For generations, hotels have served as backdrops for scandals and trysts. Francisca Matteoli's Hotel Stories: Legendary Hideaways of the World (Assouline, $34.95) documents the behind-closed-doors escapades. If walls could talk, here's what they'd say.

WHO: Alice Cooper
WHERE: Portobello Hotel, London
THE GOSSIP: The rocker arrived in 1979 with his pet boa, and insisted that the hotel build him a round bed. It's still there, in room No. 16. (The snake crashed in the tub.)

WHO: Orson Welles
WHERE: Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro
THE GOSSIP: In 1942, the young, wild star filmed a never-finished documentary in Latin America. While at the Palace, he tore his room to bits. Maybe that's where Johnny Depp got the idea.

WHO: Salvador Dalí
WHERE: The Meurice, Paris
THE GOSSIP: For at least two months a year, Dalí and his wife, Gala, camped at the Meurice, making surreal demands of the staff—like finding a real camel.

WHO: Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir
WHERE: Albergo Sole al Pantheon, Rome
THE GOSSIP: The ailing philosopher and his favorite companion hid out in a first-floor room: she read him texts by Russian dissidents, and they debated into the night.

WHO: Al Capone
WHERE: The Biltmore, Coral Gables, Florida
THE GOSSIP: After the gangster's 1939 release from prison, he moved to the Miami area and set up an illicit bar in the Biltmore.

WHO: Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky
WHERE: Hacienda San Miguel Regla, Huasca Valley, Mexico
THE GOSSIP: In 1937, the earthy artist and the exiled Bolshevik conducted their affair at this secluded hacienda, out of sight of their respective partners.

WHO: Jean Cocteau
WHERE: Hôtel Welcome, Villefranche-Sur-Mer, France
THE GOSSIP: At this former 17th-century convent, Cocteau entertained friends like Man Ray and recovered from opium addiction.