I’M AT THE LEGENDARY HOTEL ELYSÉE in Manhattan. If someone told me it was 1945, I would believe them.
The 15-story, 103-room landmark is very Old New York. I’m loving my sweet room on the 8th floor, with its blue-and-white striped wallpaper, chintz swag curtains, gilded mirrors, and Chinoiserie lamps. No two rooms are alike here; that’s one of the signatures of the place, which has had a rep for arty eccentricity since it opened in 1926.
This is the New York of Ben Hecht and Charles McArthur, Joe DiMaggio and Tallulah Bankhead, Maria Callas and Vladimir Horowitz, Tennessee Williams and Mary McCarthy. All lived here for a time, along with the Barrymores, Marlon Brando, Ava Gardner, Harold Robbins, Jimmy Breslin — a ridiculously long list of writers and theater people who appreciated the Elysée’s low-key elegance and discretion.
I’d so much rather be here than in some soulless Marriott or too-trendy Lower East Side hotel. Last night I met my friend and former colleague Harriet Bell (she edited my book, Mid-Century Modern, back in the ’80s — in fact, the whole thing was her idea) for martinis and Manhattans (what else?) in the hotel’s atmospheric Monkey Bar, with its wraparound mural of cavorting humanoid monkeys.
At the moment, I’m in the Elysee’s breakfast room, surrounded by voices speaking British English, Italian, and French. I’m not surprised the place attracts European visitors. Harriet, who came up to check out my accommodations last night, said the Elysée reminds her of Parisian hotels, “but with bigger rooms.”
I came into “town” yesterday to attend WordCampNYC for users of WordPress, much of which was directed toward developers rather than bloggers and beyond the reaches of my low-tech brain.
So here I am within striking distance of MoMA, Central Park, Bendel’s, and any number of midtown attractions. My plan for today is to see David Hockney’s recent paintings at Pace Wildenstein on 57th Street and find a new handbag at a street stand; we don’t have those in East Hampton. Check-out time is a civilized 1PM. Then I’m heading back on the flying jitney (how does it manage to make the trip in just two hours?), with its equally speedy wi-fi, to my cottage in the woods.