Alta Cienega Motel: The Other Morrison Hotel

Alta Cienega Motel

The Other Morrison Hotel

It’s been called the most disgusting hotel in Los Angeles. It’s also been called a must-see destination for any serious fan of The Doors. No, it’s not Morrison Hotel. It’s Jim Morrison’s final home in West Hollywood.

The Alta Cienega Motel, a nondescript Hollywood hotel dating back to 1948, sits near the corner of La Cienega and Santa Monica boulevards in the heart of West Hollywood. As a motel, it’s doesn’t really have a lot going on. It’s just another run-down building with fair-to-poor reviews — an affordable, if somewhat dodgy, option for tourists to use as a home base while checking out the sights of Hollywood.

A postcard for the Alta Cienega Motel back in its glory days. Undated.

But what the Alta Cienga does have going on is that it’s famously the place that Jim Morrison, lead singer for The Doors, called home from 1968 through sometime in 1970 (and possibly into 1971, the year he died).

The big attraction of the Alta Cienega isn’t the motel’s low advertised rates and sparse accommodations. No, people flock to the Alta Cienega to visit the hotel’s Room 32 which has been turned into a living memorial for the much-beloved rock star.

The Alta Cienega Motel today. Photo from the author’s collection.

Room 32: The Jim Morrison Room

While residing at the Alta Cienega, Morrison lived in Room 32, the room that’s just above the entrance to the parking lot. And pretty much since the rocker’s tragic death, the motel ownership has been allowing ardent fans of The Doors to spend anywhere from a few minutes to a whole night basking in Morrison’s posthumous aura.

Jim Morrison of The Doors slept under that window. Photo from the author’s collection.

The room itself, like the rest of the motel, looks like it never left 1970. Its bland, utilitarian design has four walls, a window, a small table with two chairs, a sometimes-operational air conditioner, a small bathroom, a bedside table, and — the pièce de résistance — Morrison’s one-time bed. The hotel also makes the dubious claim that the room still has a few of Morrison’s personal belongings.

The Latest Exploration …

But it’s the decor of Room 32 that sets it apart from the rest of rooms in the motel — and probably any other motel room in the world. The walls are adorned with various photos of Morrison in his different incarnations. Some are late-model bearded Jim while others portray him in his Alexander the Great and Lizard King eras.

Each image of Jim is framed with the room’s most memorable attribute — wall-to-wall graffiti penned by zealous fans. Countless devotees of The Doors graffitied the room with snippets of Doors lyrics, recreations of The Doors iconic logo, mournful remembrances, and various other ramblings. Even the usually broken television is covered in scribblings.

Room 32 wall detail - Alta Cienega Motel
The bathroom of Room 32 as it looked in 2012. Image via Susie on Flickr.

Scrawled on the walls among the copious scribbles you’ll see a plethora of illustrated penises (no doubt tributes to Mr. Morrison’s on-stage exploits in Miami that resulted in obscenity conviction in 1969) and lizards (because he’s the Lizard King, naturally). These are often adjacent to profanity-laced diatribes and those boasting sexual exploits undertaken as an homage to the King of Orgasmic Rock.

Room 32 has allegedly been painted over a few times throughout the years, but as far as I could tell, no one ever penned “First Post!” on a blank Room 32 wall.

Speaking of Jim Morrison …

Visiting Jim Morrison’s Alta Cienga Motel Room

There doesn’t seem to be any set rate for visiting the former room of Mr. Morrison. Some reports say you’ll be charged a dollar a minute. But sometimes the manager on duty will demand a flat rate of $10 or $20 or $50 for just a few minutes depending on their mood and how they feel about you.

Many times your visit will be supervised by that manager who will sometimes charge you extra to take a photo with anything other than a smartphone. And if you want to add your own Jim Morrison tribute to the walls, that’ll cost you extra.

After your visit, you could pick up a Room 32 keepsake, an old-style diamond-shaped green room tag, for around $10 to commemorate your visit.

You can also rent Room 32 by the night. Reports vary, but the price for a stint in Morrison’s bed seems to run anywhere from $100 to $200, also dependent upon the whim of the manager at the front desk.

No matter which option you choose, the cost of a visit to Room 32 at the Alta Cienega Motel is a far cry from the $6 a night old Jim paid back in the day.

For those souls who were brave enough to lay their heads on Jim’s pillow, most accounts report staying in the room wasn’t a pleasant experience. The smell of old cigarettes and gas were common complaints, as was incessant traffic noise — which should be expected because the back wall is adjacent to La Cienega. Many guests report running across the street to CVS to stock up on Lysol, ant spray, slippers, and anti-bacterial wipes.

But the most serious fans didn’t care about such minor inconveniences. Basking in the presence of the Crawling King Snake outweighed all the room’s downsides, resulting in the place earning many five-star reviews.

The Uncertain Future of the Alta Cienega

It’s been a few years since I’ve visited Mr. Morrison’s room. I was looking forward to a return visit to capture some images of Jim’s room for posterity. But my dreams of returning to the hallowed halls of the Alta Cienega have yet to be realized. And maybe they never will be.

Sometime in May 2021, the motel closed down (Google says it’s temporary). A locked chain-link fence blocked the entrance to the parking lot and the business was listed for lease (asking price just $75,000). It’s remained closed ever since. There have been signs of people working on the motel, there hasn’t been any recent word on its future.

Evidence of people working at the motel. The pop-up says “the hangover is over.” Photo from the author’s collection.

Hopefully it’ll reopen one day soon, and hopefully Room 32 will remain an homage to Jim Morrison.

The Doors Epicenter

From 1968 to 1970, the Alta Cienega Motel was the center of Jim Morrison’s universe. It sits squarely between two of Morrison’s most famous haunts — Barnery’s Beanery (8447 Santa Monica Blvd; still around) and The Palms (8572 Santa Monica Blvd; no longer there).

The motel is also conveniently just across the street from 8512 Santa Monica Blvd, a building that housed what was then known as The Doors Workshop. This was the main office of The Doors and the location where L.A. Woman was recorded in 1970.

Although The Doors Workshop is long gone, the building still remains. It’s been a few restaurants over the years. but it’s currently the home of the revitalized Tail o’ the Pup. There used to be a plaque commemorating the location on the front of the building, but it seems to have disappeared around the time the current tenant moved in.

Alta Cienega Motel (The Other Morrison Hotel)


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