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Puttin’ on the Ritz

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Photo: Andrea Fazzari

The one old opponent the Ritz needs no longer bother about is the Meurice, which is a little late to the party in tapping Philippe Starck to remake its lobby and jardin d’hiver. Touchingly, executives say the point in bringing in Starck is to help the hotel stay up-to-date. It’s a desperate move.

News of Starck’s rendezvous with the Meurice (a lobby and jardin d’hiver cannot be called a marriage) broke the week I was at the Ritz, but did not even merit a mention in the War Room. I would be hopeless as a Ritz department head because to reach the room you have to pass before the office of the hotel’s president, Frank Klein, something I could never do without a shiver. Klein is sentenced to be remembered as the senior Ritz official on whose watch Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed died following dinner at the hotel, in 1997. Given the wolfish mood of the paparazzi that night, many—including a lot of ­Diana freaks—think the couple should never have been allowed to leave the Ritz. Klein was on vacation, but that fact hasn’t let him entirely off the hook. His position is especially ticklish because the hotel happens to be owned by Dodi’s uncles and his father, Mohamed Al Fayed. The brothers also own Harrods, and when you phone the store there’s a menu option that tells you what to dial “if your call has anything to do with Dodi or Diana.” Al Fayed is still pursuing his theory, voiced in court, that the Duke of Edinburgh engineered to have the Princess of Wales and his son murdered. Whatever the truth, two things seem sure: Al Fayed will continue to be denied British citizenship. And the Queen and Philip will never sleep at the Ritz.

Whether or not Klein’s presence would have prevented the tragedy, Al Fayed has stood by him. When his family acquired the Ritz in 1979, business was poor, the hotel in an advanced state of decay. It still had one of those old-fashioned plug-type switchboards, and people were staying away in droves. Al Fayed and Klein made a formidable team, giving the place buzz and bulldozing it into modern times. Al Fayed seems to understand that after himself (he is, after all, the check-writer), it is Klein who makes the hotel go.

“Are we still recording in room 256?” Acar asked recently, by way of opening the morning briefing.

Yes, construction noise from a neighboring building was being documented to support a legal case. Every time a certain level was reached, the Ritz’s lawyer received an e-mail.

“Good,” Acar said. “Call the bailiff today, and make sure guests checking out sign something saying they were disturbed by the noise. What about Sharon Stone?”

At the mention of the once-hot actress—who has taken to shilling beauty products for women of a certain age and who travels under the pretentious pseudonym Docteur Katrine Davis—everyone tried to pretend that her latest film, Basic Instinct 2, hadn’t gone south.

“She’s coming in today,” Acar announced. “Are we doing anything special for her?Does she have anything to do with the new Eastwood movie and the press conference he’s giving here?”

“No, Stone is in Paris for Dior,” someone volunteered. “We’ve got her in the Chanel Suite. She’s arriving with her sister and friends, like always.”

“Is Eastwood married?” Acar wondered.

“I know he was once, but he got div...”

“Give him a hard pillow. No, seriously. Today is Valentine’s Day. We’ve got to do something that says Valentine’s Day in Paris. Pink macaroons. But no candles. No open flames. Has anything been organized for the staff?Let’s get a heart-shaped cake in the cafeteria.”


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