The Hyatt House from Gene Autry to Led Zeppelin and Beyond

For decades I had a view of the hotel known as the Continental Hyatt House from my back porch and always enjoyed seeing that it was still there after all these years. Alas, recently my view was blocked by the building of the Pendry with its huge digital sign blinking 24-7. Many things have changed since the hotel’s opening in the early 1960s.

The hotel opened in 1963 as Gene Autry’s Hotel Continental but three years later the singing-cowboy-turned-mogul leased the property to the Hyatt chain and it became the Continental Hyatt House. As one of the first hotels to open on the Sunset Strip since the venerable Chateau Marmont, the Hyatt was a magnet for celebrities, especially rock stars like Jim Morrison, who was soon evicted for hanging over a balcony by his fingertips. The Doors lead singer found a warmer welcome at the more downscale Alta Cienega Motel just around the corner.

This did not deter other rockers like the Rolling Stones and the Who from making the Hyatt the go-to hostelry for touring bands in the late 1960s. The hotel was dubbed the “Riot House” for the shenanigans that took place there, like riding motorcycles up and down the halls.

The hotel’s heyday as the “Riot House” was the 1970s, when visiting rock bands ran amok through the halls and tried to outdo each other in the art of destroying rooms. The most notorious of these rockers was the British group Led Zeppelin, which made the Hyatt its headquarters for legendary acts of debauchery. A friend reported seeing a TV set crash to the ground in front of her as she was exiting the hotel during one of the band’s visits. It was from his balcony at the Hyatt that lead singer Robert Plant made his famous “I am a golden god!” proclamation.

Also happening during the 1970s was Rodney’s English Disco a few blocks to the east on Sunset. This no-booze nightclub was the go-to spot for teenage groupies like Sable Starr and Lori Lightning as well as the rock stars with a taste for jailbait. Led Zeppelin rented multiple floors of the Hyatt to have more privacy for their evenings with young ladies they picked up at Rodney’s or the Rainbow.  These sort of liaisons are flagrantly illegal and shocking in these “me too” days but this was another time, post-The Pill and pre-AIDS. Let’s just say that some people are very lucky that we didn’t have the internet and social media back then.  

Times changed and newer hotels opened in the West Hollywood area so the “Riot House” began to live down its wild reputation, although the rooftop pool area did make an appearance in the 1986 “rockumentary” “Spinal Tap.” The name changed several times, from the Hyatt Sunset to Hyatt West Hollywood to its current incarnation as the Andaz. This final title came with a major renovation that included enclosing the open balconies so no future guests could try hanging over the edge.

The new hotels springing up all over WeHo may be more modern and luxurious than the Hyatt in its day but none of them have the same kind of character and so many memories.

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About Linda Cauthen
Linda F. Cauthen moved to West Hollywood from Montgomery, Alabama, fifty years ago in search of adventure. What she found was a long career in journalism including gigs with Larry Flynt Publishing, The Hollywood Reporter, and many more. After the bottom fell out of print magazines, she made the move to online media where she produced content on a variety of subjects including beauty, consumer technology, and showbiz gossip. Her interests include Hollywood history, classic country music, and old movies. She is one of WeHo’s top authorities on what used to stand at any given location in the distant past.

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3 months ago

When I started visiting West Hollywood in the 1990s,I perferred the Ramada West Hollywood as it was near the gay district.The old Hyatt was undesirable for me as it was on Sunset Blvd. and near the rock clubs that were of no interest to me.

Also, the big block look of the Hyatt looked cold to me and was not inviting.I didn’t know about its reputation when I first started coming to West Hollywood,but it makes interesting reading.Thanks for the look.

Jerry Rutledge
Jerry Rutledge
4 months ago

Wasn’t it called the Riot Hyatt

4 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Rutledge

That was going to be my question.

Jerry Rutledge
Jerry Rutledge
4 months ago
Reply to  Rose

I lived up Kings Road above it and all I remember is it was called the Riot Hyatt — which makes a lot of sense. I never heard Riot House till this article.

carleton cronin
4 months ago

A business trip to LA brought me to the Hyatt in 1971. During the weekend stay the hotel was a madhouse with people running up and down the halls all night. My call to the front desk received the reply: :”We have lost control of the hotel!” I moved to the other Hyatt in the city of Commerce to get some sleep.

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