When I heard that the Plaza Hotel was closing -- I went about my business without giving it too much thought. But I was just listening to Regis go on about the Plaza and suddenly memories came rushing back to me. I realized that this city landmark has been a landmark for my family as well.
I know I had high tea, in the Palm Court, with my mother several times -- I don't remember the circumstances but I do remember what we ate and that the tea was the first whole leaf tea I had ever experienced -- a ritual that now seems so indulgent and luxurious. When I was a teenager there were times when my father would, on a whim, decide that we should spend a weekend at the Plaza. He would take a suite, and in much the same way that Gatsby and his friends drove in to the hotel on that hot summer evening (and I am referring to the cinematic Gatsby), we would pack up and drive in to the hotel. I occasionally brought a girlfriend and we would hang around the lobby, prowl the halls, speak with fake accents...that kind of thing. It was dreamy. One night, very late, just after my girlfriend D and I had attended a Joni Mitchell concert - we were plopped in chairs, giggling in the lobby, when Joni herself walked in. We were brave enough to speak with her and we were quite thrilled when she said -Oh, I just love playin in that big ole barn....
One summer, in the steamy heat of July, I had some surgery at a big NYC hospital. My parents stayed at the Plaza for the four or five days that I was bedridden. And they were there for the now famous 1977 blackout. After running down scores of flights of stairs (I actually have no idea how many) and warning me(in my generator lit hospital bed) on the concierges phone not to get out of bed lest I fall, my mother found herself in the plaza in front of the plaza -- where the musicians from the Palm Court had brought candles and their instruments onto the street -- she watched couples dance around the fountain in the humid night.
When I was a working-in-the-city-girl, the publisher I worked for would close their offices at noon on fridays in the summer. (Imagine such a thing!) During that time, K's brother was living and working in town and was free on friday afternoons as well -- he'd call me on friday morning and we'd pick a place to meet and drink. One of his favorites was Trader Vics - where I learned about mint juleps. He was 6'5 with a hollow leg, I am 5'1 and never that good at holding my liquor -- but I felt so grown up sitting with him in that tiki-style lounge.
As K and I planned our wedding, my dad said --you may have one hundred guests somewhere in the city (he was suggesting The Four Seasons)or one hundred in the country.
K and I chose the country, but with sophisticated city touches. Not sure of what music to choose for the reception, the innkeeper mentioned that he often had the trio of musicians from the Palm Court play at parties and K and I agreed on having them play for us as well. It was perfect as we did not have a traditional reception -- we had 92 people at a sit down dinner and the trio, a piano, violin and cello, were an appropriate accompaniment.
After the dinner we went in our big limo to...the Plaza. I insisted that we wear our wedding clothes -- I couldn't part with my dress (a very simple off the shoulder, no lace no beads pre Vera Wang creation) and I wanted to make an entrance. We arrived, feeling misty and glowing from the beautiful day we had had. The man at the desk was french and he spoke quietly to K.
Monsieur, I am sorry that we do not have a room overlooking the park for you this evening.
K became thoughtful as he had neither reserved a room overlooking the park nor budgeted for one.
I do, however, have a very special room with a view of 5th avenue at no additional cost... he continued. We thanked him and went upstairs with a bellman who shyly congratulated us.
I had forgotten until this morning about the magic at that hotel. The old world wonderfulness of it. There is no where else that feels the way it does in that lobby, or the palm court, or even the halls, late at night.