Do Not Disturb



April 28, 2005 -- When Royalty visits a hotel, regardless of their stature in the hierarchy of all things Royal, it is an event. The staff is briefed on protocol, buttons are shined, the hotel is cleaned and cleaned again and the red carpet is laid at the front door. At that door, the General Manager, in his newest Armani suit and Hermes tie, stands ready to greet the Royal Potentate.

This is the tale of just such an event, the visit of Her Highness the Crown Princess of the Kingdom of Tonga to a hotel in Hong Kong that I once had something to do with.

You may not know much about the Kingdom of Tonga, a small island somewhere in the middle of the Pacific. I know very little about the place myself, except that the Tongan people are extremely large and very, very Polynesian. In Tonga, the larger you are, be it male or female, the more attractive you are, apparently, to the opposite sex. Her Royal Highness was no exception to the rule, weighing in at an estimated 300 pounds. A very large lady to say the least.

For your edification, the staple of the Tongan diet is pumpkin. The Tongan people consume vast quantities of the squash since it is, supposedly, the most fattening of all vegetables. Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess was no exception to this Tongan dietary principle.

Upon arrival at what was to be her Hong Kong hostelry for a couple of nights, Her Highness the Crown Princess was welcomed from her Rolls Royce, escorted down the red carpet and bowed to by the General Manager (Armani) and other minor hotel functionaries (Hugo Boss). She was guided through the lobby to the elevators, the hotel's chief engineer standing by in case the lift couldn't take the load. The elevator whisked Her Highness the Crown Princess to her one-bedroom suite overlooking the magnificence of Hong Kong Harbour.

While being shown around the suite, Her Highness' eyes alighted on the glorious display of pumpkin eats--soup, pies and even a pumpkin ice cream--so tactfully ordered by the General Manager and prepared with great consternation by the chef. Formalities quickly forgotten, she descended on the pumpkin victuals and immediately started eating as if there were no tomorrow. Room service received at least three repeat orders. Shortly thereafter, the Colony's supply of pumpkins was depleted. (In fairness to Her Highness, it had been a long flight.)

Her Highness retired to bed early that night only to wake around one in the morning with the need to take a Royal Pee. Slightly befuddled, possibly from so much pumpkin eating, she entered what she believed to be the bathroom only to find herself in the corridor. The door to her suite closed and locked behind her. Of course, Her Royal Highness was as naked as the day she arrived on earth.

As it happens, each floor of this great Hong Kong hotel had a butler who had the responsibility for the well-being of all the guests on his floor. In this case, the butler, a gentleman named Ah Wing, had failed to review his guest list and was not aware who was occupying the suite at the end of the corridor.

But he was aware of what was waddling down the corridor toward him and he was thinking clearly enough to know that this huge, naked Polynesian apparition shouldn't be there. He immediately took out his passkey and opened the door to the bedroom nearest to where Her Highness was standing. He naturally believed it to be the large naked lady's room and he half pushed her through the door.

Now this particular Hong Kong hotel had made a name with and catered to a very large percentage of the New York clothing and fashion trade. So I ask you to imagine that you are a ragman named Manny Schwartz who is all of 5-feet, 4-inches tall. You're sound asleep only to awaken to find 300 pounds of blubber climbing above you with huge pendulous breasts swinging in front of you face. What do you immediately think? King Kong in Hong Kong.

Even after all these years, I have never been able to determine who screamed the loudest, Her Royal Highness or Manny.

Except for those directly involved, the laughter throughout the hotel the next day was hard to suppress. Her Highness the Crown Princess of the Kingdom of Tonga received additional pumpkins in her suite along with a groveling letter from the General Manager. Manny Schwartz received a free room for the balance of his stay. Poor Ah Wing lost his job.

The moral of the tale of the pumpkin eater, the ragman and the Hong Kong hotel? Next time you travel, double lock your door. You never know when King Kong--or a one in the morning facsimile of same--might pay you a visit.

This column originally appeared at

Copyright 1993-2005 by Michael Matthews. All rights reserved.