Do Not Disturb


By Michael Matthews

June 24, 2004 -- Over the past 40 years in the hospitality industry, I have seen and heard many amazing things, most of them humorous. Whenever I recount these anecdotes, I am told that they would make a great book. So, if you'll forgive me, I thought I would try to put some of them into words that, I hope, will create a smile on your face. And, if I'm lucky, they will also result in a compendium of stories some publishing plutocrat will see fit to print and some movie mogul will decide to turn into a film la Arthur Hailey's Hotel.

As you know, this column is called "Do Not Disturb." My book will bear the same name. The reference is taken from the following true story from the old Mayfair Regent Hotel in New York, which formerly graced the corner of 65th Street and Park Avenue. The hotel was impeccably managed by Dario Mariotti and his most capable aide, Michael Blackman, now the general manager of the Michelangelo Hotel, New York's best-kept hotel secret.

To encourage business on the weekends--the weekdays being full with businesspersons--the Mayfair Regent offered an attractive theatre package. It catered mainly to couples and families from the suburbs. Mary, an Irish-American switchboard operator, tells of receiving a call from a guest suite and a somewhat agitated young lady.

The conversation went something like this:

Mary: Switchboard, may I help you?

Young Guest: Mummy and Daddy have gone to the theatre and told me I can watch TV or go down to the lobby for a hamburger, but I must not leave the hotel.

Mary: That's sounds sensible. We have great hamburgers and I can make a reservation for you in the lobby lounge.

Young Guest: I don't know how to leave my room.

Mary, thinking that the door may have malfunctioned: What's the problem?

Young Guest: Well, there are three doors in my room. The first one is the bathroom and I have been in there. The second one goes into a closet with Mummy and Daddy's clothes.

Mary: Yes.

Young Guest: Well, the third one has a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door. So how do I leave my room?

Needless to say, the story was told to everybody in no time, and, when the Young Guest finally appeared for her hamburger, the staff treated her like royalty. She was comped for the food and I got the title of my future book.

Another story that I think is book-able and worth telling here:

A very close acquaintance of mine, now working his way up the corporate ladder with Four Seasons Hotels, started his career at the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills in a very junior, junior capacity. At the same time, he was going through hotel school at college. To earn extra money, he became something of a celebrity disc jockey. Upon graduation from hotel school, he continued to work for the Regent Beverly Wilshire. Still wanting to supplement his income, however, he continued his after-hours activities as a disc jockey and was, in fact, very much in demand. This was not so much for his prowess as a DJ, but for the fact that he draped himself with a 10-foot live python.

This fellow treated the reptile much as one treats a dog, as man's best friend. Like people of my generation, however, the python was oblivious to the music his master was playing. As my acquaintance progressed up the hotel ladder, he stopped his DJ stints, but kept the python.

A few years ago, just before Christmas, he received a call from his general manager asking whether he would transfer immediately to the Four Seasons in Atlanta to assume a much-elevated position. He would have to leave the next day, so he quickly packed his bag--and python--and set off for new climes. He arrived in Atlanta late on Christmas Eve and checked into a guestroom. He grabbed a couple of hours sleep and reported to his new position at 6 a.m. on Christmas Day, having fed his python its daily mouse, and, this being Christmas, having placed it in his guest bed and covered it with a blanket.

He forgot to tell anyone about the "extra" guest in his room. The rest of the story is not hard to guess. But I understand that Juanita, the maid assigned to his room, is, three years later, still undergoing deep analysis.

My acquaintance's career nearly took a nosedive. After all, Four Seasons management takes a dim view of guest pythons named Freddy (so dubbed in honor of Freddy Kruger, the movie villain). Thankfully, the powers that be, even at the very proper Four Seasons, also saw the humorous side of the story.

Do you have a hotel story worth telling? Please send it to me. You'll get full credit in my book and the net profits will go to fund a scholarship at the Hotel School of the University of Arizona in Flagstaff, my step-son's alma mater, where he minored in DJ-ing and python-keeping.

This column originally appeared at

Copyright 1993-2004 by Michael Matthews. All rights reserved.