Ward Morehouse III has long had a
love affair with grand hotels of the world. The first he wrote
about, that historic gem on Park Avenue, where royalty,
presidents, and stars have stayed, was chronicled in The
Gilded Dream. Morehouse was indoctrinated into the
glam life of luxury hotels as a youth traveling with his father,
the late drama critic Ward Morehouse, who loved the hotel life
to the degree that he requested
"Room service, please!" on his grave marker.
In London's Grand Hotels --
Extraordinary People, Extraordinary Service, in the World's
Cultural Capital [BearManor Media; 308 pages,
softbound, 16-page B&W gallery; Index; SRP, $25], Morehouse goes
beyond fine linens and fancy uniforms and exposes the escapades
of A-List celebrities [Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh,
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, and Liz and Dick, to name a
few] who made Brown's, the Claridge, Savoy, May Fair,
Grosvenor House, and the Dorchester their home away from home.
Published on Thursday, December 9, 2010
International Arts Media journalist
Associate Producer: Drama Desk Awards;
Author: best-selling Patsy Cline biography
Honky Tonk Angel;
the International Hit Musical revue
Always, Patsy Cline.
William Wolf, former film cirtic
of New York Magazine, on his popular
website NEW YORK CALLING Dec. 31, 2010
By William Wolf
LONDON HOTELS IN DEPTH Send This Review to a Friend
Send a Review to a Friend
LONDON HOTELS IN DEPTH
Ward Morehouse III has had a love affair with London
Hotels, as evidenced by his entertaining and informative
new book, “London’s Grand
Hotels: Extraordinary People, Extraordinary Service in
the World’s Cultural Capital” (BearManor Media).
Although I’m not sure about
calling London the “Cultural Capital”—I might give the
title to New York—Morehouse’s book is unusual in the
sense that it isn’t an ordinary travel guide. His take
is to get behind the scenes and talk about the
hotels in terms of history, tradition, the executives
who run them and the flow of celebrities who have stayed
in their and his particular favorites. Previously
Morehouse’s hotel concentration was New York with
his books “TheWaldorf-Astoria: America’s Gilded Dream,”
and “Inside the Plaza.”
The London biggies are all included, such as the Savoy,
Claridge's, The Connaught, Brown’s, The Dorchester, The
Ritz, The Hilton Park Lane etc.
He includes the famous May Fair in Stratton Street,
where I have enjoyed staying during my last few visits
to London. I have also at various times bedded down at
the Savoy, The Connaught, The Ritz, The
Dorchester and the Hilton Park Lane, so I have a
familiarity with the institutions covered.
The reason I’ve been enjoying The May Fair Hotel is its
friendly service, its great Green Park location, the
modern facilities in its re-decorated and re-furnished
rooms under its recent modernization, and
such amenities as a 24-hour computer room at no charge.
The hotel also serves generous buffet breakfasts
attended by a congenial, friendly
staff. Morehouse writes much about various aspects, such
as the theater in the hotel that is used for movie
screenings and other events.
Recently, I found in seeing Clint Eastwood’s film
“Hereafter” that the May Fair lobby was used for an
important sequence. For a few moments,
it was like personally being back there. The May Fair
looked great and up-to-date on screen.
Apart from the years in which he visited London staying
at select hotels, in researching his book Morehouse
spent two weeks of one-night
bookings at an assortment of what he regards as London’s
finest. That’s a hectic feat.
His general approach is to encompass a hotel’s history
as one of the important reasons one might chose it. Take
The Ritz. That has long been
regarded as a great hotel, as is the case with The Ritz
iin Paris. Tea at the Ritz in London has become
something of an institution in itself.
When my wife and I returned to the Ritz a second time
after a few years our same room was awaiting us. Such is
the attention one gets.
The Savoy, which has been undergoing renovation, was a
favorite of Charlie Chaplin. It has great rooms
overlooking the Thames. My wife and
I had such a vista on one occasion.
The Dorchester on Park Lane became especially popular
when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton stayed there in
the midst of their
internationally publicized liaison. Photographers camped
outside. I stayed there during one trip to do movie
interviews, and later my wife
and I also enjoyed the hotel’s comfort. It also has the
advantageous Park Lane location.
Morehouse writes reverentially about the Connaught,
where my wife and I stayed on one occasion, when there
was a danger from Irish rebels. We
had brought a cake from New York on the request of a
friend, who wanted one from his favorite bakery, and the
box had to be opened and examined—gracefully, of
course—when we arrived. What I remember most about the
Connaught is the incredible service. It seemed that one
just had to think about calling for a service employee
and he or she was
already outside the door.
I stayed at the Hilton Park Lane when it was first
built. In the beginning it was scandalous because it was
a towering hotel unusual for London. One could see
Buckingham Palace from a high floor room, and
there was concern about invasion of royalty privacy. I
recall one magazine editor who snobbishly looked down
his nose at the new giant, but when we made an
appointment for drinks, where did he want to go? He was
curious about the hotel’s bar with a view. The Hilton
rapidly earned its respect as a prime location.
Morehouse discusses such other hotels as Dukes, The
Stafford, The Goring, Grosvenor House, the Berkeley
( I interviewed director John Huston there), The
Millennium Hotel Mayfair, as well as some of the
newcomers reflecting development in various London
areas, such as the Four Seasons Canery Wharf.
He approaches the hotel scene as a romantic, enamored of
a hotel’s past, the anecdotes associated with it and the
famous. Accordingly, the
book is filled entertainingly with name-dropping and an
array of stories. There is also information about cost,
but not in the thorough sense of an ordinary guide. The
book is peppered with celebrity photos
by Rose Billings.
Morehouse himself has an interesting background, which
probably helps explain his fascination with past as well
as present. His father, Ward
Morehouse, was a famous New York drama critic, and as
the writer’s son, he had the early opportunity of
spending time with his father at the
hotels he frequented in New York and abroad. The
fascination continues as Morehouse III pursues his own
Harry Haun column PLAYBILL
Names normally found on the entertainment
pages of New York’s city papers seem to be
Christmas-holidaying on bookstore shelves nowadays.
Eric Grode, New York Sun’s chief theatre critic before
it lamentably set, has chronicled the coming, going and
Tony-winning coming-again (in
2009) of Broadway’s first pop-rock musical in “Hair: The
Story of the Show That Defined a Generation” (Running
Press). Think tie-dyed jeans,
beads and Vietnam War protests.
Nudity at a park protest prompted the authors, James
Rado and the late Gerome Ragni, to include that in the
show—a symbolic way of flipping
the finger to the existing social mores—and controversy
dogged its every step to the bank.
The tome is handsomely punctuated with the lyrics to
Galt MacDermot’s landmark music, interviews with the
surviving creatives and 200-plus
photos (some nekked).
The Newark Star-Ledger’s theatre guy, Peter Filichia,
puts the accent on the last syllable of showbiz in his
nifty new tome, “Broadway Musicals: The Biggest Hit &
The Biggest Flop of the Season” (Applause),
separating the two by money made and not made, but his
affection allows him a little wiggle-room if it’ll lead
to a good story.
Filichia makes it a fascinating, fun ride—plus you learn
a lot along the way. For instance, who’s the only
composer-lyricist to have three shows last longer than
430 performances? Here’s a hint: his initials
are S.S., and his first name is Stephen.
No, not Sondheim. Schwartz! (“Pippin,” “The Magic Show,”
“Wicked”). Sondheim had three of the biggest flops
(“Anyone Can Whistle,” “Merrily
We Roll Along,” “Wise Guys”)—so, to make amends,
Filichia does a deep bow to Sondheim by granting him
“the 11 o’clock number” (a.k.a. the last chapter). Money
isn’t everything, you know.
Filichia also did the foreword to Laura Frankos’s
“Broadway Musical Quiz Book.”
Ward Morehouse III, who used to report on theatre for
the New York Post, had a drama-critic dad who educated
him about the glamorous life
of luxury hotels (his tombstone request, in fact, was
“Room service, please!”), so it’s not surprising the son
has written “The Waldorf-Astoria,” “Inside the Plaza”
and, now, “London’s Grand Hotels”
(BearManor Media), which stops at and inspects 27 of its
Did you know Bing Crosby and Bob Hope used Claridge’s
carpeted corridors for putting “greens”? Well, did you
Attention Avid Travelers,
Active or Armchair!
London's Grand Hotels Is a
Must-Read for You
By Beatrice Williams-Rude
Grand Hotels," by Ward Morehouse III is more than a
description of the glorious hostelries in a fascinating
city; it is a cultural and social romp through history.
Like the work of the eminent French historiographer
Fernand Braudel, it is a compendium of the lives of
people who inhabit these commercial palaces. And like
Braudels books, anyplace one opens them the material
will be riveting and comprehensible, no matter that one
hasnt read what came before.
This is a book to read again and again, at leisure.
The hotels chosen range from traditional English, such
as Browns, the most venerable of this selection having
opened in 1837 and which Queen Victoria used to frequent
for tea, to Millennium Gloucester which has a
super-modern world-class convention center with the
latest technology on the planet. The Haymarket Hotel is
the newest, having opened
The book is as much about the people who stay in them
and staff them as about the hotels themselves. Of course
there are meticulous physical descriptions, and
attention to the amenities offered; there are even menus
from hotel restaurants. But above all, this book
delights in people.
It should be noted at the outset that this is a chatty
book, a fun one, and throughout the charm, wit and joie
de vivre of Ward Morehouse III are in evidence. This
tome took tons of research – lovingly pursued by the
author. Historic names abound, Winston Churchill and
Lady Nancy Astor among them.
A potential purchaser has to but peruse the index to be
The reader discovers wonderful tales about people of
whom much is known – Lindberghs report on the Luftwaffe
and its bloody consequences – and about those of whom
little is known, such as the goodness of Colonel John
Blashford-Snell who managed to get a much-desired grand
piano (as well as medical supplies) to the Wai Wai tribe
in the jungles of South America.
There are anecdotes about royals, pretenders, the famous
and infamous. Stories about writers abound, Somerset
Maugham, for example. Theres an astonishing letter that
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote to his daughter about Zelda
and their miserable relationship. (Sheila Graham would
have been delighted.)
And, of course, theres plenty on performers: Laurence
Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Marilyn Monroe, both Hepburns,
Katharine and Audrey. Van Johnson, Marlon Brando, Frank
Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and so on.
Its hard to imagine austere President Woodrow Wilson
reveling in luxury, but he stayed at the Ritz in London.
Both Teddy Roosevelt and FDR bedded down at Browns.
Oscar Wilde stayed at the Savoy. Walter Cronkite was at
the Savoy during WWII and returned to visit 40 years
later, pointing to what had been his seat at the
American Bar. Charles de Gaulle resided in the "down to
earth" Connaught during WWII. .
The hotels in addition to those in this review include
the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park; Hilton Waldorf Hotel;
Dukes Hotel; One Aldwych; The Stafford Hotel; The Goring
Hotel; The May Fair Hotel; Grosvenor House; The
Dorchester; Hilton Park Lane; The Berkeley; Four Seasons
Canary Wharf; The Milestone; "41"; The Chesterfield; The
Metropolitan Hotel; The Halkin; The Lanesborough; The
Soho Hotel; The Piccadilly and The Gore.
As Samuel Johnson noted: "When a man is tired of London
hes tired of life." Agreed!
The book has 308 pages, a section of fascinating
photographs, is being published by BearManor Media.
January, 20011 in The Resident
(by Lee Fryd)
centuries, L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris produced the
in the world. Today, the
French Heritage Society preserves their work. In the
past 28 years of its existence, the Society has spent
$18 million restoring
the best examples of French architecture in France and
the United States as well as providing architecture
scholarships. After Hurricane Katrina, they donated
$400,000 towards the rebuilding of New Orleans. Their
gala at the elite Metropolitan Club, co-chaired by CeCe
Langenberg and Jean
Shafiroff, upped the glamour quotient in a glamorous
It honored the region of Gascony and its native Chef
Ariane Daquin, who founded D’Artagnan, the standard
bearer of gourmet organic game, and Les Nouvelles
the international association for women chefs. Anyone,
like me, who has ever enjoyed the guilty pleasure, owes
a debt of gratitude to Daquin for
introducing domestic foie gras to the States. Hudson
Valley duck and geese, on the other hand, may feel
Across the pond, Ward Morehouse III celebrated his
latest book, London's Grand Hotels, published by BearManor
Media at -- where else – a London hotel, the Millennium
The celebrity-driven tome begins with Brown’s,
established in 1837, and includes Claridge’s, Bailey’s,
The Savoy, and The Ritz in its roster. F. Scott
Fitzgerald, Queen Elizabeth, Cary Grant, Katharine
Hepburn, Woody Allen, Elizabeth Taylor, and Richard
Burton are just some of the characters whose London
stories no longer remain between four walls.
One story comes from Ward Morehouse Sr., the author’s
drama critic father. He hosted a party at the Savoy
attended by Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, on their
way to Africa where Bogart was making The African Queen.
“Africa was no place to take a lady,” a guest told
Bogie. "She's going, pal!” was the reply. "But," the
guest interjected. Insisted Bogart, "She's going!"