn’t evicted for his behaviour – he was simply moved to the other side of the hotel to a room facing away from the street. In the 1970s it was Led Zeppelin’s home away from home. Renting as many as six floors at a time, the band would stage motorcycle races in the halls, have orgies, and generally break up the place. Their business was always welcome, as long as they were willing to pay a $50,000 damage deposit each time they stayed there.

For a great look at the “Riot House” from the Zeppelin perspective:

Robert Plant, looking on from a balcony of the “Riot House.” Photo by Peter Simon/Retna.

 

*Originally published July 24, 2010

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