One Regency resident prefers not to be identified, because he feels that women think there's something a little sleazy about a bachelor living in a hotel. "I'm not the guy who wanted the hotel life," he says. "I'm pathetically the guy who planned to stay here three to four months and now it's been years. I screwed up my real estate life, so to me it's an apartment with lots of extra doormen. I hardly ever use room service. To me, New York is all room service." It is notable that "room service" tops almost everyone's list of desirable hotel amenities, even though every imaginable type of cuisine at every level of taste and expensiveness is available through neighborhood delivery. Maybe it's the removal of room service—the not having to clean up afterward—that really whets everybody's appetite.
Of all the properties where James McBride has worked, the Carlyle is the first he's moved into with his wife, Alexandra, and six-year-old son, Sterling. On the road to being the famed hotel's managing director, McBride has made stops at Ritz-Carltons in Pasadena, Washington, D.C., and Hong Kong, as well as at the Grosvenor House in London.
"I never take the approach that this is my right. This is my job—I'm here to take care of my guests," he says over tea in his co-op apartment. "The key is it's a very residential building, with only two transient rooms on this floor."
There are 60 co-op apartments at the Carlyle, and 180 hotel accommodations, set in a family-oriented uptown neighborhood. Alexandra says that at first she was "concerned about how few kids lived at this hotel. It made me big on manners. Sterling greets the doormen, the elevator men by name. He visits the chef." McBride adds, "Sterling is a part of our success. The staff likes him and is watching him grow up. It's great for playdates; everyone wants to come here. Kids love the garbage compacting and visit the walk-in freezer. They see the workings of the back of the house and leave with shampoo samples." (Kiehl's, since you wondered.)
Sitting in their tasteful apartment, which blends hotel furniture with their personal belongings (all the art is the McBrides'), the family emphasizes their gratitude at getting to live in the storied hotel. "We know where our place is, completely. I know it's not my entitlement," the South Africanborn McBride says. "The hotel business is a lifestyle. We entertain four to five times a week. If I'm entertaining guests downstairs and Tony Blair arrives, I have to leave the table and greet him."
Alexandra notes that on "Sunday nights, as a treat, we do room service, but [otherwise] we keep cooking for Sterling. When Sterling was little, we stayed in a bed-and-breakfast in Kent, Connecticut, and Sterling couldn't believe there was no room service."
Young-man-on-the-move Joey Betesh and his wife, Sally, an NYU freshman, love living at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Manhattan's Time Warner Center—though they look more like kids who get to stay in Mom and Dad's pied-à-terre. The two grew up as neighbors in the FlatbushOcean Park section of Brooklyn, always enjoying coming into "the city." Married 11 months, at 31 and 19 they are the youngest couple at the Mandarin. The way was paved by Joey's father. "He gave us the money to invest in a city apartment," Sally explains.
She's decorated the apartment herself, in a contemporary style: "Our friends love it. They hang out here. It's cute." I wonder whether her apartment is a condo. "Is it?I don't know. Ask Joey. This is the North Tower. Jay-Z lives above us." Joey thinks one advantage of hotel living is "you never know who you're going to see. We've seen Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake in the elevator, and bumped shoulders with Brad Pitt. They are constantly redecorating and fixing up, like they had to the time Paris Hilton put her candy wrapper in a plant. Because it is a hotel, there are new people coming in every day, so there's a pressure to keep the maintenance up. We once cooked dinner and called for a housekeeper at 10 p.m. because we didn't feel like doing the dishes."
Sally jumps up to show the table and tablecloth the building sent to their apartment "in two minutes" for a luncheon she was hosting the next day.
For the Beteshes, this is the dream come true. "We used to come to the city and say, 'Imagine living here.'" But because they live on a high floor—the condos start on 64—the couple leaves every Friday afternoon in order to be with their families in Brooklyn by sundown. They never take elevators on the Sabbath—not even at the Mandarin Oriental.