The Lobbyist is a division of JBLY that specifically handles reviews of hotel lobbies and hotel bars. If you’ve got a good suggestion (or, preferably, a bad one) for a place I should visit, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I’m running late. Wait for me in the lobby,” Eva texts. “And DO NOT sit at the bar alone because people will think you are a prostitute.”
Far be it from me to intrude on the thoughts of others, but I heed Eva’s advice and wait for her in the elevator foyer of the Carlyle Hotel, where I am treated to the distant tinkling of piano keys and bear witness to the emergence of various fancy old ladies in heels of a sensible height from a set of white-paneled doors. Tragedy strikes when a very well-to-do young child by the name of “Bunny” slips on the black marble floors. Her parents fawn over her in a polite, quiet way, so as to not disturb the nearby flower arrangements.
Oh, sweet luxury. Welcome me with open arms, you beautiful bastard.
The older I get, the more I find myself craving white tablecloths and black lacquered doors, which means I either have to start spending more time on the Upper East Side or move to London. And because I’m not one for pints, bangers and/or mash, pasty-faced boyfriends with questionable grills, days that feel like wrapping yourself in wet blankets, and the two shits I don’t give about Prince William and that Kate chick, I’ll have to stick Stateside. The Carlyle it is.
The Carlyle isn’t one of those “See and Be Seen” types of places, at least in the traditional, downtown sense. Most of the people here were over the age of fifty, so it was more like a “Make Sure You Bring Your Bifocals So You Can See and Be Seen” type of place. Let’s just say that Eva and I were certainly the only ones without gray hair and healthy 401ks. That being said, we still dressed to the nines, ensuring that we were absolutely going to be mistaken for prostitutes… but expensive ones!
Speaking of which… I heard a fun little story about the Carlyle the other night. Two young women, close to Eva and I in age, were in the bar when they were approached by an older man who, after a few drinks, invited them up to his room. The one friend protested outright; the other was a little less hesitant. The prude struck a bargain with the older man: If my friend isn’t back down here in 10 minutes, I’m calling security. The slut, the prude, and the older man shook hands. The deal was made. [For those of you considering a similar future venture, keep in mind that while 10 minutes doesn’t seem terribly generous for untoward fornicating, it would take a lesser amount to just straight up murder someone or quickly whisk them away to a life in an Ohio basement.]
What follows is not terribly surprising, given that, in my personal experience, hotel rooms have not been for friendly (clothed) conversations on beds since I played travel softball in 1994. Once inside the confines of his $800-per-night Superior King Room, the older man swiftly pulled out an arsenal of whips, nipple clamps, and wooden paddles. “Beat me,” he commanded. The girl, an idiot and a tease in the most generous sense of the word, protested: “I think you got the wrong idea.” Just then, security literally barreled through the door, coming face-to-face with the old man, undressed and holding his S & M wares, and the young woman.
The lesson of this story? Wear what you want to the bar, keep your weird stuff in your room upstairs, and never strike one-night-stand bargains that entail potential encounters with security.
My future ex-husband. When I said that Eva and I were the only ones in the room without gray hair, I forgot to include the dirty-blonde, plush-bearded Frenchman sitting next to us, drinking a whisky whilst wearing a blazer. My hopes were swiftly dashed, however, when he was joined by a blonde woman who, by Eva’s description, was wearing a “knockoff Missoni and a bun with a claw clip.”
“Hi, I’m sorry to bother you.” A woman has saddled up beside me wearing one of those expressions that looks like a combination of embarrassed, indebted, and truly apologetic. “This guy over there, who isn’t, like, really a friend or anything, just asked me if you maybe wanted him to get you a drink or something. You do whatever you like; I’ve just been sent here to tell you.”
True, her salesmanship is a little lackluster, but she wasn’t working with the easiest of products. I look towards the bar at a man with shiny hair and a suit with pronounced pinstripes, visible from my place at the back of the room.
“Thanks so much,” I say, “but please tell him I have a boyfriend.”
Assured that I have slammed the nail down in that coffin, I venture to the bathroom an hour later, only to return to what I can best describe as what it must feel like to see a missile coming towards you only seconds before impact. In all my time in bars, I have never before seen someone so determined, fast on his feet, or shamefully obvious.
“Hello,” he booms. “I have heard you have boyfriend?”
“My family owns [BLANK] Chicken. You know it?”
“I’ve ordered shawarma there.”
Nothing screams potential romance like a nostalgic vision of florescent lights, plastic yellow booths, cracked tile, and “Number 31, your order is ready!”
“You seem very nice. Won’t you let me buy you a drink?”
Here is the point where I tell him “You had me at ‘Chicken.’” We sit at the bar and I call my fake boyfriend, and have a fake conversation where I tell him that I am breaking up with him. “I’ve met a chicken heir!” I yell into a phone with no one on the other end. “And I will have hummus aplenty for all my livelong days.” My fake boyfriend understands, given that he knows my fondness for chickpeas. Chicken Man and I sit at the bar, sharing stories about pita bread and decide to get married around midnight.
“Sorry, I still have a boyfriend,” I say, and then I walk back towards my booth and make sure to cram myself extra tight next to Eva. “Don’t let me out of your sight,” I command.
Eat, Drink, Be Merry or Whatever:
As I was feeling quite peckish when I arrived, I devoured the bar nuts accompanying a flute of champagne I didn’t bother drinking. It would be hard for me to accurately rate either in good conscious. Eva’s boyfriend, however, was more familiar with the menu, and he assured me that their burger is one of the best uptown.
Eva’s boyfriend also shared this fascinating (though completely inedible tidbit) with us: The wall murals were made by the children’s book author and illustrator (and rumored pedophile) behind the beloved series, Madeline. He reportedly stayed at the hotel for free in exchange for this work, having fled his native France after allegedly molesting a young girl. Since nothing makes me want to get drunk quite like evading criminal charges, it seems a pretty fitting choice for bar décor. You know, if it’s even true.
The Lobbyist Rating: 5/5 Kate Mosses
The Carlyle Hotel is one of those Upper East Side establishments brimming with the clean lines and shiny polish I simply can’t find close to home. (Brooklyn, as many of you well know, is known more for its repurposed wooden floors, tin ceilings, unwashed gentry, and hamburgers that come from cows with names.) As I enter a more dignified era, I can only hope that my nights are increasingly spent this way – fending off men with food empires, not drinking $20 beverages, and avoiding all offers of being taken upstairs “just for ten minutes.” Can’t wait to come back.