The specialness of the Carlyle Hotel, as landmark and cultural shrine to old New York, cannot be overestimated. So says a documentary film, Always at the Carlyle, directed by Matthew Miele and executive produced by the Carlyle’s own Jennifer Cooke, that premiered this week at the Paris Theater, itself an old New York cultural shrine. With many patrons such as Anthony Bourdain and George Clooney (they know a thing or two about hotels) extolling the hotel’s virtues, and Jon Hamm’s gentle critique of its prices--$10, 000 for one of the suites—yikes, and homages to legendary guests like Jacqueline Kennedy, and the scandals of a secret tunnel Marilyn Monroe is said to have used to enter for a tryst with John F. Kennedy—more yikes!
You can however hear about the murals by Marcel Vertes in the Café Carlyle, the murals by Ludwig Bemelmans in the bar named for him, the extraordinary views over Central Park, the monograms in gold thread for each guest’s pillowcase, done individually by the hotel’s seamstress. Yes, seamstress. Where else can you go and be treated like royalty? Which explains why real royalty has made this special hotel its destination: when Kate and William made their first New York visit, that’s exactly where they stayed.
You know that the film was long in the making because Elaine Stritch, the most famous resident of recent times—that we know about—is interviewed, and she died in 2014.
For the premiere, many longtime employees attended: Hector and his elegant wife were seated beside me in an audience that included Susan Lucci, Judith Light, Buster Poindexter, Christie Brinkley, and Iris Apfel. I ran into Lena Hall at the swank after party at the Bemelmans Bar, featuring Loston Harris’ jazz ensemble and oysters galore. A Tony winner, Lena Hall’s is on her way to Vancouver to shoot a television series, and promises a swift return to performing on Broadway, and at the Café Carlyle where she’s now become a regular. As we spoke, a server came by to dole out caviar spoonfuls on our clenched fists, recalling cocaine in days of yore. It was a moment at a place that knows from moments.