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Marriott CEO Tells U.S. Congress: Get Back to Work; New York Investigating Airbnb and HomeAway; Quote of the Month; My New Book

By Stanley Turkel, CMHS, ISHC

1.  Hotel History: The Drake Hotel in New York 

On a front page story in the Metropolitan section (October 6, 2013), the New York Times reported "Harry Macklowe Gambles Again: A developer known for wild swings of fortune builds a Park Avenue apartment tower a quarter-mile high."  On the site of the old Drake Hotel (demolished in 2007), Macklowe is building a luxurious apartment building which, upon completion, will be, at 1,398 feet the tallest residential tower in the Western Hemisphere. The apartments will be large, and very expensive, with an 8,255-square-foot six bedroom penthouse on the 95th floor being listed for $82.55 million, or $10,000 a square-foot.  432 Park Avenue was designed by the world-famous Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly.

The Drake Hotel was built in 1927. When it opened its doors in the "Roaring Twenties", it boasted innovations such as automatic refrigeration as well as spacious, luxurious rooms and suites.  Bing and Bing, noted builders, owned and operated the hotel for more than 35 years.  In the early 1960s, entrepreneur William Zeckendorf acquired the hotel, added guest rooms and opened New York's first discotheque, Shepheard's.  In 1965, Loews Hotel Corporation acquired the Drake and hired me to be their first General Manager. My recollections are, therefore, based on the two and a half exciting years that I served as GM.

The hotel's restaurant was the Drake Room which opened in December 21, 1945. It was the pet project of hotelman Walter Redell (Cornell graduate from Cleveland). The Drake Room was a success from the start with its unique ceramic tree, great food, and impeccable service under the direction of Maitre de Nino Schiavone. Stars of the entertainment world, bankers and politicians made the Drake Room one of the most cosmopolitan rooms in New York. Redell hired the best salon piano player in town for the opening. Cy Walter remained the featured performer for six years.  When I became General Manager, I brought Cy Walter back to the Drake Room and got MGM Records to produce a fabulous LP: "Cy Walter at The Drake," with a cover photograph of  Cy sitting at a Steinway grand piano on 56th Street under the Drake porte cochere.

One of the most famous dishes in the Drake Room was Steak Nino, a version of Steak Diane. Evidence suggests that Steak Diane was an American invention of the late 1950s when French cooking was all the rage. Jane Nickerson's article "Steak Worthy of the Name" (New York Times, January 25, 1953), suggests three likely candidates in New York City as originators: the Drake Hotel, the Sherry-Netherland Hotel and the Colony Restaurant.  The Drake's Nino Schiavone claimed that he was the first to introduce Steak Nino to New York and, in fact, to the entire United States.  Nino cooked the prime steak at tableside in sweet butter mixed with fresh chives and other seasonings flamed with cognac and sherry. Nino distributed nearly twenty-five thousand copies of his famous recipe all over the world.

The most famous and successful discotheque in Manhattan was Shepheard's at the Drake which was open seven days a week for cocktails, dinner and supper with continuous dancing from   7:30PM to 3AM. Luncheon was served Monday through Friday and a special brunch on Sunday from noon to 4PM.  At lunch there were fashion shows and for some years, a talk radio program featuring the Metropolitan Opera's Mimi Benzell as hostess with famous guests.

We printed and distributed a card entitled, "How to Do the Newest Discotheque Dances at Shepheard's in New York's Drake Hotel" with step-by-step instructions to dance the Jerk, Watusi, Frug and the Monkey.  Killer Joe Piro's party was regular feature at Shepheard's.  The discotheque was so successful that patrons lined up on 56th Street and around the corner on Park Avenue to wait (even on the winter's coldest nights) to be admitted where they paid a hefty cover charge to dance to disco music.

The Drake Hotel's guest list included such famous classical musicians as Alicia del la Rocha, Artur Rubinstein, Dame Myra Hess and Glenn Gould. Also celebrities like Milton Berle, Leon Bibb, Paul Anka, Muhammed Ali (soft spoken and kind), Barry Goldwater and many more. On my office wall, the following framed note on Drake Hotel letterhead with a signed photograph is hung in a prominent location:

Dear Mr. Turkel,

I was very touched by your remembering my birthday and sending me this lovely bottle of Moét et Chandon, which we drank with great pleasure. At the same time, I wanted to tell you that we find ourselves very comfortable in the Drake and are delighted with the service and attention we get.

Sincerely yours,

Artur Rubenstein

2. Marriott CEO Tells U.S. Congress: Get Back to Work; Shutdown Is a Failure of Political Leadership

On October 4, 2013, Arne Sorenson, President and CEO of Marriott International spoke out with high intelligence and political candor about the federal government shut down:

"Marriott International's headquarters is just a few miles north of America's Capitol, the epicenter of the profoundly disappointing federal government shutdown and a looming confrontation on the debt ceiling. The impacts ripple well beyond Washington, D.C. and past U.S. borders. Others from around the world are watching this circus, which is embarrassing at best.  Just like in each of the last few years, we are confronted with a failure of our political leadership that threatens an economy that wants to turn the corner to higher growth and employment.

With the major attractions of the city and government offices closed, tourism and business travel to D.C. is declining. Visitors applying for visas to come to the United States for business or pleasure will likely see delays. The E-Verify system, which verifies the work eligibility of employees, has been pulled down, leaving employers without a key resource when trying to be sure that a job offer can be extended.  These are just a few of the many consequences of this shutdown.  Each of the furloughed federal employees has his or her own much more personal story. And it will get worse with each passing day and especially if the debt ceiling wall on or about October 17 is also left unresolved...."

Patrick Mayock, Editor-in-Chief, HotelNewsNow wrote on October 4, 2013:

".... Responsibility for the shutdown of the U.S. government is more accurately placed on a subset of stubborn obstructionists within the Republican party who are needlessly circumventing the very Constitution they claim to revere in an ill-advised attempt to push through their own objections to health care reform that already has been made into law.

They complain President Obama and Democrats are failing to compromise on various mandates in "Obamacare". But there's nothing on which to compromise.  You can't compromise on a bill that has been made law and the Supreme Court has ruled is indeed Constitutional, no less."  

3.  New York Investigating Airbnb and HomeAway

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has issued subpoenas to both short-term home rental services about whether they are complying with state rental laws. Airbnb and HomeAway allow people to rent dwellings on a short-term basis as an alternative to hotels.  A 2010 New York law bans renters from subletting apartments for fewer than 30 days.

San Francisco-based Airbnb is very popular in New York City with an estimated 225,000 members in the area. It is the most controversial of the home-rental services and has created legal problems for hotel industry executives, legislators and law enforcement officials.

4. Quote of the Month

"Life is action and passion.  I think it is required of a man that he should share the action and passion of his time at peril of being judged not to have lived."

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

5.  My New Book

My new book, "Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi" is available now.  It is a paperback which tells the stories of 86 hotels (50 rooms or more) and each is illustrated with an antique postcard.  It has a foreword, preface, introduction, bibliography and index.  It has been accepted by the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute for promotion, distribution and sale.  

"Stanley Turkel is one of the best writers I know at capturing our history   the "old"   and infusing it with new life and relevance. In his two previous books on classic American hotels and the legends of the hotel business, Stanley brought to vivid life many characters and places that contributed to the greatness of the lodging industry. Now, in this latest book, he adds a wonderful chapter to the rich history we share."

Joseph A. McInerney, CHA

President/CEO Emeritus

American Hotel & Lodging Association

If you would like to reserve an autographed copy, send a check for $24.00 ($19.95 plus $4.05 for postage and handling) to:

Stanley Turkel

147-03 Jewel Avenue

Flushing, N.Y. 11367

Be sure to include your mailing address

About Stanley Turkel, CMHS, ISHC

Stanley Turkel is a recognized authority and consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel, hospitality and consulting practice specializing in asset management, operational audits and the effectiveness of hotel franchising agreements and litigation support assignments. Clients are hotel owners, investors and lending institutions.

Prior to forming his hotel consulting firm, Turkel was the Product Line Manager for Hotel/Motel Operations at the International Telephone & Telegraph Co. overseeing the Sheraton Corporation of America. Before joining IT&T, he was the General Manager of the Summit Hotel (762 Rooms), General Manager of the Drake Hotel (680 Rooms) and Resident Manager of the Americana Hotel (1842 Rooms), all in New York City.

Turkel serves as a Friend of the Tisch Center and lectures at the NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management. He is a member of the prestigious International Society of Hospitality Consultants and is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association. He served for eleven years as Chairman of the Board of the Trustees of the City Club of New York.

Stanley Turkel is one of the most widely-published authors in the hospitality field. His insightful articles on various hotel subjects have been published in the Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, Lodging Hospitality, Hotel & Motel Management, AAHOA Lodging Business, and posted on the Hotel-Online, BlueMauMau, HotelNewsResource, eTurboNews websites.

Stanley Turkel brings many talents and accomplishments to his clients including his broad-based experience, his informed knowledge in his many published articles, his frequent appearances as guest speaker at national hotel industry conferences and his sterling reputation for integrity and honesty.

Contact: Stanley Turkel

stanturkel@aol.com / 917-628-8549

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