What does a celebrity bring when checking into a hotel? Glamour, buzz, and sometimes, a whole lot of chaos.
Sure, hosting a famous guest can translate into great PR for a hotel, but “it can also be a mixed bag,” admits Mark Plonkey, the general manager of Denver’s Hotel Teatro. “The one thing I’ve learned throughout the years is that public persona is not always the reality behind closed doors.”
With their whirlwind lifestyles, many celebrities spend a lot of time in hotel rooms—and sometimes, hotels end up turning their famous guests away, even banning them, for bad behavior. The history of celebrity-trashed hotels has its roots, of course, in rock ’n’ roll. Back in the 1960s, The Who was supposedly banned from all Holiday Inns after drummer Keith Moon backed a car into a hotel pool.
What does it take to get officially banned these days? John Travolta recently got bad press with reports of “creepy” behavior that has made him unwelcome at the spa of New York’s Peninsula. In Las Vegas, Paris Hilton was once banned from the Wynn after she got arrested there for possession of cocaine.
“We look at many celebrities as one-hit wonders—they stay once, and we may never see them again,” says David Sanford, general manager of Cape Cod’s Crowne Pointe Historic Inn and Brass Key Hotel. “But we have other guests who come every year and who don’t damage our rooms.” He’s quick to note that most celebrity guests have been nothing but gracious; Eartha Kitt even volunteered to sing in the lobby for fellow guests.
According to most hotel managers that Travel + Leisure spoke with, most conflicts with celebrities are pretty mundane, and often result from overzealous “handlers:” demands for discounts or precise requests like a bowl of single-colored M&Ms. Plonkey recalls one musician who threatened to take his 50-room entourage elsewhere if the hotel couldn’t add Turner Classic Movies to its cable offerings within a half hour.
But other hotels know that debauchery can be good for business. “We embrace the spirit of rock ’n’ roll,” says Brandon Powers, creative director of the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. “They can trash their room or even take a donkey up there, so long as we don’t have to clean up after it in the casino. It takes a lot for us to ask someone to leave.”