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Richard E Grant
Richard E Grant's Hotel Secrets
Richard E Grant delves into a super-rich lifestyle as he visits the world’s most luxurious hotels. By talking to everyone from porters to tycoon Donald Trump, he also uncovers some scandalous stories for the eight-part series. He tells TV Choice more…
What makes a good hotel, in your opinion?
Hotels that are either family-owned or ones that offer the most personal service are the things that money can’t buy. You can stay in a big, corporate hotel that has wall-to-wall marble, but it’s much better if somebody greets you well, or looks after you, so you feel you’re getting personal attention.
And I know, having worked in a hotel — when I was a student in Swaziland, during my university days — that was the thing that people rewarded you for. And you knew that by the tip that you got.
Apart from explaining the history of some hotels, you have some pretty candid chats with hoteliers, businessmen and famous faces. What was the best bit you discovered?
The best bit was that Heidi Fleiss, the most famous brothel madam of the last 50 years, told me that she bonked Marlon Brando. I knew that in her lifetime Marlon was well upholstered, and I said, ‘Was that a challenge?’ And she said, ‘No, I like a chubby guy.’ She was so candid, and immediate, and honest about everything. I loved her for that.
Did you have a favourite hotel?
The service in Le Georges Cinq in Paris was unparalleled. The focus on food in France is on a different level. We just don’t have the same attitude. But it’s a bit like saying, ‘How do you bottle the English sense of humour?’
You interviewed Donald Trump for the series. What does his hair look like up close?
Spun gold. It’s a most fabulous creation. We were on the 97th floor — or something like that — of the Trump Tower, looking out onto the Plaza Hotel, which he used to own. And he comes in with two, wardrobe-sized bodyguards and he says, ‘10 minutes, 10 questions! Go!’
He was the one person who prescribed how many questions. And I think within one minute, I said to him, ‘So your father was of German ancestry and your mother is Scottish Calvinist, do you think that affected your work ethic, and how you’ve brought up your children, so they’re not like Paris Hilton, and they’re very responsible and successful?’ He said, ‘That’s not one of the questions.’
I said, ‘I know, but that’s what I’m interested in.’ So after saying he was giving 10 minutes, he was there for about 55, jabbering away. And he walked out of the room and said, ‘You did good kid!’
Do you have any anecdotes from your time working in a hotel?
Yes, I worked in a casino in Swaziland, and I did PR. One of my jobs on a Sunday night was to open the gamblers’ suitcases. Because housekeeping would phone up reception and say, ‘Mr and Mrs whoever have taken an ashtray and a bathrobe, and whatever else.’ And then I would have to go through the pantomime of saying, ‘I’m terribly sorry, but I think you may have accidentally packed these items.’ And people would say, ‘We’re never coming back. How dare you!’ Of course, the loot would be in there, and then because they’re gamblers, they’d come back next weekend.
Also, when I first came to England in 1982, I worked for six months at Tuttons Brasserie in Covent Garden as a waiter and I once served John Cleese. The other waiters said to me, ‘We dare you to pour the soup into his lap’ to see if he’d turn into Basil Fawlty. But I had an egocentric delusion that I may work with him one day and I didn’t want to ruin my chances.
Have you worked with him since?
No, but I do know him a bit now. I’ve met him a few times. And I did tell him this, and he said, ‘It’s just as well you didn’t, because I would have gone ballistic!’
Have you had a bad experience as a guest in a hotel?
Yes, I stayed in a hotel in Eilat on the Red Sea when I was working there. I can’t remember what it was called but the name of the hotel rhymed with smell, and it did. Terrible. And then I was stripped searched at the airport because I didn’t have my passport with me. And I was accused of being a spy coming from Egypt to Eilat, and I said, ‘No, I’m doing a mini series in Tel Aviv, I’m an actor.’ They said, ‘Well, we’ve never heard of you, take off your pants.’
This last question is nothing to do with hotels. Why do you wear two wrist watches?
Oh, because my father gave me his watch when he was dying and then after he died, I lost it, and my wife gave me a replica. But then I found it [the original] two years later in a sock drawer. So one says Swaziland time, and one’s English time, or wherever I am. So it’s sentimental and practical — because I can’t count. That’s why I have two.
Sky Atlantic, Thursday