Viewing page 3 of 19

2   THE NEW YORK MAGAZINE PROGRAM

[[image]]
CITY ANGLES
by TAB

METROPOLITANS-NO.3:
THE HOTEL MAN

No hotel directing its appeal to salesmen, theatrical folk, family transients on a budget, collegians, automobile conventions, business men spending a night in town with their wives, business men spending a night in town without their wives-in short, no hotel catering at large to the needs of miscellaneous immigrations that flow every day into the city, has ever employed the man we are thinking of. He belongs to a different and higher stratum; in a professional way he is an aristocrat. He administers his authority only in hotel in which the carpetings in the long corridors are double the thickness of ordinary carpets, in which the air is always faintly tinctured with the smoke of the best cigars and a suggestion of rich foods recently cooked in butter whose purity is beyond reproach, in which the guests are of such a high order that even should one of them be involved in a scandal the resulting publicity could only reflect credit on the hotel.

He was born in Prague forty-five years ago. Although he has lived in the United States since he was seventeen, he still speaks English with the careful precision of a foreigner who has learned to speak another language perfectly. He has also a sort of an accent, less a real accent than a special intonation which he gives to certain words or syllables perfectly pronounced. It is not necessary, however, to catch this intonation in order to identify him as a cosmopolite. His clothes, cut after the taste of Paris rather than London, the solitaire pearl set low on his dark, rich ties, the fluent gestures of his indolent hands, covered with little hairs, and his velvet eyes-organ-grinder's-eyes-all these seem to rebuke the crude ways of New York's colonials. Seeing him, one pays homage to the culture of older lands. Nevertheless the fact remains that his suavity and polish have been acquired by observation. He began his career as a bus-boy, and it is no doubt the memory of those unpleasant years when the headwaiter would kick his shins for neglecting to fill a water - glass that makes our hotel man so barbarous with the waiters in his own dining room. Faced with the necessity of giving the slightest order, he falls into a rage, while if one of them, through nervousness or resentment, actually makes a mistake, he becomes practically insane, amazing with guttural cures in Czecho-Slovakian the people with whom a moment before he was talking charmingly of art and music.

Next to his cosmopolism, his most outstanding characteristic is his pallor. His skin has the peculiar incandescence to be seen only in convicts, house-servants, chronic



NATIONAL THEATRE  3

CITY ANGLES
(Continued)

invalids, and other people who have spent a lifetime behind walls. In the execution of his duties as manager his temperament seems to reflect the tone of his skin. He performs with the flawless efficiency and lack of enterprise common to men whose jobs suit but do not interest them. He understands thoroughly what a hotel is and how it should function, and from ten to five every day, and later, and earlier, if necessary, he supervises and corrects his functioning as it goes on about him. Every owner has been pleased with him, with his economies, his honesty and tact; they have been sorry to seem him leave them, when a better offer came along, but it may be significant that hardly any of them have tried to match the better offer out of their own pockets. He is the sort of executive who is valuable but not invaluable and who always appears a little abler to the man who is about to hire him than to the one whom he has just been working for.

[[image - sketch of man complaining to a waiter]]

Our hotel man has nothing to complain of. Every change of places has meant an advance for him. Yet there is undoubtedly a reason why, in spite of several opportunities, he has never moved out of the class of employee to have a share himself in the ownership of a hotel. Is this his admiration for good manners, good living, as ends in themselves-his preference for living attractively rather than advantageously? It is hard to tell. Occasionally guests have taken a dislike to him. They have described his professional suavity as the technique of a confidence man and crudely stated that they felt like hiding they money whenever they saw him. But there is one class of guest which has found him consistently agreeable-the attractive women who have lived for a while under his roof. Married, single, blonde, brunette, widowed, divorced, from very young to middle aged, in all imaginable stages of coquetry and sophistication, they have bustled unannounced into his life with elaborate baggage carried after them by bellboys, and after a while they have gone away again, taking their baggage with them, but leaving memories. Some have left other things as well. The solitaire pearl was the gift of an opera - singer from Milan who one evening phoned him personally to bring her a bottle-opener, in spite of the fact that this utensil was part of the equipment in every bathroom in the hotel. His crested gold cigarette-case is also a souvenir of romance, of a different sort from that of the pearl-one in which he, in spite of rebuffs not altogether disguised, continued to find reasons for going to the lady's suite. Sometimes when he is with old friends he tells the story of the pearl or the cigarette case, rolling his lively brown eyes and showing his small, even teeth. "In my business," he says, I have many chances for meeting fine weemen."

Once our hotel man tried being married but gave it up after a few months. His former wife lives in Paris and he pays her alimony. He earns $15,000 a year and saves little of it, though he gets his apartment and meals for nothing. He has one hobby which he severely represses-a love of music-but occasionally it gets the better of him. Then he takes out of the closet the excellent violin which his father, an instrument maker, gave him in Prague, and on which during his period as a bus-boy he practiced, consoling himself for the headwaiter's kicks by dreaming of becoming a great violinist. Slowly and haltingly he plays Gounod's Ave Maria and two selection from A Midsummer Night's dream.
Please note that the language and terminology used in this collection reflects the context and culture of the time of its creation, and may include culturally sensitive information. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution, but is available in its original form to facilitate research. For questions or comments regarding sensitive content, access, and use related to this collection, please contact transcribe@si.edu.