I am Molly Ringwald


It is impossible to live and work in Hollywood and not have some kind of association with the Chateau Marmont. Most famously, John Belushi fatally overdosed there, while in an earlier, near-fatal episode, the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald suffered a heart attack at the Chateau. Annie Lebowitz shot the Vanity Fair cover of Demi Moore in her “birthday suit” and Brittany Spears was allegedly added to the Marmont’s blacklist for having “smeared a gourmet dinner on her face.” (Which makes me wonder, what was it that caused such an offence: that she “smeared” it on her face, or that it was a “gourmet dinner?” Would she have been kicked out if she had chosen, instead, to stick her face in a bucket of KFC)? As the list of notable luminaries suggests, this place has history.

I stayed there for a brief spell in the eighties—just after I moved out of my parents’ house, but before I was quite ready to live on my own. The Chateau is perfect for that kind of post-adolescent but pre-adult restless ennui. The hotel where I lived then was hip to be sure, but it wasn’t nearly the epicenter of LA culture as it is today. The furnishings were comfortingly shabby—points go to Mr. Andre Balazs for retaining the tattered charm, admirably resisting the urge to gut the place and turn it into a stripped down mid-century modern whitewashed showcase of the imitable Balazs style (a style gloriously on display at any number of his coterie of hotels).

Last week I found myself back at the hotel after what I realized was many years. It felt like a homecoming. This particular hotel does that to you. What is it about the chateau? The furniture is pretty much the same as it was back then, but now the sofas look lived in, rather than borderline flea-bitten. The courtyard is beautifully maintained, giving the distinct impression that time has stopped, and the guests are as cool as ever. The last time I stayed here for any length of time in the mid-nineties, I continually had to chase after my new Pomeranian puppy, keeping her from charging into Leonardo DiCaprio’s room—whose door never seemed to close with the continual comings and goings of the faithful “Leo” crew. This time, I spotted Lily Tomlin in the cafe and resisted the urge to gush. Besides, I had work to do, and I was already late, having been pulled over on Sunset Boulevard for texting… that I was going to be late.

I was to be photographed by Terry Richardson for a high fashion glossy magazine out of the United Kingdom. For some reason, when I was asked to participate in the shoot weeks before, I mistakenly thought it was another photographer named Terry. That Terry was married to Faye Dunaway, and once photographed me and a host of other actors for the cover of Life magazine at a party for Paramount pictures. Turns out, that was Terry O’Neil (second husband of Faye, after she divorced the guy from the J. Geils band. According to Wikipedia, she has outlived them both. Go Faye)!

Terry Richardson, however, is significantly younger, though honestly I found it hard to peg an actual age. He is sporting some pretty serious muttonchops, reminiscent of seventies gay culture. Anytime I see someone who resembles anything from the 1970s, my immediate and somewhat Pavlovian response is to view him or her as my senior, since I was a child of the bicentennial.

While I was getting prettied up by the gentle Johnny, his knuckles tattooed with “Fags Rule”, and Sutan, “rhymes with futon”, I borrowed the latter’s phone to do a web search on the Terry that I was actually shooting with. Let me tell you, the guy is a rock star. His pictures are cool, edgy—a little dirty. Well, actually a lot dirty (in a good way). It reminds me of a day years ago when I was shot by Helmut Newton for Rolling Stone.

“What were you wearing?” a fellow (and older) thespian asked me aghast, perplexed that my mother had allowed the photo session to have taken place, considering how fiercely protective she was of me. The answer: A black dress with a wide brimmed hat, while holding my west highland terrier on a leash. It is one of my mom’s favorites shoots (mostly because of the dog, I suspect). In my opinion the photo is nearly perverse by virtue of just how prim it is.

Likewise with Terry Richardson. I started out in a stunning rust-colored Ferregamo dress, but most of the pictures were shot in the same trench coat that I arrived in.  Natural and oh so tasteful. What is it about me, I wonder, that inspires the saintly in the lascivious?

We chatted about his father (the late fashion photographer Bob Richardson) and the book that he edited of his father’s work along with his handwritten diary. A little backstory revealed that his father left his mother for the actress “pre-Jack” Angelica Huston. I asked him if by any chance he had ever photographed her, and it turns out he had—for the same magazine that he was shooting me for, aptly named LOVE.

“What was it like?”

“Incredible…emotional,” he said, lowering his camera as he recalled the day. “You know, she hadn’t seen him since they broke up, like, in an airport or something years ago…”

And then it was time for a wardrobe and lipstick change. Alaia dress and full fuchsia mouth (Mac Pro’s Show Orchid). Just as we were hitting our stride, the doorbell rang and a bouquet of pink peonies arrived for Terry—without a card.

“My favorite flower!” he bubbled, immediately thrusting the flowers into my arms. He positioned my fingers precisely along the clear cellophane wrapping.

“Hold them like a homecoming queen,” he directed me, with the most authority I had heard from him all day.  I confess, a part of me wondered if he had ordered them himself, expressly for this purpose, but then just as my suspicions were churning away, he instructed his assistant to call and grill the florist about who his secret admirer might be. He positively beamed as he considered the possibilities. Even the temperamental actress who arrived while my shoot was still in progress and then stormed out couldn’t dim his high spirits.  He mused aloud with a silly grin on his face.

“Whoever it is, she has to know…it’s my favorite flower!”

I made a mental note to send my husband a bunch of irises. His favorite flower.

Photo Credits:

“Fags Rule”: Terry Richardson

Terry taking picture of Molly: M. Ringwald

Terry with Peonies: M. Ringwald