Have L.A.’s Edgy New Hotels Gone Too Far?

Just like all great cities, Los Angeles is afflicted with a major multiple personality disorder — and each one of those personalities draws a different kind of traveler. Some come to L.A. for the sun-kissed, red carpet-ready Hollywood glamour we’ve seen in countless movies and Entertainment Tonight episodes. And others prefer L.A.’s slightly seedy, down-and-dirty, sexy side.

I personally prefer the latter. Yes, I do appreciate the glamour and beauty of the pretty side of Southern California, from Beverly Hills to Santa Barbara to the Malibu. But maybe because of my New York City roots — or maybe because of my steady diet of Raymond Chandler novels and repeated viewings of L.A. Confidential — I tend to like my L.A. a little on the (tastefully) trashy side. Not filthy or dangerous, but down-to-earth, interesting and, yes, even a little sexy.

Two L.A.-based boutique hotels definitely evoke the more sensual side of L.A. Hollywood’s new Mama Shelter with its retro, European chic; and Farmer’s Daughter, a Fairfax Village spot that oozes beauty and class, but with a little bit of naughty.

Farmer’s Daughter

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Farmer’s Daughter and its restaurant, TART (Photo: Farmer’s Daughter)

Geographically, Farmer’s Daughter, isn’t very removed from Hollywood’s glamorous, showbiz-y side. In fact, it’s right across the street from CBS’ Television City (and about a block away from the L.A. landmarks The Grove and Farmer’s Market). At the parking garage next to the hotel, I encountered a nice older couple who’d just come from a The Price is Right taping.

I hate to stereotype anyone, but I’d bet real money that nice, elderly Price is Right couple wasn’t going in to Farmer’s Daughter to buy the “Knockin’ Boots” package.

Yes, Farmer’s Daughter has a $312-per-night “Knockin’ Boots” package that is exactly like it sounds: a package expressly designed for L.A. action.

I got a look at the centerpiece of the “Knockin’ Boots” package: the room the hotel whimsically calls the “No Tell” room (it’s also available separately from the package, for $260 a night). The room may be an intended sex den, but it’s incredibly tasteful with hand-finished brass lining the room and, of course, a mirrored ceiling. 

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Where the magic happens: The “No Tell” room. (Photo: Farmer’s Daughter)

The package also comes with a bottle of the hotel’s finest (and inhibition-loosening) champagne — “for the before,” says the hotel — and lemonade “for after”; in drought-ravaged Southern California, one must never forget the importance of hydration. You also get underwear with the most un-subtle message in hotel history: “Do it at the daughter.”

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This would also make a fine pocket square. (Photo: Sid Lipsey)

"This room is for the more adventurous guests,” said the host who was taking me on a tour of the hotel. She then motioned to the counter on which I happened to be leaning. “That’s reinforced,” she said, leaving to the imagination the reason for that modification. Though impressed with the obvious forethought that went into such a design, I quickly took my hands off the counter.

Recognizing that people might want to use the hotel’s other rooms as a playground, all of Farmer’s Daughter’s rooms come equipped with what the hotel calls a “Do It” kit — a handy survival kit that, for $7, comes equipped with the accoutrements you’d expect in something called a “Do It” kit.

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Not to worry, though: You don’t have to take your clothes off to have a good time at Farmer’s Daughter. The onsite restaurant, TART, features decadent treats of the culinary variety. TART advertises “comfort food with a twist,” and is heavy on Southern-inspired cuisine: the fried pig ears are the perfect barroom snack to accompany evening pre-gaming; the chicken and waffles are first-rate; and after a bite of the beer-braised shrimp and grits (with Andouille sausage, okra, maque choux and a sunny-side-up egg), my Southern accent nearly came back. 

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TART’s southern-fried flavor: chicken and waffles and the beer-braised shrimp and grits (Photo: Sid Lipsey)

If you want to continue the decadence, go for the the Coolhaus Dirty Mint Chip Julep — with Coolhaus’ mint-infused ice cream and chocolate chips blended with Four Roses bourbon and crème de menthe liqueur. This drink is the exact opposite of the phrase “guilt-free” — and, come to think of it, so is Farmer’s Daughter, if you play your cards right.

Mama Shelter Los Angeles 

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Mama Shelter L.A. is as warm and inviting as your mama’s house. (Photo: Mama Shelter Hollywood)

Located in Hollywood, Mama Shelter Los Angeles, is the sixth Mama Shelter opened by the Trigano family (which is famous for developing Club Med) and the first in the United States (the first four are in France, while the fifth is in Istanbul). 

Mama Shelter Los Angeles is housed in a 1930s-era building and the retro-vibe remains even after its extensive renovation. Located right in the lobby/reception area is the biggest foosball table you’ll ever see (it’s custom-made). 

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Foosball in the lobby (Photo: Sid Lipsey)

Look up and you’ll see a Sistine Chapel of hipster art; local artists were invited to leave their colorful chart etchings on the ceiling. There are cool pictures and even an R-rated quote two, with “Mama’s Seen Some S—” being my favorite. Yes, she sure has.

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The chalk-decorated ceiling in the lobby (Photo: Sid Lipsey)

The rooms are compact and vibrant; mine was bathed in a funky, red light. There is no TV in the rooms; instead there’s Apple iMacs equipped with cable channels, Netflix, and free porn.

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(Photo: Mama Shelter Hollywood)

Yes, free porn. I should point out that my hotel review checklist generally does not include a price check on the pay-per-view porn (not that there’d be anything wrong with that). But look at the pic of my in-room monitor below and tell me that doesn’t jump off the screen?

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At least one of these in-room amenities will probably appeal to you. (Photo: Sid Lipsey)

“People today, it’s easy to turn them off by charging for things you shouldn’t,” Joseph Kirtley, general manager of Mama Shelter Los Angeles, tells me. So Mama Shelter offers things like free Wi-Fi, rooms with king-sized beds… and, yes, the free porn. Hey, you gotta loosen up; this is Hollywood!

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In addition to its chic vibe, Mama Shelter has two other big selling points. One is its  location — steps from the Hollywood Walk of Fame and very close to the famous Hollywood and Vine. And then there’s the cost. One of its larger rooms goes from $159 to $200, a steal for a brand new L.A. boutique hotel that got a big write-up in the Los Angeles Times. “The concept [the hotel] embodies is affordable luxury,” Kirtley says.

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Like Hollywood, Mama Shelter can be a little rough-and-tumble. Don’t expect amenities such as minibars, traditional room service and 24-hour doormen. Parts of the newly-renovated building still are under construction — including the roof deck, which arrives this fall. That, combined with the standard Hollywood street noise, makes this far from the ideal location for those looking for a lush and quiet Southern California getaway.  

Still, those who like their Hollywood a little stylish with a hint a grit, Mama Shelter is a good place to seek shelter.

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