10 Hotels with Scandalous Pasts

U.S. News & World Report

10 Hotels with Scandalous Pasts

Hotels are the perfect places for the rich and famous to engage in questionable conduct. They're private enough to be concealed from prying public eyes, yet they're also an exciting escape from the monotony of home. It's no wonder that hotels have provided the backdrop for many of this century's most notorious scandals. The 10 hotels on this list have seen just about everything, from political intrigue and extramarital affairs to drug abuse and assassination attempts. Truly, if these walls could talk...

In the wee hours of June 17, 1972, five men (later found to be associated with President Richard Nixon's re-election campaign) broke into the Watergate Hotel on Washington, D.C.'s waterfront. Looking to steal classified documents from the offices of the Democratic National Committee (located within the hotel complex), the Watergate burglars also attempted to bug the office by setting up wiretaps on its telephones. It wasn't until after Nixon's landslide win in the 1972 presidential election that the extent of his campaign's involvement in the Watergate break-in came to light. On Aug. 8, 1974, Nixon announced he would resign as the 37th president of the United States. The Watergate scandal forever changed the face of American politics, and the term "Watergate" became the eponym for "scandal" in modern America. However, no matter how badly you might want to book a stay or bug a phone in The Watergate Hotel, you can't — the property is closed for renovations until spring 2014.

Employees of the Hotel Caribe in Cartagena, Colombia, spent the night of April 11, 2012, bombarded by noise complaints from numerous guests. Apparently, a group of American men had staged an impromptu, alcohol-fueled party in the beachfront hotel's pool. By morning, the hotel grounds were littered with broken glass, and the truth began to emerge: The source of the debauchery was not ordinary tourists, but rather U.S. Secret Service agents. A few agents — who had arrived in Cartagena ahead of President Barack Obama's official visit — took advantage of the nightlife in a city where prostitution is legal. They ended the evening by bringing booze and escorts back to Hotel Caribe. Some of the agents said they were unaware that the women they invited back to the hotel were prostitutes, but the damage was done. The Secret Service indiscretions overshadowed the president's appearance at the Summit of the Americas and resulted in an internal investigation, several dismissals and resignations, plenty of embarrassment and a blow to the service's reputation. The Hotel Caribe, however, remains a popular tourist hotel thanks to its historical architecture, relaxing pool and three on-site restaurants.

Los Angeles' Chateau Marmont has stood as a bastion of celebrity debauchery since its debut in the 1930s. Back then, aviator Howard Hughes allegedly used to spy on bikini-clad women at the hotel pool through binoculars from his penthouse. In 1955, actor James Dean leaped through one of the hotel's windows while auditioning for "Rebel Without a Cause." And Jim Morrison of the rock band, The Doors, swung from the hotel's roof in the late 1960s, irreparably injuring his back. The Eagles' 1977 song "Hotel California" is even rumored to be about the Chateau Marmont. But in 1982, the Chateau party soured when comedian John Belushi died from a drug overdose in Bungalow 3. However, the hotel's reputation for outrageous guest behavior lives on. In the past decade, starlets Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears have been banned from Chateau Marmont for rude and disruptive behavior. Maybe it's the hotel's abnormally thick walls and stringent privacy rules that attract scandal, or maybe there's just something in the air in West Hollywood. Whatever it is, Chateau Marmont remains a magnet for celebrity misbehavior.

With its iconic modern architecture and staggering 110,000 square feet of function space, the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., is usually in the news for large-scale events like the White House Correspondents Dinner. However, on March 30, 1981, this Hilton hotel made headlines for another reason. A man named John Hinckley Jr. shot and wounded President Ronald Reagan as the he exited the hotel following a luncheon address to members of the AFL-CIO. The assassination attempt proved unsuccessful — Reagan even signed a piece of legislation the day after the bullet was removed from his lung. Regardless, the Washington Hilton took measures to ensure nothing like that would happen again. The so-called "President's Walk," the concrete-canopied corridor from which Reagan exited the hotel, was redesigned to be safer and more secluded for presidential access.

High-profile scandals can happen for many reasons: lust, revenge, political gain, monetary greed or even just by accident. But sometimes, a scandal is simply inexplicable. In 2002, pop singer Michael Jackson dangled his 9-month-old son off of a fifth-floor balcony at the Hotel Adlon in central Berlin. Whether it was a planned publicity stunt or a spur-of-the-moment decision, the "baby-dangling" incident earned Jackson condemnation from the international press, as well as a parental negligence investigation spearheaded by the German police. Jackson apologized for his bizarre behavior, but the damage to his public image was long-lasting. The Hotel Adlon, on the other hand, lived down the media attention, in large part due to its reputation for elegance and luxury. Guests who stay here are treated to a comfy lounge, a boutique-lined shopping gallery and the modern Adlon Spa by Resense.

On the outside, The Carlyle oozes Old New York elegance — from its original 1930s art deco architecture to its East 76th Street locale (just a block east of Central Park). But inside, The Carlyle has hosted its fair share of famous guests engaged in inappropriate conduct. A 1965 FBI memo (made public in 2010) details rumors of wild parties in John F. Kennedy's Carlyle suite, with an attendee list that includes Robert Kennedy, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Marilyn Monroe. Thirty years later, record producer Phil Spector allegedly attempted to force a female photographer into his Carlyle guest room at gunpoint. And as recently as June 2011, a $350,000 painting was stolen from The Carlyle's lobby; the thief was caught and sentenced to jail time. While there have been no buzz-worthy scandals since 2012, The Carlyle remains a popular spot for celebs visiting New York City. Actors George Clooney and Tom Cruise have made recent appearances at the hotel, so keep your eyes peeled.

By 1978, New York's Hotel Chelsea had garnered a reputation for welcoming famous clientele like Jane Fonda, Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan. Andy Warhol used to host parties at the Hotel Chelsea, including his infamous "Assassination Party," which took place days after John F. Kennedy's death in 1963. More than a decade later, punk rock royalty Sid Vicious (former bassist of the Sex Pistols) and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen took up residence in Room 100. That is, until Oct. 12, 1978, when (after an anonymous tip) the hotel bellboy found Spungen's fatally stabbed body in the bathroom. The Hotel Chelsea continued to host a litany of artistic residents, from beat poets to famous musicians. In 2011, however, the 130-year-old hotel stopped taking reservations to begin major renovations. It is expected to reopen in September 2014.

On the night of Feb. 13, 2008, the married governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, paid a female escort to spend the night with him in Room 871 of The Mayflower Renaissance hotel in Washington, D.C. The room, which was booked under the false name George Fox, was located on the Mayflower's Club level, where guests can gain access to upscale hotel amenities like a private lounge and complimentary food and beverages. But Spitzer wasn't the first politico to have a tryst at the Mayflower. During a campaign event in 1996, President Bill Clinton was photographed hugging Monica Lewinsky at the historic hotel. Later, in January 1999, Lewinsky stayed in room 860 of the Mayflower so that she could be interviewed before the president's impeachment trial.

When you're the highest-paid athlete in the world, a trip to Las Vegas is no small affair. Golfer Tiger Woods proved himself a high roller after staying and gambling at The Mansion at MGM Grand, an exclusive, Tuscan villa-themed offshoot of the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino (where a one-room suite costs $5,000 a night). It was on one of these opulent Vegas vacations in 2005 that Woods conducted his affair with Jamie Jungers, one of the many mistresses he kept throughout his marriage to former model Elin Nordegren. Several other women also came forward, telling the press of nights they spent with Woods at The Mansion at MGM Grand. In a 2010 article, an unnamed source told Vanity Fair magazine that The Mansion provides deluxe amenities for its VIP guests, like $8,500 bottles of Champagne and $25,000 VIP tables at famous Vegas nightclubs Light and Pure. But as Woods' mistresses are now public knowledge, it seems that what happens in Vegas doesn't always stay there.

The Hotel Sofitel New York is known for its city vistas (it boasts a great view of the Chrysler Building) and its ideal location close to many of Manhattan's top attractions. Because of its glamorous reputation, the Hotel Sofitel plays host to an illustrious clientele, though some guests may arrive with less-than-illustrious intentions. On May 14, 2011, Nafissatou Diallo, a member of the hotel's housekeeping staff, accused hotel guest Dominique Strauss-Kahn — then-managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — of sexually assaulting her in Room 2806. The allegations and the ensuing press coverage resulted in Strauss-Kahn's resignation from the IMF and an eventual civil lawsuit settlement for Diallo. Two years after the incident, the Hotel Sofitel maintains its good reputation. The same can't be said for Strauss-Kahn, who faces charges of pimping in connection to a prostitution ring allegedly operating out of the Hotel Carlton in Lille, France.

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