'Nothing Unimportant Ever Happens At The Plaza.'
What brilliant use of a double negative! It’s a marketing tag line used by The Plaza Hotel in New York City thirty years ago.
Recently, Christie’s held the closing auction for the remnants of the world’s most famous hotel, in anticipation of her glorious rebirth as a half-hotel/half-condominium for the nouveau riche. (The noveau pauvre moved across the street to the Sherry Netherland)! Sold in lots were The Plaza’s ornate chandeliers, the heavy polished brass door knobs, embossed with the unique double P logo, mirrors, fixtures, ash trays, and what remaining silver plate that hadn’t been carted off in the open house sale that was held at the hotel last year.
The Plaza, one of the only hotels in the world where you could either hail a taxi or a horse drawn carriage, catered to the most diverse clientèle in the world, ranging from the wealthiest of society, such as the Vanderbilt’s, all the way down to …well…me I suppose.
I could wax lyrical for weeks about my own memoirs of The Plaza and how she's weaved in and out of my life, but anyone who has stayed there will have their own profound memories. The Plaza became an indelible fibre of my memories during my childhood and she has remained there for me throughout my life. It was the first telephone number I memorised as a child (PLaza 9-3000).
She was the perfect rendezvous point for any occasion, whether it was a simple breakfast in the Edwardian Room overlooking Central Park and Fifth Avenue, to an enjoyable chat with friends in the Oak Bar, followed by a fun dinner downstairs in Trader Vics. And if you wanted a place to enjoy after theatre, there was nothing like heading to New York’s only remaining Palm Court for hot chocolate and canapés.
I can't begin to count all the experiences I had and friendships that developed with people whom I certainly never 'deserved' to know, but to this day remain 'discreet' friends with. Black and White Balls, a sheik who had a live sheep delivered to his suite, (which fascinated me to no end), incredible rows I overheard and sometimes witnessed, as their battles moved out into the hallways, and a plethora of people who live in the balance between fame and infamy-they all formed the life and blood of this incredible grande dame.
The flickering fairy lights of their lanterns, as children ice-skated in Central Park at night, were among my first young memories, when my father held me out of the window from our suite overlooking the corner of Central Park and Fifth Avenue. And as my life progressed, just as with anyone else's life, my experiences ran the width and breadth of the hotel's room inventory.
From the 'Inside' Rooms, (which was an euphemism for facing the air-shaft), to the Park 'Views,' where you would have to stand on top of the radiator in order to have a glimpse of the park, my father's & my 'Résidence de choix, Suite 714, which comprised a large sitting room on the corner of 5th Avenue and Central Park South, a large bedroom on the CPS side, and a small 'servant's' room leading to the sitting room, but although facing 5th Avenue, there was no window at all! And so my life travelled, all the way to Julius Monk's suite on the 18th floor. I've been fortunate to breathe part of The Plaza's breath. And whether it was a Swordfish steak in the Oyster Bar, or my 'signature' Coca Cola's with two cherrys, downstairs in the Plaza 9 nightclub with my father, every corner of the hotel embraced me like an autumn jumper, all the while whispering to me that I was at home.
It was The Plaza that stood as the setting when I fell in love…several times, as I recall. (a couple of times may only have been prickly heat). But there’s nothing to compare with the experience many years later, of feeling your eyes moisten with adoration and love, as you watch your daughter sip her hot chocolate amidst the splendour of the Palm Court.
Just as with so many life stories, The Plaza had many highs and lows. Even through my childish eyes and perceptions of good taste, I cringed to watch the Edwardian Room be destroyed by the Sonesta Group, when they painted the walls gleaming white and hauled in wrought iron heart-shaped chairs, turning the most famous corner in the world into an ice cream boutique. And I rejoiced when Westin took over the property, vowing to restore the hotel to her original ‘tasteful’ state. (and they did!) But only to watch her again fall prey to the Real Estate pimps and end up being managed by a woman who was a cross between Zsa Zsa Gabor and Leona Helmsley!
The Plaza was always a vanguard in my life; my youth, my celebrations of living: love, birth, and even deaths. She will always remain among the fibres of my heart.
And with my children sitting beside me as I write this, I can indeed confirm:
Nothing Unimportant Ever Happened At The Plaza!
Plaza Hotel Big World Small Boat..