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Will Room 607 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
 Become a Macabre Tourist Attraction?
By Hemmy So, South Florida Sun-SentinelMcClatchy-Tribune Business News

Feb. 10, 2007 - Tabloid darling Anna Nicole Smith attracted even more publicity after her death on Thursday. And now, so may the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino -- one of her favorite hangouts in South Florida.

Though time will tell whether the Seminole Hard Rock or Room 607, where Smith stayed, become macabre tourist attractions, public relations specialist Virginia Sheridan said the venue now has a higher profile given the amount of news coverage, television footage and photographs taken of the site.

"At the end of day, more people know that there is a Seminole Hard Rock in Fort Lauderdale than ever before," said Sheridan, president of M. Silver & Associates, who handles public relations for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. "More people know, from what they saw, that it's a very attractive place; attractive enough to attract a pretty high-profile celebrity with a lot of money who could stay anywhere."

Some hotels have gained notoriety because of celebrity deaths, such as the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, Calif., where John Belushi died in 1982, and the Chelsea Hotel in New York City, where Sex Pistols singer Sid Vicious was alleged to have fatally stabbed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, in 1978.

Such high-profile history doesn't appear in official advertising literature or hotel Web sites, but it does create a certain appeal for celebrity watchers and tourists. The Chateau Marmont, for example, can be found on a list for "celebrity death sites" on the popular TripAdvisor Web site.

Michael Tavani with Nadine Johnson & Associates Inc. in New York City, who handles public relations for the Chateau Marmont, declined to comment on that side of the hotel's appeal.

For now, Smith's death has not noticeably affected business at the Seminole Hard Rock, where scheduled events continue, gamblers keep betting and hotel guests move around and about. Many public relations executives think more guests will be drawn to the venue because the media attention has solidified its reputation as a place for celebrities.

"Hard Rock did not do anything. [Smith] happened to be staying there, and the fallout will be a positive one for Hard Rock," said Len Saffir, who runs Leonard Saffir & Associates Public Relations in Lake Worth. "That's going to last longer, I believe, than her story."

Seminole Hard Rock staff say they're handling the situation one day at a time, with no word on what will happen to Smith's room after police leave.

"This is so new that not all decisions have been made," said Gary Bitner, Seminole Hard Rock spokesman. "We're still waiting for the story to evolve."

Hemmy So can be reached at hso@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4552.

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Copyright (c) 2007, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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