They like being Old-fashioned at the Ritz
With 18th-century decor and white-tie service, Montreal’s Ritz-Carlton was built to coddle the rich and flatter the famous. It still does, but it’s also learned that to stay in business you’ve got to be kind to the Kiwanis
being Old-fashioned at the Ritz
JOHN CONTAT, the ebullient general manager of the Ritz-Carlton in Montreal, sits in the lounge of his hotel with Caryl Hardinge, the fourth Viscount Hardinge. Hardinge, a pukka Englishman, bluff and mustached, is also a Montreal broker.
He is drinking a double whisky-on-the-rocks, and the atmosphere— as always in the public rooms of the Ritz—is pleasantly mulled.
Suddenly Contât beams and leans forward.
“I know what, Caryl,” he says with innocent enthusiasm. “We should start a restaurant. No, wait. I mean it. Somewhere near here. With fine food . . . not too big . . . but very nice. It would be a good thing, good for the Ritz.”
Lord Hardinge puts down his glass and straightarms himself erect, palm on knee.
‘‘A restaurant, eh? Eh? Good idea, that. We could use a good restaurant, eh? No place to go but the Ritz now, and I’m getting bloody sick of it.”
They both laugh. . .
Hardinge is the archetypical Ritz patron, being distinguished, discriminating, and wealthy. Most important of all, he is a director of the Ritz. One of the notable aspects of the hotel’s forty-two-year history is that its best customers have been its directors.
Contât a suave, spectacled man— is a Swiss, and the Swiss understand better than any other race the art of coddling the distinguished, the discriminating and the wealthy.
The rapport of the hotelkeeper and the peer reflects their complementary roles in the struggle to preserve an idea—the special Ritz idea. It is a struggle against formidable odds for the Ritz is, in truth, an anachronism. The hotel was named for the Ritz in Paris and the Carlton in London and it
was opened in 1912 by a group of St. James Street multimillionaires who hoped thereby to induce a fine cosmopolitan climate in their home town. They also wanted a suitable spot for entertaining associates.
Two of the principals were Sir Charles Gordon, the textile king, and Charles Hosmer, the telegraph and flour-milling tycoon. These men found the project particularly expensive, for their threemillion-dollar social hothouse had to be subsidized as long as they lived. However they made sure they got their money’s worth; they, their fellow directors, their wives and their children haunted the place. They lunched in the basement Oak Room, took tea in the Palm Court, dined in the Oval Room, threw debuts, galas and wedding receptions in the Grand Ballroom and moved into suites if their town houses were being redecorated. If they had a row at home they went to the Ritz instead of to the club. In a sense the Ritz was their club.
Of the two hundred and twenty rooms fully three quarters were occupied by permanent residents like William Bog, general manager of the Bank of Montreal, and Hugh MacKay, a director of Montreal Light, Heat & Power and of Canadian Breweries.
In the public rooms Sir Frederick WilliamsTaylor, vice-president of the Bank of Montreal, was regularly to be seen, sweeping in like the man on the Sandeman’s sherry bottle with his rake’s beard, his cape and his black roll-brim hat. With him might be Sir Herbert Holt, the power baron, saying little and observing much, a frosty obelisk. Or, stiff and sedate, Sir Montagu Allan, heir to a shipping fortune and donor of the Allan Cup for hockey. Or the president of the CPR, Sir Edward Beatty, with his squat bulldog’s body on his tiny feet. These were men who knew what they wanted
—caviar Astrakhan and Grande Fi
de Napoleon 1800, white-gloved Co n titepntalW
and plenty of cleared space -------fifí*
they could talk in private.
But these men are dead now and y ffajÉ; place, the actuaries say, is a businessman ifi.jtii« 'uppermiddle income bracket who stays t\fñ Wie-fifth days, eats most of his meals outside the hotel and carries one piece of luggage. He is apt to expect his room to cost about $8 single, as is t he case in most Canadian commercial hotels. Average rates for a Ritz bedroom are $12 to $15. He wants to dine quickly in order to get out to a show or an evening appointment. He is no wine drinker. He likes to feel his movements go unrecorded and hence unjudged.
The Ritz has lately made two concessions to hypothetical guest. Over the protests of the f dent, François Dupré, ice water is served w.^ meals; and since World War II it is no longe necessary to dress for dinner.
But the Ritz locks its door every night to screen those who seek to enter or leave at irregular hours. It prefers the regular Thursday meetings of the Ladies’ Morning Musicale which take place in the afternoon and are open to men— to the luncheons of the St. Lawrence Kiwanis Club. These Kiwanis luncheons are the only regular service-club functions booked by the hotel.
The Ritz lobby is small, to discourage loiterers, and its single entrance and single elevator bank are designed to prevent unsponsored wanderings through the building.
The Ritz turns away all who come unjacketed to its public rooms, and won’t admit those who arrive tieless until they have made a selection from the cast-off cravats of the general manager, the maître d'hôtel and the house detective. Cont'd on page 95
Cont'd on page 95
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 27
Enclosed within the arms of the L-shaped building is a garden where meals are served in the summertime. A girl who is staying in the hotel appears on the terrace in a cotton skirt and bolero, makes her way down to the grass, spreads a towel and proceeds to strip her outer garments to sunbathe in her swimsuit. The busboy, scandalized, calls the waiter, the waiter calls the captain and the captain calls the maître d'hôtel. The maître d'hôtel approaches and addresses her. “Mad une,” he says, “you can’t do that.” “Why not?” she responds with composure. “I’m a guest here.”
But this is not regarded as sufficient justification and the girl is bundled back to her room.—
It is this squeamishness that marks the Ritz as old-fashioned, since modern hotel economics dictate an attitude generally as permissive as a nursery school’s.
The Ritz’ design is also old-fashioned. It is too small—the fifth in size of Montreal’s hotels—and has too little public space—only one ballroom, one banquet room and a handful of suites suitable for small gatherings. It is also too high-ceilinged and lavish of space to meet the specifications of industrial designers. A new wing with extra bedrooms is projected but not yet begun.
Other inns, schooled in time-motion thinking, offer a new kind of service, antiseptic, instantaneous and impersonal. At the Ritz service is a leisurely, loving, hand-crafted thing, extravagant of steps and time.
The solid mahogany furniture, never profaned by varnish, is carefully
French polished in the hotel’s workshops. Rooms are tidied unobtrusively three times a day. The touch of a buzzer will summon a maid, a valet or a waiter from a service pantry on each floor. Allergy-proof pillows, hot-water bottles and Friar’s Balsam inhalers are produced on request. The house detective will baby sit and a woman employee will carry out personal shopping commissions or sew on buttons. There is a bartender in the Maritime Bar who once lent a customer $50, and every summer the kitchen help peel and serve home-grown tomatoes to a local banker who brings them from his garden. The staff is trained to memorize the names of regular guests.
Elisabeth Bergner, the Viennese actress, checks into the hotel and is whisked up to her room. When the elevator returns to the ground floor its operator reels under a savage onslaught. It is the boy from the second elevator hissing, “Why did you not greet her by name? She has been here before.”—
Contât, the custodian of these amenities, is known around his hotel as a charming tyrant. He is a graduate of the best training school in the world for a hotelman: a succession of Ritz hotels in London, Paris and New York. Cesar Ritz, the Swiss swineherd who became the world’s most famous innkeeper, died in 1918 but his principles endured in a number of hotels, financed by various private companies, to which he had lent his name, his advice and his sponsorship. By 1947 Contât had risen from the post of waiter in the London Ritz to that of manager of the New York Ritz-Carlton. That was the year the Montreal hotel changed hands and he was invited to become its general manager.
Contat’s wife, Yvonne, is a chic
Parisienne with a throaty voice.'a flair for interior decoration and a taste for a certain flat, angry red known as Pompeian red. Chairs in almost every room are Pompeian red, as are the walls of the gleaming narrow lobby.
Besides her efforts in the field of decor, Mme Contât hires the acts for the Ritz Café, a night-club in the basement. The Contats work as a team.
“We never eat together,” says Contât. “I lunch, perhaps, in the Maritime Bar and my wife eats in the dining room. That way we know better what is going on. But everyone tries to fool us. Even my assistants try to fool us. They try to keep things from me. If things go wrong I am the last to know; but at least in a small hotel like this you can keep track of things easier. Fifty times a day I lose my temper.”
Contât sits at his big mahogany desk in his little grey office on the second floor, in his shirt sleeves. He has given up smoking, but he chews an unlit cigarette. The curtains are chartreuse and there are Martha Wild prints on the wall, and a set of old engravings of Montreal. A red chair is pushed against a shelf of cookbooks. On a table near the door stands an empty tomato-juice glass afloat in a bowl of melting ice cubes. A secretary sticks her head around the door.
“The captain is outside, Mr. Contât.”
“Look at that!” Contât says to her, pointing to the glass. “Where is the ice, shaved very fine?” He pushes past the secretary, opens the door and glares at the captain of waiters, standing unhappily by the entrance to the outer office. The captain says, “I think it was because the waiter wanted to bring you the tomato juice very fast, Mr. Contât. There was no shaved ice and he did not want to keep you waiting.”
Ducks Too Big to be Cute
Contât stares at him for a moment and turns on his heel. His face is Pompeian red. He picks up the bowl and the glass and thrusts them at the secretary: “Take them. Tell him how we do it at the Ritz.”
Contât can be pardoned for feeling occasionally that he is accident-prone.
He cites, in proof, the series of crises with ducks. The Ritz garden, just outside the dining-room windows, was opened for summer meal service not long after Contat’s arrival. A small pool had been created in its centre and it was decided to stock it with ducklings by way of conversation pieces. Contât ordered two dozen of the best Brome Lake ducklings. As a Ritzman he appreciates good breeding—but he had something to learn from the geneticist about overbreeding. The ducks, which had been developed for the table, were indifferent swimmers and drowned.
Contât next had to convince a purveyor of common farmyard ducks that the Ritz was willing to pay for the privilege of hoarding two dozen ducklings. The farmer thought the hotel planned a profit-making sideline of fattening fowl on its leftovers. Then Contât had to explain that he wished the ducks replaced every two weeks, before they grew too big to be cute.
Actually he found he needed more than two dozen every fortnight. The ducks were so beguiling that they were fed constantly by well-meaning guests and employees and, stuffed like Strasbourg geese, died of indigestion.
The last straw came the day after a cold snap.
When the weather changed suddenly one Saturday night a thoughtful waiter decided to bring the ducklings inside to the warmth. He forgot to mention this to anyone else. The next day service of Sunday dinner had barely begun in
the Oval Room when a commis—-a busboy—bustled over to the big platewarmer. He opened the door and out tumbled twenty-four lively little birds. Waiters, captains, maître d'hôtel and guests joined in the chase before they were rounded up.
The episode of the imposter was more serious. In 1949 a debonair young Englishman registered at the hotel as Lord Harrington. He bad an impeccable accent, marred only by a slight stammer, good luggage, an arrogant manner and a fund of authentic data about England’s first families. In case bis registration proved insufficient to ensure good service, be also tipped recklessly, and clerks and bellmen outdid each other in tugging forelocks and calling him “my lord.” He immediately set about refurbishing bis wardrobe with $600 worth of haberdashery charged at department stores and shortly allowed himself to be taken up by several socially prominent families. The son of one of these accommodated the Briton by buying his 1948 Pontiac sedan for $1,300. Harrington said he was having trouble getting funds out from England. After three weeks at the Ritz he wrote a cheque that bounced. Simultaneously the police began making enquiries about a 1948 Pontiac sedan stolen in Vancouver.
The young man’s luggage was found in his room, but the young man was not. He was eventually jailed in Georgia for a similar fraud and was unmasked as a former stableman on 1 Ik* estate of Lord Milford Haven.
A Plying Wedge of Managers
Strictly speaking, Contât is not alone with his responsibility and its occasional headaches. Besides his wife he has a manager, James Connolly, a bland Canadian who faces all contretemps in the banquet department. One of these occurred this year when the Kitz captured the Montreal Hunt Ball, formerly held in various private homes. The arrangements included life-sized papier mâché horses polka-dotted in Hunt colors and festooned with ropes of flowers, a foxhead sculpted in ice for the centre of the buffet, and the winding of hunting horns to announce supper, in addition, a passageway between the Grand Ballroom and the dining room was hung with draperies and lined with paintings of hunting scenes. To the consternation of all concerned, the attached brass plates identified several of these as portraits of Vernon Gardy, a well-known horseman who was equally well-known as a rival hotelkeeper. Though no one will admit responsibility, the breach of tact was remedied before the guests arrived by the removal of all tags bearing Cardy’s name.
Contât is further attended by a flying wedge of three assistant managers (a Russian, a Frenchman and a Canadien), a combined social secretary and public relations officer named Helen Montreuil, an opaque and impeccable English maître d'hôtel named Raymond, a cheery, chubby and talented Canadien executive chef named Pierre Demers and assorted other staff members totaling four hundred and twelve, or two for every room in the hotel. Most commercial hotels average one employee per room.
When a guest arrives in the hotel for a second time he can count on being recognized instantly. If the arrival is a distinguished or famous or wealthy woman, she will be met at the door by one of the assistant managers and will find flowers in her room. If the arrival is a distinguished or famous or wealthy man, he will be met at the door and will find an opened bottle of whisky in his room. If the arrival is an especially
distinguished or famous or wealthy person—or if he is François Dupré. the president of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company—he will be met at the door by the general manager himself, and paid special attentions too numerous to detail.
In the case of Dupré this can he an embarrassment. “Always,” wails Contât, “always, no matter what I say, they serve M. Dupré the big double portions. Then he asks why they are so wasteful.” Contât shrugs his shoulders in continental despair.
Dupré is a tall, urbane Parisian
financier in his middle sixties, whose favorite pork-pie hats advertise his sporting interesta. He owns a topnotch racing stable in France.
Dupré usually holidays each year in Jamaica and stops off to check on the Ritz both going and coming. Sometimes (he employees feel he doesn’t give them a fair chance to show off. He has been known to order for lunch and consume in leisurely succession: one glass of tomato juice, one omelet and one order of carrots.
Nevertheless he imposes an exacting discipline. “Mr. Contât,” he will say,
surveying coldly some small variations in the attire of the chefs de réception, “I thought 1 insisted the men were to wear only dark suits.”
World War 11 brought boom times to North American hotels. Dupré already controlled two luxury hotels in Paris, the Georges Cinq and the Plaza Athenée, and had long-standing business associations in Montreal. He saw possibilities in t he Ritz-Carlton and got together with G reenshields & Company, a firm of Montreal brokers, to buy out the various holders of the original stock. They succeeded in getting control of the
company and Dupre was elected president. Three of the partners of Greenshields & Company are on the board of directors.
Ina frenzy of night-and-day activity the building was refurbished and the service revitalized. Both had suffered from years of deficit operation, depression and wartime restrictions.
First the Contats were imported from New York. Then a basement dining room was turned into a cabaret. A barbershop became the Maritime Bar, the rooms were painted and redecorated, the kitchen was modernized and, as a final touch, a French-Canadian suite was created. A two-room suite, this was devised to impress Continental visitors with having been exposed, at $28 a day double, to the essence of habitant life. The rooms feature a dressing table made from an old washstand, a mirror made from an old window frame, a sofa made from an old bench bed, bed tables made from old chests, doors made from old linen closets, a lamp made from an old spinning wheel and another made from an old oil lamp. There is also a grandfather clock that has always been a grandfather clock. Mayor Camillien Houde attended the opening of the suite and convulsed the other guests by opening one door, peering in and exclaiming, “Ha ! They didn’t use to have those.”
These wonders were sprung on the public wit h a rapid succession of galas. Then the Ritz settled down to business. It has trebled its receipts since 1946. This may in part be due to Dupre’s vision, to Contat’s temperament and to his wife’s taste in decor and entertainment. But it must be attributed in large measure, as well, to the simple proposition that hotels do well in prosperous times and ill in a recession.
A Staircase to Pose On
The Ritz was opened during a boom. The date was New Year’s Eve, 1912, chosen to avoid the unlucky number 13 of the imminent new year. Cesar Ritz, having established himself as the world’s foremost hotelkeeper, was then peddling his techniques and his name through the Ritz Hotel Development Company to any financier who could underwrite the building of a hotel on the assurance that Ritz would be his guide and mentor. The Ritz name alone was considered a guarantee of success.
A group of St. James Street capitalists decided to get in on the Ritz offer. They included Sir Montagu Allan, Sir Charles Gordon and Charles Hosmer, whose communications and flour milling enterprises had made him one of Canada’s richest men.
Ritz’ principal convictions about layout—known as the Ritz Plan were incorporated into the Montreal structure. These included the small lobby, Adam-style architecture — the attenuated neo-classicism that is considered the purest and most elegant in the world—floor service on every floor, and a flight of steps leading to the main dining room' so that women could make dramatic entrances and exits.
Like other Ritz hotels, the Montreal Ritz-Carlton had a Palm Court, banked with greenery at the foot of the diningroom steps.
Ritz’ principal convictions about service—known as the Ritz Idea—were also incorporated into the Ritz-Carlton climate. The Ritz Idea had been demonstrated even before the building was begun. A site had been purchased for the hotel at the southeast corner of the McGill campus. There was a howl of protest at the proposed desecration of scholastic sanctity. The hotel company did the decent thing and allowed
Sir William Macdonald, the tobacco king, to buy back the property at cost for the university while the hotel company made do with its present site between Drummond and Mountain Streets.
The patrons could also be expected to appreciate the Georgian austerity of the ten-story structure, the gorgeous banana-republic uniforms of the elevator operators, the doormen’s bearskin hats, the satin knee breeches of the flunkies in the cloakroom and the punctilio of the first manager, Rudolf Bishoff, a Prussian.
Unfortunately Bishoff and his excellent staff of Germans had to be hustled out of the country with the outbreak of World War I, and a new manager broken in. This was a rotund little Englishman, Frank Quick, called Humpty Dumpty by the patrons. He came to the Ritz from the Chateau Frontenac. He was not given an easy time of it. Once he was idling near the cashier’s desk when Lord Shaughnessy, the president of the GPR, came past on his way to the telephone. Shaughnessy, who had strict ideas of protocol, barked at him, “Quick, do you realize your boy was paging me out loud in the dining room!”
Quick’s health broke and in 1924 the acting manager took over. This was a fearsome and elongated Swiss named Emile Charles Des Baillets. He stood six-foot-three and sported a black spade-shaped beard. His nickname was Rasputin. Under Des Baillets the hotel flourished again.
It lost money, of course, but Charles Hosmer and Sir Charles Gordon quietly made up the deficit from their own pockets.
There was a sparkling influx of notables. Prince Takamatsu, a brother of the Emperor of Japan, arrived on his honeymoon and Morgan’s store lent a set of oriental furnishings for his room. The Ritz entertained the Prince of Wak;s several times, and Queen Marie of Rumania and Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.
The permanent residents were equal-
ly interesting. One was an Englishwoman who dropped in for two weeks at the start of World War I and stayed on and on. She departed only at her death in 1945. In 1924 Alphonse Jongers also came to stay. Jongers, a Basque painter who looked like a pug dog, took rooms 901-2 and stayed on till his death, also in 1945, in his bed at the Ritz.
It is debatable whether he is best known around the hotel for his imposing series of amours or for his superb portraits. A list of his commissions might almost be substituted for a list of Ritz habitues. Jongers’ constant companion was Elwood Hosmer, son of the man who brought the Ritz to Montreal. Slightly built, with an air of delicate exhaustion, he was known as the Grey Ghost of the Ritz.
Hosmer could usually be found in the big armchair to the left of the fireplace in the Palm Court doing crossword puzzles and chewing on $1.25 CoronaCoronas from the special humidor in the wine cellar belowstairs. He had inherited his father’s Ritz directorate and it was sometimes felt he did his hest to discourage anyone else’s using the Ritz facilities. Saturday luncheon at the Ritz—a mass social observance that lasted all afternoon—was anathema to him. He would summon one of the waiters and snarl loudly, “How long are these wretched women going to stay?”
The depression hit the Ritz hard. Suites were swaddled in dust sheets, maintenance and replacement were curtailed and room prices were cut to $4.50 a day. Only the Ritz Idea persisted, displaying itself most strongly, perhaps, in the conduct of one suicide (every hotel had its share) who threw himself from his eighth-floor bathroom window, hut not until he’d presented a box of chocolates to each ce .er.
Des Baillets frowns absently at a chef de réception who is lounging against the desk, hands in pockets. The lad straightens at once and busies himself distributing letters to the numbered pigeonholes at the rear. There aren’t many letters. The only other person in the manicured little lobby is Elwood Hosmer, hunched in a chair at the entrance to the Palm Court. Jamieson, the doorman, enters from the front.
“Your car is here, Mr. Hosmer.”
Des Baillets watches him leave and says gloomily, “Well, at least there’s one man who still has his own chauffeur. The Murray Hill people must be very happy these days.”
Murray Hill operates the cab concession outside the Ritz.
“I remember Harry McLean, the contractor, arrived here once with thirty-six pieces of luggage. Now the Americans come with one club bag. But of course they only stay two days, a week maybe. On business. Not like the old days.”
Des Baillets looks forlorn. “And 603 is giving up her room tomorrow. Straight from the Ritz to Verdun! These things are tragedies.”
Suddenly he stiffens. Three women have sauntered into view outside and their faces are garish with paint, their eyes bright and appraising. A Packard draws into the curb and they nudge each other and linger speculatively.
Des Baillets dives through the door. He drives the women ahead of him toward Mountain Street with agitated flicks of his long white hands. “Shoo,” he hisses. “Shoo. Get away from here . . .”
Sir Charles Gordon, the hotel’s president and the man who had been counted on to make up any of its deficits, died in 1939. A new regime, coinciding with World War II, began
with the election ot a new president. This was F. T. Collins, a relatively young Montreal lawyer with no experience in hotelkeeping but plenty of ideas on economical hotel management.
Collins counted it a coup when he secured the regular meetings of the St. Lawrence Kiwanis Club for the Ritz public rooms. Once, when social secretary Helen Montreuil protested the booking of so many small wedding receptions, he pointed out that several of these were as profitable as one large society wedding. “After all, Miss Montreuil,” he said coldly, “there are
three-figure sums as well as four.”
Des Baillets bowed unhappily to his wishes. The popularization of the Ritz began with the abandonment of the old custom of dressing for dinner. On many occasions this tradition had inhibited dining-room custom to a scant two dozen patrons, the rest preferring after a hard day to go straight to their clubs or dine informally in their rooms.
The hotel stopped ordering the swank Ritz flatware and crested china and replaced it with less costly place settings.
Des Baillets left the Ritz in 1940.
Meanwhile the war had frozen prices and affected service, staff and cuisine. The new manager, Albert Frossard, formerly the maître d'hôtel in the main dining room, did his best to maintain the standards of elegance. So did the rankers, some of whom had been with the hotel for decades.
Sven Rasmussen was one of these. He served the hotel for more than twenty-four years and wound up as maître d'hôtel. He felt his name was inappropriate to his position so he adopted a new one: Charles of the Ritz. The cosmetic house of the same
name has no connection with the hotel.
A high-strung, fastidious man, Charles would rip apart and rebuild a flower arrangement if it displeased him.
On one occasion when he was supervising the service of a banquet he spied an assistant housekeeper gobbling a tempting piece from a fresh tray of hors d'oeuvre. He sent the whole tray back to the kitchen. “The housekeeping department has interfered!” he explained, with terrible courtesy.
Another retainer in the Ritz tradition was Jamieson, the doorman, who had developed a superb technique for handling difficult situations. It. worked like this: The daughter of a long-time patron had an unreliable sense of property when she had been drinking. During one party she spied a massive old-fashioned coat rack in the foyer of a suite, decided she would take it home, and manoeuvred it successfully into the elevator and halfway through the lobby.
Jamieson sprang to her side from his post at the door and, murmuring, “Oh madam, it is such a clumsy thing. Allow me . . . ,” relieved her of it. Then he gravely followed her out through the revolving door, but allowed the door while it discharged her onto the curb to sweep him back, with his heavy burden, into the lobby.
A Real Sweet Golf Club
These are the traditions of service that Contât and Dupre inherited in 1947 and that both are working to reinforce. They claim they are prepared to go to almost any lengths to fulfill their aim, and in support of this can be cited “Steak Charles”—a paper-thin filet with finely ground pepper fried for a moment in butter—created by Contât and Pierre Demers, the chef, to satisfy a customer who kept complaining that the proper savor of fresh meat was missing from Ritz steaks because they were too thick; the tracking down of an airforce pilot, undertaken by Helen Montreuil to please a visiting chanteuse who remembered meeting him in Paris but had forgotten everything else except his rank; the spunsugar golf club that John Pellerino, the master pastry chef, produced on the spot when it was reported that Hobby Locke, the South African golfer, was dining in the Oval Room, and, finally, the suite that was redecorated in French Modern.
This conversion was executed at great cost by interior decorators hired by a permanent resident who fell for abstract art during the Grand Tour. There were Symbolist figures, a painted trompe-l'oeil ceiling and imported freeform furniture. The Ritz staff made no demur, and no comment. Nor did they that winter when, the radiators having been turned on, the European woods and paints began to crack and furrow. The art lover threw up his hands in I horror. The Ritz reconverted the room with quiet, amiable dispatch.
Occasionally the less Ritz-minded members of the staff wonder whether all these pains are warranted.
Hut the disciplines of the Ritz Idea are by now so ingrained that no one knows it if they do.
A bowling-club dance is in progress in the Grand Rallroom and it is beginning to get out of hand. A group of celebrants are attempting some picturesque acrobatics from a balcony overhanging the floor. One of them slips and plunges downward.
Rut he is not hurt, for a waiter steps swiftly forward and breaks the fall.
Battered and winded, the waiter scrambles to his feet and manages a bow. “Excuse me, sir,” he says stolidly, “are you expecting anyone to join you?” ^