Yesterday's Boston Globe's travel section profiled the Gramercy Park Hotel, which has turned into an ultra-swank, ultra-hip, ultra-expensive place to hang your hat when in Manhattan. Which reminds me of a business travel stay I had there in the mid-1980's.
My friend Michele and I were in NY to do some client training, and our hotel reservations got somehow screwed up. It was mid-December, and the hotels were packed, so corporate travel asked if we were OK staying at the Gramercy. I had seen little ads in the back of The New Yorker and figured, how bad could it be? (Our hint about how bad it could be should have been the price, which was less than half of what you'd pay for a decent hotel in NYC at the time.)
When we showed up, the lobby was a little on the shabby side, so when they asked us if we wanted to share a suite or have single rooms, we opted for the suite. We got on the elevator - accompanied by several old men in bathrobes, slippers, and goosebumped turkey-white legs who appeared to be coming from/heading to a card party.
The living room of our suite was straight out of the 1950's: beat up maple coffee and side tables (with cigarette burn "decorations"). Swoopy "moderne" lamps. Turquoise stretchy upholstery with gold threads. (I couldn't imagine the naked-leg old geezers were sitting on those scratchy couches without throwing a towel down.) The bedroom part of the suite had two lumpy old beds, in similar 1950's motif. In the shower, you needed an umbrella to keep the cold web plaster off your back.
After a nice dinner at Caravelle - actually quite modest, and in any event justified because we were paying so little for the hotel - we got back to the Gramercy Park, got into our lumpy beds and started to laugh thinking about how our mothers were probably sitting there in Worcester imagining the glamorous business travel experiences of their MBA daughters.
The capper was when we checked out in the morning and they'd put a $500 charge on Michele's credit card. (They were supposed to be charging us each $50.)
With the minimum room rate of $500+ that the hotel now charges, I guess we were just in the price vanguard. (Maybe we were an early test case.)