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No-Tell Motel

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"Every night in a different place / I'll meet you tender lady / You're my no tell lover."
Chicago, No Tell Lover

Also called a "fleabag hotel", it's the sleazy motel that rents rooms by the hour. The clerk doesn't ask what for, and doesn't want to know.

The No Tell Motel is where philandering affairs and criminal deals take place. Human nature being what it is, that also makes it the site of gruesome unsolved murders. Long story short, if you have something you can drink, smoke, snort, shoot, or fuck but don't have a convenient/affordable place to carry out the activity in question at, you go here to do it.

Low-lifes on the run, prostitutes turning tricks, and the detectives who want to talk to them, will all end up here sooner or later.

See also Smithical Marriage, and Love Hotels for Japan's more glamorous (or cleaner, at least) equivalent. Detectives usually end up here by Going by the Matchbook. May also be a Hell Hotel.



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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • The entirety of the first issue of Project Riribirth takes place in a crumbling, disgusting motel room where a broken, destitute, and ailing Tony Stark waits to die.
  • White Sheep (RWBY): When discussing mixed-gender teams, Winter tells her sister Weiss that sex in the school is illegal in Atlas Academy, but there are "private rooms" in the city where students can go. However, Weiss thinks Winter is just talking about the difficulty of changing clothes in a mixed-gender team, and points out that it doesn't sound very efficient. Winter blushes and says people make do. Weiss is left with the impression that Atlas is a lot more prudish than she thought, and Winter is left with the impression that Weiss is lot more experienced than she ever wanted to know.


    Films — Animation 
  • Early Russian Stop Motion animated classic The Cameraman's Revenge features Mr. Beetle, a married man (married beetle?) taking his girlfriend out for a tryst at the "Hotel Amour".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Yuki, the bar girl prostitute in The Warped Ones, takes people to hotels like this for 30-minute stays.
  • In Highlander, the motel that The Kurgan stays at in New York apparently has at least one door-to-door hooker (Candy). It's neither shown nor explained exactly what he does there. (For anyone else it would be obvious, but this is The Kurgan we're talking about.)
  • Seen in 12 Monkeys, where Bruce Willis and his psychiatrist visit one to work out just what the hell is going on with their lives in privacy.
  • When he is released in Psycho II, Norman Bates is shocked to find that this is how the Bates Motel is being run. He promptly sacks the manager, the hilariously sleazy Dennis Franz.
  • In Time also has their own variation.
  • La Habitacion Azul (The Blue Room), a Mexican film, has this in its title, where the manager of the hotel especially rents the eponymous blue room for lovers and their escapades.
  • In a Laurel and Hardy movie they are running from their awful, and armed, wives. As the two men run behind a hotel, the wife raises the shotgun and fires. At the sound of the shot, men jump out of every window, in their underwear with their pants in their hand and run down the alley.
  • In Apartment Zero Jack picks a man up at the airport, takes him to a seedy hotel, has sex with him, and then murders him for his passport.
  • Umberto D: Apparently the boarding house is gradually becoming this. Umberto comes home to find that Antonia is renting out his room at 1,000 lira per hour to people who want a place for sex.
  • Apparently in Home Alone 2, the motel the McCallisters are staying in Florida according to the condition and their shocking gasps.
    Uncle Frank: It didn't look this bad on our honeymoon...
  • The Motel is about a 13-year-old kid whose parents run a sleazy hotel. He often has to clean condoms out of rooms, interact with hookers, and all kinds of age-inappropriate activities.
  • Tangerine: Dinah is a prostitute in a ring that operates out of a seedy motel room.
  • Mystery Road: While the local hotel itself (and its proprietor) seem respectable enough it’s mentioned that Pete sometimes rents a room there and brings girls and drugs.
  • The Silence of Adultery has the Hillcrest Motel, the site of all Rachel and Michael's trysts after the first, where they rent for three hours at a time.

  • Bosch: In Season 1 Raynard Waits takes a male prostitute to a hotel advertising adult movies.
  • Vlad Taltos and Kiera both find one of these immensely useful in Orca. Which fits the trope quite well, considering they are, respectively, an assassin on the run from an organized crime syndicate and the best thief in the entire Empire.
  • L.A. Confidential has two examples - one is El Serrano motel, where Buzz Meeks waits to be snuck out of the USA ( he doesn't make it) and Victory Motel, headquarters of Mobster Squad run by the resident Magnificent Bastard Dudley Smith, where out-of-town gangsters arriving in L. A. are hauled over and persuaded to leave and never come back (usually through applying cut rubber hose).
  • The Black Dahlia has The Red Arrow, which appears again in White Jazz.
  • In the Maggody mystery novels, Ruby Bee absolutely refuses to acknowledge that this trope applies to the motel she owns, even though it's an open secret that's what all the passing truckers rent rooms for. The only one who doesn't use it for his trysts is Mayor Jim Bob, who takes his girlfriends to Farberville's No-Tell Motel to be farther from his wife.
  • In Tipping The Velvet, Nancy visits one of these while working as a rent boy.
  • In Nevada, David rents a room at one of these in San Francisco's Tenderloin district to make it easier to buy the two things he's interested in: heroin and hookers.
  • In The Fourth Bear, there's a sleazy hotel where Agatha calls Jack over in an attempt to seduce him. The place gives him flashbacks from a time he apparently had to arrest a heavily-armed Easter Bunny.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Shown perfectly in the "Full Moon" episode of Homicide: Life on the Street.
  • CSI's Las Vegas has lots of these, generally complete with dead body.
    • In one episode, Brass even (kinda sorta, but not really) jokingly says that when people die in motels like these, it's generally not reported for quite a while, because the owners keep renting out the room until the smell of the corpse has gotten bad enough that it can no longer be ignored.
    • Another episode sees three homicides in the same room over a period of a few weeks. The owner has put hallucinogenic drugs in the air freshener, which results in Hodges going crazy and almost killing someone.
  • With more hotel-like places, appears in The Bill, such as with the Chandler-McAllister relationship. The one that ended with him raping her on their wedding night and then shooting himself during a Hostage Situation as she was in labour (with him in the room).
  • In an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, Arthur Carlsen tries to spice up his marriage by taking his wife back to the hotel they stayed at when they eloped, but since then its aspirations have declined a bit...
    Carmen: "Arthur, there's a machine in the bathroom that sells... things."
  • In an episode of Happy Days, Joanie and Chachi had to stay in one when they took a trip to a Beach Boys concert without permission. The episode is even titled "No-Tell Motel".
  • Sam and Dean Winchester of Supernatural check into No Tell Motels together fairly frequently. This does not help their reputation at all. However they are cheap and discreet, both useful attributes for a Hunter.
  • In the pilot of White Collar, Peter Burke checks Neal Caffrey into one of these on the grounds that it's one of the few places a person can live for $700 a month in New York City. Neal improvises.
  • In an episode of Breaking Bad, Jesse stays at one of these, where he smokes some meth and has sex with a prostitute.
  • On Boy Meets World, Shawn's father dumps him at one of these when he leaves to chase after Shawn's mom, though it's not seen on screen.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: These were Faith's digs during her time in Season 3, which was rather dangerous, seeing as vampires weren't warded off from the place like an actual home was. Something that The Scoobies had no problem with. When she joins The Mayor, he upgrades her to a studio apartment, but advises to maintain her old place as a cover.
  • All over the place in Law & Order: SVU. The detectives are always frequenting these places to pick up suspects (and witnesses of the shady variety.)
  • In the well-known Law & Order episode "Empire," Detective Curtis takes a witness played by Julia Roberts to a motel to keep her safe over a weekend. The defense attorney later accuses Curtis of cheating on his wife that weekend and uses the phrase "no-tell motel"; it's clear by this point that the witness was manipulating Curtis in an effort to help the accused murderer get away with it.
    • Averted in another episode, "Melting Pot." The detectives initially suspect this when it's discovered the victim's husband was seen in such an establishment with a younger woman, but it turns out she's his sister and was staying there whilst visiting for the holidays.
  • The Golden Girls:
    • Blanche is frequently referred to as making regular use of these, especially renting them by the hour. In one instance, she unknowingly books the girls into a hotel full of prostitutes, and gets them all arrested.
    • An episode of the follow-up series, Golden Palace, details Rose's efforts to keep their hotel from becoming one of these.
  • The motel where Earl lives in My Name Is Earl.
  • The Starlight Motel, Cabot Cove in several episodes of Murder, She Wrote. If an out-of-towner was staying at the Starlight, it meant they were up to no good one way or another.
  • In the Full House episode "On the Road Again," Jesse and his family (along with Joey) check into a hotel that Jesse used to stay at, but has gotten rather sleazy over the years. The room is quite small, there's a blinking neon sign right outside their window, there's a coin-operated TV, vibrating beds and toilet (and the wires in their room are crossed, so putting a coin into the TV activates the vibrating beds.)
  • In one episode of Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge, Alan is hypnotized into thinking he's talking to Ursula Andress. He immediately offers to take her to a little hotel just outside of London where the "very discreet" staff all know him.
  • The titular establishment of American Horror Story: Hotel is a lot fancier and more expensive than this trope usually suggests; but described as a "no-tell motel" by Liz in one episode.
  • A pre-motel version occurs in Danger: UXB in World War 2 Britain. In "A Quiet Weekend", Lieutenant Ash is having an affair with married scientist Susan Mount, and goes to a country hotel recommended by The Casanova of their team. Ash hesitates on seeing the somewhat rundown hotel, but Susan instantly says that it's suitable as she's more interested in discretion than appearance.

  • One features in the Heart song All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You.
  • The Panic! at the Disco song "Build God, Then We'll Talk" is about one.
  • In Poison's "Look What the Cat Dragged In" song, the second verse starts off in a No-Tell Motel.
  • After escaping their abusive home at the circus, The Neville sisters find jobs at one of these. It's not the best job but is better than their previous ones.
  • Fefe Dobson's video for her song "Stuttering" centers around the shenanigans that occur at one of these facilities.

    Video Games 
  • The cinematic trailer for Cyberpunk 2077 takes place in a fleabag actually named this.
  • Lupino's hotel from the first Max Payne game, which you have to blast through twice, was of this type.
  • "King Arthur & the Knights of Justice" (SNES Action-RPG game) had a motel called literally "No Tell Motel".
  • Featured, in all places, in the explorable landscape of the game Bully. You can't take girls there, of course, being fifteen (and rated T) but... well, other people do.
  • Galerians features one of these, complete with drug pushers, a sketchy maintenance man, pedophilic priests, men making nuclear weapons and a whore.
  • Fallout: New Vegas has the Bison Steve hotel, where you can find ransom notes and a murder/suicide. It's also where a group of criminals are currently holed up.
  • No More Heroes Motel in No More Heroes is the residence of one Travis Touchdown. While it does seem bright and cheery, don't forget it's in Santa Destroy.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines has the Luckee Star Motel in Hollywood. After witnessing some brutal stuff there, you can ask the manager if he was aware of a dead body in one of his rooms. His response? "That early in the evening? Well, I guess I'll have to call the cops then."
  • One of these appears in Sonic Dreams Collection. It's the third scene, right after prom night. O.C. the Hedgehog, Blaze the Cat, and Shadow the Hedgehog have a threesome while Tails is left to sit out in the drawing room, apparently drunk out of his gourd.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner: The Sweet Cuppin' Cakes Decemberween special is called "Cactus Coffee and the No-Tell Motel". There is, of course, neither a No-Tell Motel or cactus coffee involved, but Eh! Steve's mouth does explode the universe, and Ready For Primetime does a tiny, tiny dance. Even Strong Bad is stumped and he created the show.

    Western Animation 
  • The motels frequented by Mayor Quimby in The Simpsons. In particular, the "SLeEp-eAZY" Motel that Marge and the kids stay at during the episode "The Cartridge Family", complete with prostitutes at the entrance, coin-operated TV, vibrating beds and a Bible, and a corpse in the pool. Not to mention that whoever runs the place spies on the customers using video cameras. Homer, Marge (and Mayor Quimby) go to one closer to a Japanese style Love Hotel in "Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy" too.
  • The Family Guy episode "Screwed The Pooch" hits all the notes in this tune: prostitutes, sleazy proprietors, crime, roaches, non-working switches, Murphy beds, insane residents, people on the run, America's Most Wanted, police raids.
  • The Ocean View Hotel that Arthur and his family go to in "Arthur's Family Vacation" (which always has a vacancy) is like this; there's no view of the ocean, the room has pictures coming off the hinges, lousy mattresses on the bed that sink under weight, leaky ceilings, and an abnormally small pool (to which D.W. comments "Our bathtub is bigger than this!").
  • Rocko's Modern Life, king of the Parental Bonus and Getting Crap Past the Radar extraordinaire of The '90s, has a Deleted Scene with one named the No-Tell Motel. The cut version of the episode just shows the exterior of the hotel. What they didn't cut just makes it even worse once you know what this trope is about!
  • This trope was referenced in Chowder, where a hotel is called the No-Tell Motel. We don't actually see this trope in action, though.
  • Parodied in the American Dad! episode "A Smith in the Hand", has Stan pleasing his urge to masturbate at the 'Bates Motel (note the apostrophe).

    Real Life 
  • There is a hotel shamelessly called the No-Tel Motel in the sleazy part of Tucson, Arizona. According to the Tucson Weekly, it lives up to its name.


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