Bidding Farewell to The Standard Hotel After Its 22-Year Run (Guest Column)

The Standard Hotel: Closed After 22 Years
Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images; FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images; Emil Ravelo/Getty Images; Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

1 A performer inside The Box, a long-running living tableau at The Standard. “It was always populated with interesting people. Robert Sherman, the famous Mapplethorpe model, was in The Box every Saturday night,” says Bryan Rabin. 2 The hotel opened with investors who included Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz. 3 A Pride pool party hosted by Patrick Starr in 2019. 4 Rabin.

Event and film producer Bryan Rabin, creator of the spot's celeb-packed Giorgio’s nightclub, remembers the Sunset Strip institution, which shuttered Jan. 22.

To a young generation, The Standard — which closed on Jan. 22, 2021 — was where they all came of age in Hollywood. They spent all their 20s at the pool and then they spent their 30s or 40s at Giorgio's. They grew up with that hotel.

On opening night in 1999, I helped with the door for [then-owner] André Balazs, and I'm not a door-person. Monica Lewinsky showed up with a camera crew and I knew exactly who she was. I guess she was doing a documentary. I looked at the list and she was not on the list and I told her firmly that she needed to go away. The next day, it said, "Yes, We Turned Her Away," on the sign.

The thing about The Standard, it was very much like what Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell did with the Royalton in New York. They created the first party boutique hotels. Before that, you stayed in a hotel and then you went someplace else to party.

The Standard was the first time that concept was created in L.A. And what André did, which I thought was brilliant, [was similar] to Target rebranding where people realized you could get good fashionable things and home wares for cheap. That was the whole point of The Standard. You could stay in a really well-designed and provocative living art space for not a lot of money. That's the kind of pride they had about that property.

There were installations in the lobby — based in music, art, film and fashion — that changed every six weeks, including The Box, which was a very Warholian live art installation created by Shawn Hausman and Kenny Baird, who both did the installations at Area. There was a person inside The Box who would be dressed based on the theme of the lobby. People would come in the lobby and see a person reading or looking at their phone or sleeping, and you were allowed to just stare at somebody doing what's private in a public space. It blew people's minds. The Box was a study in humanity.  Robert Sherman, the famous Mapplethorpe model, was in the box every Saturday night.

André also really instituted the same sort of thing that he did at the Chateau Marmont: What goes on there, stays there. People felt very safe that they weren’t going to be spooked by the press. In front of the car park there was a whole bamboo and banana leaf installation, and I think he built that so paparazzi could never shoot into the lobby.

When I came back from retirement and André asked me to do a nightclub at The Standard, I loved that the entrance to the club was not on the street. We never wanted anybody to know there was actually a club there. Because you had to enter into the hotel [to get to the club], you had no right to stand in a line inside the hotel. So if someone was being obnoxious and wouldn’t leave, you could give them an eviction notice. I don't believe in lineups [of people waiting to get in]. I don't think it's glamorous. And it’s awful to turn someone away. It doesn’t feel nice, but we had to protect the brand of the club.

The club held only 100 people. You could be a kid who just moved to Hollywood, and if you fit the criteria of coolness — my definition of coolness, meaning you're going to bring something to the party — you could get in. You could be a great talker or have great style or you're an excellent dancer. Money and fame don't necessarily make anybody cool.

Because Giorgio's was such a small space, I wanted everybody to feel safe inside. I didn't allow any cameras whatsoever. And no bodyguards. The bodyguards would come and do their walk-through, but then we would say you can wait outside. I had to remove many a bodyguard. Because they would stand there like a Mack truck, like a brick wall. When there’s only 100 people inside, it’s awful. I had to stand up to some scary guys because, you know, it would ruin the party.

I basically ruled with an iron fist with those policies.

Whether it was Mick Jagger [who once told Rabin, "Darling, I'm here to dance" when there wasn't a table available for him] or Rufus Wainwright or Sam Smith or Deborah Harry or Denzel Washington or George Clinton of Parliament, they all want to go out and dance, and they could without ever worrying about being bum-rushed by a gossip columnist or some reality TV thing bothering them. One of the greatest things is to watch Jody Watley whack.

All the socials were coming, from Alexandra von Furstenberg to Jamie Tisch. Every designer from Christian Louboutin to Rick Owens. Every filmmaker from Baz Luhrmann to Anton Corbijn to Lee Daniels, who came with the Empire cast. Supermodels Naomi Campbell to Pat Cleveland’s daughter Anna. Photographers Mert & Marcus to Greg Gorman to Andrew Macpherson to David LaChapelle.

Every food group on the planet. Selena Gomez came on a regular basis. Beyoncé and Jay-Z came twice in one month before COVID.

I named it Giorgio's after Giorgio Moroder because I had done his 70th birthday and he was in retirement. He was the inventor of disco. Then Giorgio came into the club. And every music person who was there, from Puffy to Siobhan Fahey from Bananarama came and paid homage to him. I could see Giorgio's eyes watering up and he said, "Bryan, they love my music." I said, "Of course. You were the music of gay liberation and women's lib." He said, "I never saw people dancing to my music. I was too busy working. I was always in the studio. I never took the coca."

One night we had Boy George and Debbie Harry and Siobhan Fahey and Jody Watley, major legends of music, all on the dance floor. When was the last time all of these people were dancing with wild abandon, with not a care in the world — especially during the Trump time? It was people’s fantasy time. They would come at 10 and leave at 2 and nonstop dance. You don’t realize how much those precious hours once a week really meant to somebody’s mental health.

Really, Giorgio's to me was about pure love. I created a safe space for dancing.

Giorgio's is not closing. We'll be back, when we get the pandemic under control, in a new location. Giorgio’s will rise from the ashes like a phoenix.

A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.