Recently, a friend who runs a swank hotel shared an inside story on the condition I name neither the hotel (it’s in California — how’s that for vague?) nor the guest in question, an aging film star whose name you would know. To me, it’s only a little interesting who she is or where she stayed. What’s neat is that this is all true, behind-the-scenes stuff. She had come to town to star in a musical.
The saga unfolded day by day, beginning even before her arrival:
“How do we get ready for someone like Ms. Star? First, I ask the star’s assistant to send me a list of their preferences. Most of the well-traveled celebs have a dog-eared form letter that outlines everything — from how their telephone calls are to be handled to when they want their suite cleaned. A lot of reporters like to get their hands on these lists because they LOVE to poke fun at the details. But we are very grateful for the heads up. There’s nothing worse than to send fresh-cut flowers to an actress who has allergies (been there, done that) or to deliver a bottle of rare wine to a talk show host who is a recovering alcoholic (done that, too). Ideally, we’d like to have a ‘preference list’ for all of our guests. It would save a lot of time and guesswork.
“It just so happens that this particular star brings her own chef. Part of her contract. So, the two-bedroom suite has to have a small kitchen, complete with a refrigerator (stocked with Diet Coke and 16-ounce bottles of Evian), a microwave, a toaster oven, and a tea kettle. No problem. (We built a kitchen in this suite years ago for an eccentric millionairess who enjoyed cooking. She was staying with us for several weeks while she worked on the museum wing she was donating.)
“The master bedroom must have a humidifier, a desk, and a small oval table near the desk. (She keeps her files on the smaller table and glances down at them as she works. Makes sense to me.) Each room is to have a two-line speaker phone. The suite will have one dedicated line for a fax machine, which travels with her. She will purchase three VCRs, one for each room, since our VCR rental fee is too high. (I don’t blame her; our fee structure is VERY pricy.)
“The minibar items are to be removed. (Why we have those things in the first place is beyond me. They are a constant source of irritation for many guests. But, the management insists that the revenue generated from those guests who want the convenience outweighs the cost of constant write-offs for those guests who swear they never touched the Godiva chocolates, the imported cheese, etc. Go figure.) The second bedroom is to be cleared of all furniture. The star brings her own exercise equipment, which will be delivered to the suite on Tuesday when she is away at rehearsal.
“A driver has been hired to squire her around, at a moment’s notice. The budget was $100.00 a day (12+ hours), so I think they’re going with some devoted theater volunteer. No legitimate chauffeur — including our own — would work for such small change.
“All her laundry and dry cleaning is to be delivered on wooden hangers. Each closet in the suite is to have 30 wooden hangers to start. (My guess is that she has quite a few designer clothes, and– at those prices–they certainly deserve to be hung with care on wooden hangers.)
“Every call must be screened by the hotel operator. When she does not wish to be disturbed at all, it’s ‘hold all calls’ (with two exceptions).
“The housekeeper will follow a schedule provided by the star’s personal assistant.
“The staff is not to address her by name, nor are they to approach her unless summoned. (This sounds more royal than the royals. But it’s understandable. Some hotel staffs aren’t very discreet: They fawn, they hover, they flatter, etc. A person almost has to be rude to get some peace and quiet. This is never an issue with us, since a breach of ‘protocol’ is cause for immediate termination.)
“There shall be no chocolates on the pillow. (A dumb hotel custom, I must say. But almost every luxury hotel does it.)”
Tomorrow: She Arrives!
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History is a vast early warning system.~Norman Cousins
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