Unshaven and with a hangdog face, Frank, who appears to be in his 70s, nonetheless wears wonderfully natty clothes: crisp navy slacks, an expensive-looking woven-silk cardigan and well-shined tasseled loafers. He seems to be awake at all hours, chain-smoking as he does laps around the courtyard, jingling the change in his pocket and waiting for someone to give him an opening to launch into a tale about old Hollywood, and specifically Errol Flynn. "The motion-picture business doesn’t get enough credit. Over in WWII, those boys really appreciated it. Errol Flynn, he was loved by those guys. He couldn’t go in the service himself, you know, because he had a heart murmur. When Jack Warner discovered him in London, he said Flynn was the most handsome actor he’d ever seen. He saved the studio from bankruptcy. Bank of America told them, ‘If you sign Flynn up for eight years, we’ll give you $50 million.’ They starred him in Captain Blood, and audiences around the world thought he was the most adventurous, handsome man. "I was a kid actor at MGM. Did all the Judy Garland and the Hardy films. I did at least 150 films in the ’30s and ’40s. The last picture I did was The Real Glory. I remember being on the lot, and Errol Flynn said to me, ‘Acting is like stealing money. I get a check for $5,600 every week and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I come here and stand around with a sword in my hand.’ "I sold my house in Torrance because I like no responsibility. My wife is being taken care of in Nebraska, see, she’s an invalid. She said, ‘Frank, I don’t want to be here with you while I linger on and you being unhappy,’ so I moved here three months ago. I was married 43 years. "I remember when I brought my wife out to Hollywood. She’d never met any movie stars, so I took her to Ciro’s, where they all would hang out, and here comes Errol Flynn, handsome, drunker than the devil. I says to him — ’cause he knows me, you know — ‘This is Donna,’ so he kisses her and says, ‘Why don’t you get rid of Frank and come with me?’ And I ask her later, would she have done it if he’d meant it? And she has to think about it, and says she guesses she would. "If any man could ever be called a cocksman, it’s Errol Flynn. All his wives wrote that they loved him, but they knew he’d never be faithful, and he never was. It’s the rotten media that insinuated that Errol was gay. It’s an out-and-out lie. Even the bad parts, like when he was charged with rape. That girl was not a nice girl. When I saw there were women on the jury, I knew he’d get off. After he did, he gave them each a kiss. "I saw him two months before he died, and I coulda cried. His body had shrunk, he had a face you’d never recognize from drugs and booze." Frank seems to deflate a bit. When he is asked about his room, it becomes clear that he’s hard of hearing. "Oh, I will work again. I can," he says. "It’s in your blood, see, it never goes away. Acting is really being yourself. You have to learn the facial expressions, but be yourself. There are only two great actors today, Harrison Ford and Robert De Niro. The rest are flakes. None of them could be in any movie in the old days. Dashing, tall, adventurous, handsome — back then they never left their homes not looking like movie stars, the talent departments made sure of that. I don’t want to see real people. I live in the real world. "Hollywood used to be beautiful, yes, it was. Now, I hate to tell people this is my town, that I was born here. It really is a sad thing, when you knew a Hollywood that was the most glamorous place on Earth."
"You cannot have a sound sleep here like you have at home," Bob says. "Different people, the street noises, every half-hour an ambulance or police car, 2 o’clock in the morning someone with high heels on the balcony. One week, two weeks, you can tolerate. Then you have to leave. Like Mark. He leaves to go hiking every six months." Bob points to a door on the east side of the hotel. "He works on many TV shows, here and in Korea. Don’t think because he is staying at this hotel, he’s not upgrade. He is genius people." Mark, a Canadian-born animation artist and layout supervisor in his 30s, sits all day and most of the evening at his window, working on an Apple Powerbook. Handsome and husky, his appearance nevertheless belies someone who works too hard: uncombed hair, and clammy skin that doesn’t look to have seen the sun lately. "I’ve been here six months this time," Mark says of his latest tenure in one of the Saharan’s suites, which features a second bedroom that he uses to stash a backpack and some camping equipment. Otherwise, the place is spare, nothing unessential, with the exception, perhaps, of a Post-It stuck to the television that reads "Omnia Exeunt Mysterium," which he says means "All things go forth in mystery." "Motel etiquette demands that you interact with the TV," Mark says, mentioning a few shows on KPFK radio he thinks worthy, and offering the loan of a Gore Vidal tape. It’s clear this guy is neither delusional nor desperate, and that his being at the Saharan is in service to a higher purpose. "I’ve been living out of a shoulder bag and backpack for 18 years, in Asia, Canada and the United States. When you have no possessions, you can work harder, because there’s less to be concerned with. If you stay in a place too long, you collect trinkets." He points to a desk lamp and a coffee pot. "I’ll give them to the Goodwill when I leave. "I’ve tried other places, and I can tell you, it’s the best of the bad hotels on Sunset. They’re like family here. Plus, I get a discount for teaching the owners’ kids to draw. I give them lessons twice a week, here in the room. They think cartoonists are cool. Also, the ‘no smoking’ thing gets on my nerves, and you can smoke as much as you want here. And I don’t drive. If I were stuck in the Valley, near the studios, I’d be doomed. "It can be kind of a dodgy area, though. The first time I ever came, they were rolling out a stiff. A cop car and a coroner’s wagon were outside, and I came in asking for a room. Bob looked at the body and said, ‘Come back tomorrow.’ Hookers like to camp out on the corner, there’s a drunk who drove his Mercedes into the pool. But that’s why I keep coming back: It’s a fascinating place. The neighbors are all either notorious or dramatic."