In my career I have been fortunate enough to meet many famous people over the years. I met 5 heads of state, rock stars, directors, actors. Here are some of the ones that stick out in my mind. It did make me realize at an early age; rich or poor, famous or not, people are just people.
I met Queen Elizabeth twice; once during her visit to Vancouver Island University. When I say met I should qualify that you are briefed ahead of time how to act in front of her, you speak only if spoken to etc. I was on the Student Council at the time so we were asked to be in the greeting party. It is probably one of the few encounters I have a photo of. It’s frowned on in luxury hotels to take photos with famous people. I helped serve the Queen at dinner at the Hyatt Regency a few years later.
I met Terry David Mulligan, John Candy and Tiger Williams at the Anchor Inn in Campbell River. They were all doing a charity event in Vancouver and decided to do some fishing. They came in to the restaurant I was managing and had dinner. John Candy charmed Lily my server; she was all smiles the whole night. John had Behrus; one of the other servers in stitches doing one of his SCTV characters. John Candy was a very funny guy. After dinner they went next door to the nightclub to party with my servers. I joined them after I cashed out the servers and closed down the bar. I was walking through the club looking for them when (I am told, I was unaware at the time) I bumped shoulders with Tiger Williams. Tiger had played for the Canucks but at this time was playing for the Los Angeles Kings. He was best known as a hockey Enforcer, a very tough fellow. Anyway according to Behrus who was watching this entire scene said Tiger glared at me …raised his fist as if to hit me, and then decided not to. He and I only bumped shoulders slightly as you do in a packed nightclub. Later that night a security report made mention that the hotel Coke machine had taken Tiger’s money without giving him a coke and he decided to beat the crap out of the machine. I am just glad he vented on the machine and not me.
We were doing a publishing convention and I was asked to set up a VIP reception in the two level suites on the 31st floor. I was told at the pre-convention there may be some “good fellows” in the group from Chicago. What the convention director actually said was; they were from “Harvard” as he pushed his nose to the side with his finger. I do not know if they were gangsters but if they would have been in any movie they would have been believable.
The fellow that wanted the party ordered the usual canapés’, cheese board, and full bar and asked if I could get female bartender. He also at the last minute ordered a 4 foot mirror full of desserts. Bernard our pastry chef did up an amazing collection of chocolate dipped strawberries, handmade truffles etc. They left to go for dinner and came back 3 hours later. Once the party was under way, the head guy; a short heavy set guy with a really gravelly voice yelled at me “hey you” through the crowded party. I walked over a little nervous he was not happy. Instead he reached around with both hands and hugged me, then proceeded to kiss me on both cheeks. I saw the Godfather; I figured he’s either really happy or it was "Il bacio della morte"...Yikes. He was happy and later that night he poured me a big scotch and handed it to me for a job well done. I declined telling him drinking at work was not allowed. He insisted; he made me an offer I could not refuse.
I met several famous comedians one night. Our General Manager wanted each to get a VIP gift basket. I helped a mini-bar porter deliver the baskets. I met Milton Berle and his wife, Joan Rivers, Henny Youngman, Don Rickles and Red Buttons. Later that night they had a party in the lounge I ran. It was non-stop laughs.
Bob Hope called down to room service and asked what the soup was. It was written on the specials board Pot Leek in messy handwriting. As soon as my cashier said “Pot Luck” out loud I ran over to the chef’s office to find out what it was. Potato Leek he said. Later that night he joked about it to 500 business executives in the ballroom with my boss present. I met Mr. Hope years later in Maui; he was still performing at 90!
I served President Bush Sr. and Brian Mulroney lunch in our VIP suite. I had to go through a few security check points and show ID each time. I did not speak with them as they were in a conversation. An aid simply nodded and I left. They emptied out a whole level from the parking garage before they arrived for security.
The Hyatt Regency through some legendary theme events in the 80's. Companies had huge entertainment budgets back then. We had elephants and Camels in the ballroom. Turned football sized rooms into a coastal rain forest complete with baby bears. One of the hardest functions was for CBS records. We had many recording artists and record executives in house including Gloria who was attending a 60's theme night dressed as a flower child.
The Grand Wailea opened in November of 1991. It was a 40 acre resort hotel with 780 guest rooms, 6 restaurants, 11 bars and a spa.
I was on the opening team and lived in the hotel for the first month. They did not give us a day off for a month and I had to borrow the hotel limo to hunt for an apartment and buy a car. I would have rented a car but payroll was also not set up yet.
I was on the opening team for the Grand Hyatt Wailea. After the first convention (7-up) was done we invited every single CEO from the Forbes FORTUNE 500 to stay for free. We had ice buckets made of carved ice with bottles of Jordon J on the side of walking paths. There were bars made of ice to serve martinis and caviar. The vodka bottles were frozen in blocks of ice with miniature roses in the ice. 20 Foot ice sculptures of King Kamehameha were carved and placed on each side of a VIP reception. We rolled out all the VIP swag and luxury a 5 star hotel can manage. I have been to many swank parties in my life and been behind lots of red velvet ropes but have never seen money spent like this.
I bumped into Mr. Cronkite briefly while working at the Grand Hyatt Wailea. I was a beverage manager at the hotel right from its opening in 1991. I was covering as pool bar manager and making my rounds. I said hello and there was some small talk. It was the one famous person I knew that my Grandfather would be impressed that I met. "And that's the news"
He spent the day at the kids' beach with his wife Tracy Pollen and their kids, talked to my bartender about Grunge music. Dennis Miller was there too.
Was upset my pool bar was not open before 10 am. We offered to call room service for him.
He and his Playmate wife Brandi Brandt stayed with us for a week. Brandi came out to the pool bar every day in a different bikini. She was a stunner.
Michelle was "molto bello", she had lunch in our Italian restaurant Bistro Molokini where I was helping out Randy the manager.
Just a cool guy! Spent the afternoon at our pool bar "Volcano Bar"
In September of 1992 we were advised that a category 4 hurricane was headed straight for Maui. It was the most powerful hurricane ever to strike Hawaii. At its peak there were winds over 145 mph. We knew it was coming 2 days before it hit. I was called in to the Grand Hyatt Wailea to help close up the venues as best we could. I was in charge of 11 bars and we had 6 restaurants. It sounds like a lot of work but we had 1400 employees. We lashed the teak chairs together and packed up what we could. On my way in to work the winds had already started picking up and there were these crazy surfers out surfing and loving the big waves.
At the last minute the eye of the hurricane shifted and headed straight for Kauai. After it passed 1400 homes were destroyed. I was flown in to the Hyatt Kauai afterwards to assist them. I arrived at Kauai airport at 11pm. Budget Rentals gave us some rental trucks to get to the hotel. We rode in the back of the trucks with our luggage. They said to keep our hands in the truck and our heads down. There were still live power lines that were down on the road. When I arrived at the hotel we were told we had 250 guests needed to be fed before they left the next morning. There was no power, no water, and no refrigeration. We salvaged what food we could from the kitchen and served them in the ballroom.
I spent a week closing down the hotel with many other executives from the other Hyatts. At night we huddled around the beer fridge singing songs and telling stories. We had no power or water the whole time. It was like camping but in a four star resort hotel. Four days in we were told the river was safe for bathing (no dead animals). In tropical heat in the dead calm after a hurricane; four days without a bath is simply awful. We got there and there must have been 100 naked people in the river soaping up. Nobody cared about being seen, we were all just so happy to be in cool fresh running water with a bar of soap.
The most vivid memory of the storm's force was a palm tree that had blown through a sliding glass door and skewered a 40" television like a cocktail olive. The damage was overwhelming; the lush tropical vegetation was turned black from the salt water blown in by the wind. Concrete roof tiles had been flying around at 145 miles an hour and hitting everything. After we closed up the hotel we were flown to the Grand Hyatt Waikalola on the big Island to handle all the business redirected to the big Island.
My food and beverage director got a bad glass of Château Latour one night. After that it was my job to go into the wine cellar and taste 14 different wines we served by the glass prior to service. I was used to tasting expensive wines. We served Grgich Hills Chardonnay, Opus One, Frog's Leap and several others. One night a guest ordered a bottle of La Tâche, it was $800 per bottle. I was asked by the nervous waiter to open the wine and test it. I opened it for the guest and tasted it at the table. With really expensive wines we told the guest if the wine is ok not the guest. His wife declined to have a glass so he left me a glass for a tip. Best tip ever!
Just before I transferred to California I had already trained my replacement so I was sent to manage the grand dining room. It was a 250 seat restaurant overlooking the Wailea beach. The Prince's assistant came in and booked several table in the restaurant. There was a table for him and his entourage and a table for his wife and her entourage. Around each table were several more tables for their body guards. They were very easy to serve and very pleasant.
The Prince became King of Saudi Arabia in 2005 and is worth an estimated $18 Billion.
The Sultan came into our night club "Tsunami" one night. He paid thousands of dollars to keep it open late. The Sultan is the second richest head of state in the world and worth and estimated $20 Billion so money was no object.
The group ordered double shots of Grand Marnier Cuve'e du Cent Cinquantenaire at $165/each and Louis XIII de Rémy Martin double shots at $220/each. The servers were going out with trays worth $2000 each trip and they were run off their feet. Tsunami was a high tech 10,000 s.f. night club with rare blue marble floors and laser lights and a neon wave ceiling. I loved when the DJ was late, I got to fire up the booth and play with the lasers and fog machine and spin music until he got there. It was the 90's so we still used vinyl. It was so much fun the Billionaire owner Mr. Sekiguchi used to come and play in the booth too. We were both like little boys with a shiny new toy.
One night we had Robin Leach in for dinner. Robin hosted the TV show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. I was still a beverage manager but had a French service waiter background. It was a dinner for four; Billionaire Takeshi Sekiguchi who owned the Grand Hyatt and the Four Seasons next door, Robin Leach, Kim our PR Director and the General Manager Jim Petrus. Jim now runs all Donald Trump's hotels.
Mr. Sekiguchi spent $680 million to build the hotel. When he finished The resort he spent $10 million more on art including a 1 million dollar Bronze Botero Sculpture and works by Picasso, Leger, and the reversal series of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol. He actually tore down the Japanese restaurant and rebuilt it to be more authentic. His idea of authentic was taking a picture of some land at the base of Mt. Fuji then tagging every tree and rock and ship to from Japan to Hawaii. To say that it was important the dinner go flawlessly was an understatement.
The dinner was synchronized French service with a server for each guest. We served it with white gloves, each plate was place in front of the guest at the exactly at the same time. The hardest part of the dinner was serving the lemon sorbet. It was served in a carved ice cup on a carved ice plate; it was really slippery with white gloves. I got to taste each course Chef Rene' Metler prepared. It was some of the best food I have ever tasted. Chef Rene was the Regional Executive Chef for Hyatt Hotels. The Hotel is now run by Woldorf Astoria.
I have done lots of crazy marketing stunts over the years. I have delivered Baba Ganoush to radio stations to promote Mediterranean week at my restaurant, I served a child's swimming pool full of Kentucky Bourbon Bread Pudding to another radio personality. The craziest one was serving lunch to 6 Ringling Brothers elephants. These Asian elephants were huge! The menu was simple just case after case of lettuce.
I was in charge of Room service and the main Restaurant and each year during the Toyota grand Prix my departments served 3000+ meals daily. The hotel sat right in the middle of the 2 mile track with 200,000 race fans.
The celebrity race always brought in several big names into my restaurant. I met Paul Newman Mario Andretti, Jason Priestly, Cameron Diaz and Matt LeBlanc.
George Harrison and Tom Petty were also spotted by some watching the race.
I was standing at the host desk of my restaurant one day and when I looked up Richard Kiel was standing in front of me. He was the actor that played Jaws in the James Bond movies; he was also in Happy Gilmore, The Longest Yard and the Guns of Navarone. He stands 7 foot 2 inches almost a foot taller than me. He was in the hotel for the numismatic convention. He walked with a cane because of a car accident.
I moved to LA 45 days after the Rodney King riots. LA was a tense city at that time. Riots chains were kept in security in case we had to secure the main doors. It was a very tense city after the riots and remained so through the O.J. trial.
I lived in Long Beach during the Northridge earthquake at the end of the Alamitos Peninsula. It was basically a giant sand bar. At 4:30AM the earthquake hit, it was a 6.7. It was not the largest in Magnitude but it was one of the most intense. There were thousands of aftershocks. The home I was in was a wooden structure and it shook hard but had no damage. Other parts of LA looked like a war zone. I helped cook food along the hundreds of other hotel staff for the homeless in the San Fernando Valley after the quake. Many homes burned down because of unsecured water tanks with gas lines. Many homes just fell down.
In June 1994 I was on the 405 just a half hour ahead of what ended up being the White Bronco chase of OJ Simpson. I got home and saw the media frenzy on TV. I was coming home from Redondo Beach. I was lucky I was ahead of him; the freeway was backed up for hours.
Also known as The Riot Hyatt in the 60’s and 70’s this hotel was infamous for the antics of many rock stars. Jim Morrison, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Rolling Stones were all guests. The hotel was close to many famous night clubs; The Whiskey a Go Go, Roxy, Rainbow Room, Château Marmont and Roxburry. It was used for filming Almost Famous and Spinal Tap. Keith Richard dropped a TV out the window of room 1015.
I got to know Eddie Griffin quite well before his TV series “Malcolm and Eddie”. At first it was because he was always needing to be told to stop cursing so loudly and offending other lounge patrons. He was a very nice fellow and made me laugh, but sometimes was too coarse for some patrons. He and many upstart comedians would warm up in the lounge before going on at the Comedy Store next door. The night of the premier of Malcolm and Eddie was a little surreal to say the least. We had the big screen set of so we could watch the show. The bar slowly filled with the most eclectic group of celebrities and infamous people I have ever seen in one place. Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Eddie Griffin were there of course, and then Matt LeBlanc from “Friends” sat at the end of the bar. Next came singer Rick James “Super Freak Fame”, he had just got out of Folsom Prison for beating up a record executive across the street at Argyle Hotel. Then Joey Buttafuoco arrived (famous for having an affair with a 17 yr. old Amy Fisher who later murdered his wife). Joey was working as a bouncer at the Whiskey a Go Go just up the street. Every time I see the print by Edward Hopper “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” I think of that night.
Etta James came into my restaurant one night. She had a concert across the street at the house of blues. If meeting her wasn't excitement enough Blues Man; John Lee hooker stopped by her table to chat.
I Served room service to Mr. Flint. The order was for two dinners and some Champagne. This was a two years after he was played by Woody Harrelson in a movie about him.
I was putting finishing touches on a media party to re-launch the renovated Hyatt on Sunset. We had four guest rooms themed up for various decades complete with original bedspreads from each decade. There was an 80’s room set up with the Harley Davidson in it. We borrowed the bike from the Thunder Road House (a motorcycle themed restaurant next door). The bike was used by Michael Douglas in the movie Black Rain. I set up the room to reenact a night Gun’s and Roses got in trouble partying in the hotel. I had James my bartender dressed as Slash complete with top hat and wig. I placed empty Jack Daniels bottles on the floor etc. I got a page from room service. They needed help to deliver an order to the roof top pool deck. When I got to the pool I found the real Slash and his very busty companion were the ones waiting for the food. I invited him to the party. He said he would but he had a gig in the valley with his new band Slash's Snakepit.
I threw a Chinese themed birthday party at the request of “Downtown” Julie Brown. She was one of the original VJ’s on MTV in the 80’s. There were a ton of famous people there I just can’t remember who. Models, Actors, musicians, etc. I seem to remember Alicia Milano was there but it may have been another party. This party lead to me doing several more parties for David Faustino on our roof top ballroom. David was a club promoter before he got the role of Bud Bundy on the sitcom Married with Children.
Little Richard lived in the Hyatt on Sunset in room 319 through the 80’s and 90’s. His adopted son Danny Jones was a regular in the lounge. Danny insisted I put Good Golly Miss Molly on the juke box in the bar. I grew to hate that song because he played it all the time.
I was covering for the switchboard operator for the hotel one Saturday morning when a call came in for Richard Penniman. I kept telling the caller we had no such person registered, and then she said Lil Richard. I did not know his given name at that point. Richard was soft spoken and pleasant. I met Richard many times, often as he came in to the hotel with his entourage.
I had just finished dealing with a very busy Christmas party season and decided to take Jose and Jorge my two lead banquet staff out for lunch. They had worked hard and deserved a reward. They wanted to try out the Thunder Roadhouse (a restaurant owned by Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda and country singer Dwight Yoakam). It was next door and was a fun place with a biker theme. There were movie posters and famous bikes everywhere.
We sat at the bar and ordered a few beers. A fellow sat next to me at the bar shortly after. We ordered lunch and the four of us talked about everything under the sun. I began to feel like I knew this fellow from somewhere but just could not place him. When you work in a hotel you meet hundreds of people every day. He was dressed no different than us and was just a nice fellow. Near the end I figured out who he was and we talked about movies. He was one of the coolest celebrities I ever met.
Dan used to use my lounge during the day to record his radio show. He also had a share in the House of Blues with James Belushi across the street. My General Manager had a card I could use to access the Foundation Room which was a private club within the House of Blues.
One of the local LA radio stations had a crazy contest where a 100 people would win breakfast in bed with the Stone Temple Pilots. I set up a large stage on our roof top pool deck and they dressed it up to look like a giant bed. The band came out and played in their PJ’s. It was a cool concert for three reasons, it was live and unplugged, it was at dawn as the sun was coming up over the Hollywood hills and it was such a small venue with just me, my staff and 100 contest winners. I got to meet the entire band and they gave me an autographed copy of Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart.
I went to see Cheap Trick with by Jamaican chef and Marcie my assistant. I was a fan of the band in high school and thought it would be a good fun bonding night for my managers. The concert ended and the three of us were about to run across Sunset Boulevard (very busy four lane street). A fellow across the street yelled “the bar is closed”. I knew he meant my bar. I turned around and the band was standing behind me. They must have come out a side door. I told them not to worry the bar would re-open. James the bartender was in the cash room ready to go home but agreed to go back to work in light of who it was. The bar ended up staying open well after hours. The band insisted we have a few drinks on them. James and I had a blast but the band and their entourage were heavy drinkers and kept both of us busy. The band tipped us heavily and Rick Nielsen gave us both one of his famous guitar picks.
I escorted Mr. O’Neil up the freight elevator to our rooftop deck. He was filming a MTV interview. He had to bend in half almost to get in the elevator. He is 7’ 1” soft spoken and very pleasant.
Nick was a guard for the Los Angeles Lakers
Nick booked his birthday party with us and the entire Lakers and Bulls team showed up after a game. There were countless stretch limos that pulled up when they arrived. Standing in a room with dozens of NBA players was the first time in my life I ever felt short. I am used to being able to look over people, I can usually see all four walls in a room. That night all I saw was chests.
I ran the bar for the Arts Club for a while on Granville Island and opened the Stanley Theatre Bar. We did many live concerts but the one that was the best was Brad Roberts from the Crash Test Dummies. He was booked as the "Crash Test Dude". He was the guy with the super low baritone voice. The concert was amazing and it was even more special because the venue was so small. At one point in the show he said "I am going to do a number by Kim Carnes". The song was Betty Davis eyes. My 20 yr. old cocktail waitress said "who is that"; it made me feel so old. Betty Davis Eyes was from 1981 but to me it seemed like yesterday.
Long John Baldry had his Surprise 60th Birthday Party at the Backstage Lounge. There were many local artists there but I had hoped Elton John or Rod Stewart would have come. Elton's last name was from Elton Dean and Long John. He died just a few years later. That night I learned why they called him long he was 6' 7".
I met Cybill Sheppard at a wrap party of the movie "Marine Life". They shot one scene in our bar and then had the wrap party afterwards. I closed the bar for a whole day.
I had a formal dinner in one of my ballrooms with the speaker of the house of Grenada; Sir Curtis Strachan. He insisted on having a port toast to the Queen before dinner.
There were many more celebrities I met over the years but some of the encounters would be too embarrassing for the person to mention such as the famous couple that ordered room service after hurricane Iniki and were pissed off it was unavailable. Lots of famous people being naughty stories I cannot tell. Some I just can't remember all the details.
All these experiences made my life in the hotel business very interesting and I learned to be cool under pressure.
I post both my cell and office number so my clients can reach me anytime. I am always happy to discuss your Nanaimo real estate needs.
Office 1-5140 Metral Dr. Nanaimo