Celebrity Guests: Courting Divas

People often think that being a general manager is a glamorous life. It certainly has its moments, but sometimes it’s like having your dream job at Disneyland – in the accounting office. You know you work for Disney because you see the logo on every bill you send out. And you can tell people you work for Disney. But you never actually get to see Tinkerbell, ride Space Mountain or shake hands with Goofy.

That’s Opus to the upper right. My office is located three floors below ground level, which is great if you’re anticipating a bombing, but not so great if you want to have your finger on the pulse of hotel operations. Our guest services staff get to see all the action. They got to see Gwen Stefani come and go and got to chat with Lenny Kravitz. Neither ventured down to P3. Even the minibar attendant knows more about what’s going on in the hotel than I do. But if I ever really want to know what a guest is up to, I ask the housekeeping staff.

Years ago, when I worked at the Sutton Place in Toronto, it was a celebrity magnet. I had the more glamorous role of front desk agent back then, so I got to meet all of them. I stopped being starstruck after a while. Our general manager was so desperate to hobknob with stars it was embarrassing. The second he caught wind of a celebrity he was out sniffing around the lobby. He insisted on meeting all of them. The hotel bar had an entire wall of signed publicity photos of stars.

These days, stars are simply not interested in meeting the hotel manager. They never actually were. At Opus we give star treatment to all guests. Celebrities are treated with extra care, of course, but in a subtle, non-intrusive manner. There’s no giddy general manager waiting in the wings to waste their time. I simply leave an amenity and welcome note in their room inviting them to contact me directly for assistance. But they never call. And I’m not hurt.

I’ve done my share of “meet-and-greets” for stars, and my encounters with “divas” are the most memorable. I waited until 3:30am to greet a certain A-list diva at Opus after her concert. She sailed past me in a post-concert delirium, swarmed by handlers, a pack of yappy little dogs running circles around us. I followed her to the elevator to escort her up to her suite. But she screamed at me to “Close the f**king door!” before I got in. That was the last I saw of her.

Another time I waited until 4:00am to greet Cher. I was nodding off at the front door of Opus when a convoy of tour busses rolled in. Dozens of people spilled out, but no Cher. She decided to forfeit her luxury penthouse suite for the bus.When I greeted Janet Jackson at the Metropolitan Hotel I was pretty nervous. Sources had warned me that she doesn’t like anyone touching her or looking into her eyes. I wasn’t sure how I’d pull off a meet-and-greet given those limitations. But she climbed from her SUV and marched right up to me, shaking my hand. “Hi! I’m Janet,” she said with a bright smile. She stayed with us for a month and was delightful.

I’m a fan for life.

posted by Daniel Edward Craig at 9:32 AM

Mason said…
Your stories are great…matched only by the fantastic hospitality you provide at OPUS.
12:17 AM

Unusual Guest Requests: Does that room come with a midwife?

People often ask me about the strangest request I’ve had as a hotel manager. Having been in the business for over 12 years, I’ve encountered my share. The one that comes to mind happened recently, here at Opus.

A woman – a seemingly rational, articulate, sane woman – contacted me to ask if it would be possible for her to check into a room and, um, give birth in it. She explained that she wanted to have a “natural” childbirth, but needed to be close to a hospital in case something went wrong. She identified every conceivable objection I might have, which she outlined in an email as:

1. Liability
2. Mess
3. Noise/Chaos
4. What if something went wrong?

She addressed each issue in turn, promising to keep screaming down to a minimum and, very considerately I thought, offering to bring her own sheets and towels. She assured me that she had no problem with being rushed to the hospital by ambulance if necessary. “Admittedly,” she said, “that might cause a few stares in the lobby, but this is only the worst case scenario.” She also promised not to wander the halls or public areas. I envisioned her going door to door with her newborn baby, telling guests, “Oh yes, I just had her down the hall in #503.”

She also urged me to think of the great publicity we could get. We could issue a media release like a birth announcement! Now I’m not one to shy away from publicity, but what our sweet, thoughtful mother-to-be hadn’t considered was how the guest who checks into the room after her might feel.

Many couples have told us their babies were conceived at Opus. Some send us baby pictures. One couple even named their daughter after us. That’s Stella May Opus Broom pictured above, daughter of the guitarist with Jann Arden. (Note the logo on her shirt.) But so far, no one (as far as we know) has ever given birth at Opus. We’re a hotel, not a maternity ward, and we’d like to keep it that way.

So, I politely declined, inviting her to stay at Opus for a birthday or anniversary instead.

posted by Daniel Edward Craig at 8:41 AM

mama said…
You should totally have let her stay! 🙂 Lots of women have really peaceful births – I did. I made more noise than I would have if I’d been in a hotel, but I was in my own home so it was okay. We stayed at Opus before we had our baby, and we loved being able to bring our dog. Next time we come we’ll bring the baby! (I assume you allow babies that have already been born somewhere else?) 🙂
11:50 AM
Daniel Craig said…
Yes, mama, you are most welcome to come stay with us and to bring the baby! Thanks for writing.
5:46 PM
Maryam in Marrakesh said…
This is really the most fun blog I have read in a long, long time. Bravo!
2:19 PM
Shannon Norberg said…
As a midwife in Vancouver, I have to say that some of the most beautiful births I’ve attended have been in hotels! For some out of town clients this is their only way of having an out-of-hospital birth.For more information, see www.midwivesinvancouver.ca
6:19 PM

Hotel Management: Never a dull moment

So. A hotel manager’s blog. Maybe a first in the industry, likely not the last. This blog is inspired by a series of columns I wrote in the National Post about the daily life of a hotel manager. There is an enormous amount of interest in the behind-the-scenes workings of luxury hotels. Or so I like to think. Truth is, I’m not sure if anyone actually read my columns. Even friends and family are a bit vague when asked.

Without a doubt, hotels can be fascinating places. Things are rarely as calm and dignified in the “back of the house” as they are in the “front of the house”. It’s an ideal setting for a reality TV show. In fact, Opus participated in one a while back called Crash Test Mommy. The premise: harried mother with lots of bratty kids switches lives with childless friend. Mom checks into luxury hotel for weekend of pampering while “friend” checks into her home for weekend of Kids Gone Wild.

I made a cameo appearance as the obsequious hotel manager in one episode, and my entire belief system was shattered when I discovered that “reality” TV involves a lot more acting than reality. A scene in which I toured the ecstatic mother through her penthouse suite had to be reshot repeatedly because I kept flubbing my lines. After the suite scene, we went back and staged the arrival scene. Due to a staff shortage I had to sub in as the chauffeur. Mom played it up for the camera as we pulled up, oohing and aahing as though it were her first look at Opus and we hadn’t just spent hours filming inside. I accidentally drove the hotel car onto the sidewalk, almost taking out a bellman. That was the end of my reality TV career.

I’d like to say there’s never a dull moment when you’re in charge of a luxury hotel. But, sadly, there are lots of dull moments. But not to worry, in this blog I’ll take Stephen King’s advice to writers: I’ll leave out the boring parts. I’ll focus on daily challenges and rewards of running a hotel, on some of the more unusual situations I’ve encountered, and, yes, on some of my most humiliating experiences. Who knows, I might even dish some dirt. But I’ll always protect the privacy of our guests, which is paramount. Oh, and I promise to be a blogger, not a flogger – I’ll keep Opus propaganda to a minimum. The hotel’s track record speaks for itself.

I hope you enjoy.
posted by Daniel Edward Craig at 8:06 AM

Cathy said…
The premise: harried mother with lots of bratty kids switches lives with childless friend. Hi there! I was on Crash Test Mommy. Season 1, Episode 4. I think my kids were far from bratty, but they were a handful! I got to stay at a different hotel than yours.
1:01 AM