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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

READ THIS: Inside the Plaza An Intimate Portrait of the Ultimate Hotel Revised and Updated | by Ward Morehouse III Our Coverage Sponsored by Maine Woolens

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We have been highly recommended by Whom You Know:

"It is a place where F. Scott Fitzgerald is forever not growing up, memorably thrashing around in the Pulitzer Fountain." (p. 14)

The Plaza Hotel is undoubtedly one of the quintessential symbols of New York City and it is a place that holds its place in history, but do you know its history?  When you take the time to read Inside the Plaza, you will be regaled by an insider, Ward Morehouse III, who actually grew up there.  Now isn't that what we all wanted to do? "...Nor did I perceive myself as some whimsical character out of Kay Thompson's famous Eloise stories.  I was a kid.  I thought everybody lived in eighteen-story public palaces with great room service...My mother and father lived at the hotel before I was born, then my father resided there for eleven years with my stepmother, Rebecca Franklin Morehouse.  I was forever visiting them." (p. 15)  As you know we have reviewed every Eloise book we know to be in print...thank you Simon and Schuster!  You know she is Peachy and she is six...

So, you'll find out what it would have been like, but not only that.  If you are stepping inside The Plaza today for the first time, this book is even more essential because it paints a picture of its dynamic past that we preferred to the current incarnation, though it is hard to have a bad day at The Plaza in any era.  It is the only New York City hotel to be both a New York City Landmark and a National Historical Landmark, and you know we love Landmarks and the people of them.  Some of the best times we have ever had in New York have been at The Plaza, from the galas to the liquidation sale in 2005 which we went to many times to reviewing the Rose Bar.  First off, you should know this is an updated version of this book.  We did not review the original.  All of our commentary is based on the updated version.

1883 is the year when it all started...and it started as eight stories.  Interesting to note that it started with 1,650 chandeliers!  It was meant to recreate a French Chateau-everything except The Oak Room, that is, which was meant to be English.  Everything you've ever wanted to know about The Plaza you'll discover through these 232 pages, and don't miss the award page on 233.  We absolutely adore the photography and early Plaza advertising included punctuating all of the verbiage, and these illustrations give one such a sense of wonder of what it was like.  We would love to step back in time to see what it might have been like, and turning the pages is the best way until time travel is invented.  We would die to go to The Grill Room with F. Scott Fitzgerald....sadly it closed soon after the stock market crash of 1929.

So who really lives at The Plaza?  By the 1950's we understand through this book the number of residents went down from 90 percent in 1907 when the hotel opened to 20 percent.  Now with all of the condos we hear it is meant to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 50/50, though we could be incorrect-we did not get this figure from this book.  

The Plaza has played a major role in American history.  In regards to Prohibition, it says on page 70:
"Like everywhere else The Plaza by law was forbidden to sell liquor during Prohibition.  'But it had a cache of champagne and liquor stored in the basement for discreet clientele who lived in the hotel,' confesses Wilhelm.  'Some was carried through a tunnel which ran underneath Fifth Avenue from The Plaza to The Savoy-Plaza.  They ferried a lot of stuff back and forth and somewhere down in the third subbasement there's still the outline of where the tunnel was bricked up on The Plaza side.  Over the years parts of the tunnel were demolished.  But during Prohibition they actually used that tunnel to cart liquor back and forth and in fact, used it to store liquor.'"

If only the walls could talk.  Suite 803 was used by The Great Gatsby movie, starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.  

Want to know what kind of bed William Gillette wanted to sleep in?  We certainly did because  his castle in Connecticut is something to see.  And seriously, we know you're dying to hear what happened to the fourth half of Cary Grant's english muffin.  Really, you must read this!

"Ernest Hemingway, another intimate of Fitzgerald's circle, once advised F. Scott, regarding his friend's future funeral plans, 'If you really feel blue enough, get yourself insured and I'll see you can get killed and I'll write a fine obituary.  We can take your liver out and give it to the Princeton Museum, your heart to The Plaza Hotel.'" (p.115)

Our panelists say:

Built in 1907, the Plaza was closed on April 30th 2005 and reopened March 1st 2010. This was done to turn it into condo’s. It is not only a designated NY landmark building but is also a National Landmark. The list of guests who have stayed there reads like a who’s who from Cary Grant, Joe Dimagio, Marilyn Monroe, Liza Minnelli, Madonna, Eddie Murphy, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The list goes on and on.

This book will appeal to older New Yorkers who can remember it in its hay day. The photography shows a wide variety of photos of people and architecture.

Also some tidbits of gossip—Marie Callas the opera star, lived there free coutesy of Onassis while he was courting Jackie Kennedy.

Younger people who grew up with and enjoy Eloise at the plaza and her portrait hanging there will be astonished to learn about its theft.

Donald Trump also bought the Plaza and made Ivanka the president. The book did leave out that it had a night club on the lower level called upstairs, downstairs for stand-up comedy and the first big star was Joan Rivers.

This book is an excellent read for hotel history buffs and true New Yorkers!


The Plaza Hotel. Those three words at once conjure up images of New York glamour at its best. But how much do we really know about this landmark? Well, happily, in Ward Morehouse III's captivating book, Inside the Plaza, readers are treated to an insider's view of one of the most famous hotels in the world. Mr. Morehouse spent a good deal of his childhood living at the hotel, and has maintained his love of his childhood home throughout his adult life. In this book, he details the history of the Plaza, from its earliest planning stages, through its renovations, and finally, to the present day. Stories about the wild antics of celebrity residents and guests are seamlessly woven in with stories about the actual history of the building, as well as Mr. Morehouse's personal experiences there, which makes for an extremely entertaining and fascinating read. I, myself, have been privileged to visit the Plaza on a number of occasions since it re-opened its doors in 2008, and appreciate the care with which Mr. Morehouse approached his subject, and the spot-on way in which he captured the charm and elegance of this storied building. The book gives its an intimate look at the Plaza's legendary past, and gives us confidence in its exciting future. There is a certain magic about the Plaza, and Mr. Morehouse is able to harness it beautifully in the pages of this book. Also featured are a number of wonderful pictures, from the earliest days of the Plaza through the present. Inside the Plaza is a must-read for any New Yorker, or anyone interested in the glitz and glamour associated with this fabled building! 

Whom You Know Highly Recommends 

Inside the Plaza: An Intimate Portrait of the Ultimate Hotel!  It is an absolute must for anyone interested in the history of America.

Since it first opened its doors in October 1907, the Plaza has been the hub of glamour and culture in New York. It is where F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed during the Jazz Age, where Frank Lloyd Wright lived while building the Guggenheim Museum, where the Beatles bivouacked when they invaded America, and where Macaulay Culkin checked in after spending all that time home alone. It’s where Liza Minnelli grew up and where Eloise acted up. 

Ward Morehouse III, who himself did some growing up at the Plaza, has collected all its gems and looked into all the nooks, crannies, and dark corners for this revised and updated edition of Inside the Plaza: An Intimate Portrait of the Ultimate Hotel (Applause Books, $27.99). In this edition, Morehouse recounts the hotel’s recent $450 million transformation, with its 181 luxury condominium residences, 282 guest rooms and suites, and landmark public spaces, such as the Oak Room and Oak Bar. 

Alfonse Salomone, manager of the Plaza in the 1960s, rightly observed that, “People have, when they leave a hotel, a receipted bill and a memory.” It was the memory part, Salomone urged his employees, that really made the difference. 

In Inside the Plaza, Morehouse has captured his memories of the only true storybook castle in America where all are welcome to stay overnight. 

* * * * * * * * * * * 

Ward Morehouse III is the author of London’s Grand Hotels: Extraordinary People Extraordinary Service in the World’s Cultural Capital; The Waldorf-Astoria; Life at the Top: Inside New York’s Grand Hotels; and Discovering the Hudson, as well as Broadway after Dark, which contains columns celebrating Broadway written by him and his father, Ward Morehouse, a well-known drama critic and columnist. Ward Morehouse III was the chief theater columnist for the New York Post from 1994 to 1998 and Broadway columnist for the New York Sun and amNewYork, and continues to write drama criticism and features for Black Tie Magazine and others. He was editor of the popular website and writes a monthly column for Travel Smart Newsletter. In addition, he is the author of the off-Broadway plays The Actors, If It Was Easy (co-written with Stewart F. Lane), Gangplank, and My Four Mothers. He lives in New York. 

March 2012 $27.99 Hardcover 978-1-55783-823-0
304 pages 6” x 9” Two 8-page photo inserts
Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, an imprint of Hal Leonard