New Year 1965
Despite having done lots of overtime at the various hotels that belonged to Grand Metropolitan, I still hadn’t managed to get round them all, similarly, although I’d met many of my fellow ‘Grand Metites’- there were still many, many more that I hadn’t, and Emilio was one of them. I knew absolutely nothing about him when I went back to work at Stratters, other than that it was his first assistant managers job - a job that was the absolute pits. At least as a humble telephonist I knew where I was in the pecking order - the bottom. Whereas every head of department seemed to think they were the most important person - enormous egos made for lots of upsets amongst the staff. The assistant manager’s job was to make the manager’s job as easy as possible and keep the staff in order - and consequently take all the flack. It needed a calmer and more confident type of person than Emilio was, to succeed in this tricky position.
Maybe he and I got on ok because I had no reason not to respect him. I knew he would have earned his current position in no easy manner. Everyone on the 5 year training course would have had to work in the kitchen, restaurant, bar, control, reception, become head receptionist and then move on to assistant manager, where they would have to develop the hide of a rhinoceros and the wisdom of Solomon. Mitch, the head porter, treated Emilio with the utmost disdain, I found it painful to see and wished I could have advised Emilio to ignore him, unfortunately he would give vent to his Latin temper which, of course, only made matters worse. Also, I had come back from Switzerland with the intention of learning Italian - I much preferred the lilting, sing-song way of speaking to German. Emilio seemed pleased that I knew something of his language and was happy to help. He found it highly amusing to discover that I shared a flat with two fellers and teased me remorselessly - despite my protestations that they were more interested in each other than in me.
The bizarre thing was, when I wrote and told my mother that I was sharing a flat with friends of Jenny’s - a couple called Pat and Dickie - intending to give the impression that they were a married couple - my mother wrote back that she was glad I was settled, but mentioned her concern about ‘the couple’, " why do I think that they are two fellers?" she asked, and it was obvious that she could not quite believe what she was asking, nevertheless this was what she thought and wanted me to put her right. I was dumbfounded, I would have thought that anyone would automatically think ‘a couple called Pat & Dickie’ would be a male/female couple. I decided to come clean, even though I knew my mum, with her straightlaced attitude would disapprove, because I wanted to know how on earth she had come to that conclusion. She said she couldn’t explain it, it was just a feeling she had - scary! The last thing a daughter wants is for her mother to be able to see into her life with such accurate perceptions.........lol.
I was happy to have Emilio back after his few days away, he makes me laugh with his rather self-conscious flirtyness. I wished I could have got to know him before he became part of the management, as the gulf between the ‘plebs’ and the management was one difficult to bridge (yes - I know I have mnaged it in the past.....) - especially during working hours........I liked him a lot and wished I could instil in him a little confidence, he didn’t appear to have any at all and seemed to veer from vulnerable to temper tantrum, with very little in between.
We had a belated Christmas/ New Year Party at The Londoner Hotel just further along Welbeck Street, I went there often to do overtime. The entrance hall was enormous and so was the restaurant, so it was an ideal place for the two hotels to have a bit of a do. Our pay was pretty dire and so was the food which we had on duty and was allegedly part of our pay - but when it came to celebrating, it seemed no expense was spared. There was lots of lovely food, party hats and streamers, plenty of booze - enough for us all to get a little sloshed, music and dancing. I was a bit miffed when Dottie claimed Emilio for a slow dance and I had the ‘pleasure’ of dancing with Alasdair Fraser - who had two left feet and a broom stuck up the back of his jacket. As soon as there was a break in the music I switched partners with Dottie and Emilio didn’t seem to mind at all - he held me very tightly - and I didn’t mind that at all ;-) I also managed to get him for the last dance, he held me tightly, his cheek pressed against mine. I even managed to get a kiss under the mistletoe - albeit a chaste kiss on the cheek! And as it was now so late, he said I could stay at Stratters tonight. There was much teasing for days afterwards about our ‘flirting’, which merely brought raised brows a deep, noisy sigh from Mitch.
9th January and the hotel is coming alive again - we have an American Pop Star called Johnny Thunder staying here. Johnny was a member of legendary Groups The Inkspots and The Drifters. He had a self-penned hit in 1963 of ‘Loop De Loop’. I confess to having got this information from his website, as back in 1965, I had never heard of him. He was here to appear on ‘Top of the Pops’ and ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’. He seemed quite alone, he spent much of his time in the front hall talking to the staff. I was happy to talk to him, he was a tall, handsome, cheerful guy and when he asked to take me out to lunch, I was happy to accompany him. There was a really nice café/restaurant in Bond Street called ‘Sands’, it was the ‘in’ place to go, I loved sitting at one of the pavement tables sipping tall mugs of hot chocolate topped with swirls of thick cream and cinnamon, and hoping to catch a glimpse of 60's supermodels Jean Shrimpton or Celia Hammond as The Lucie Clayton School of Modelling was nearby, so was the very popular fashion store - Fenwicks. So this was the place I suggested we could go to. The place was crowded, but we managed to get a table downstairs, after perusing the menu, we both decided we liked the sound of the steak and salad served on wooden boards - well it seemed different - lol! But it turned out to be the most difficult meal I have ever attempted to eat, trying to eat off large blocks of wood on a small table was fraught with problems, the boards wobbled every time we tried to cut into the meat, and the salad went in all directions. It could have been very embarrassing, but Johnny had a fabulous sense of humour, he kept me and the rest of the diners in stitches, but in the end, I gave up and settled for a calorie laden dessert to fill the empty spaces.
We also have Film Star Dean Stockwell staying here. I’ve always thought he was one gorgeous guy, ever since I saw him as a child star in the film ‘The Boy with Green Hair. He has appeared in hundreds of films over the years and more recently, he was the star of ‘Quantum Leap’. He’s a very friendly feller and is happy to stop and give me his autograph and have a chat. The strange thing about him, and quite in contrast to his ordinariness, is the way he dresses - all in black, topped by an all enveloping long black cape. He sails through the front hall, his cape flowing behind him and out into the street, seemingly totally unaware of his, er rather unusual appearance. I had the temerity to ask him why he dressed that way and he said it was just his style, he felt comfortable with it. I wake him every morning and take his breakfast order when I am on the early shift and he usually cracks a joke or two - he reminds me very much of Gene in this respect - he’s such an easy going guy, no ‘starriness’ about him at all.
I take it that Gene Pitney is on his way here too, as already we are getting phone calls for him. Tony Hall rang to say he was coming in the hotel and would stop by to say hello. How long ago is it that I first spoke to Tony Hall? So much water seems to have passed under the bridge since then, and I feel that I have known him for ages and yet we have never met. He came in later accompanying The Righteous Brothers. I’m really quite surprised to find I have written this in my diary, as I have no recollection at all of having met The Righteous Brothers. I do remember meeting Tony Hall though, we shook hands and said the usual things. He was also accompanied by his assistant, a young man called Jimmy, who rang me the next day to ask if I would like to accompany him to see Ready Steady Go, but I’m working - sigh.......
And another party - at The St Ermine’s Hotel this time. Went back to Ashley Court with Dottie to get changed into our glad rags. Had most enjoyable time, a crowd of us went back to Ashley Court and into Lionel’s room for coffee, chatting until 5.30am. Dottie is on the early shift so had already gone to bed, rather than disturb her I accepted the loan of the floor in Alison’s room..........
Johnny Thunder has gone home and Gene has arrived! I heard his familiar voice out in reception - he got quite a surprise when I went out to say hello, not realising that I was back. He asked if that meant that my predecessor had gone, I assume he meant Rona, who, by all accounts had been using Stratters as a way to ‘drum up business’ ;-) he had found the ‘attentions’ of Rona not quite what he had been used to from the telephonists lol! We had always treated him with respect - as he had treated us. I would loved to have known all the juicy details, but, well, you can’t ask, can you? Suffice to say that Rona was now ‘persona non grata’, in fact no one even wanted to talk about her - bringing the hotel into disrepute and all that.
Mitch tells me, with some asperity, that Emilio is expecting a friend round for dinner this evening - nothing wrong with that, the assistant managers didn’t get much in the way of perks, but this was one of them. They would havetheir girl friends round or more often than not, an assistant manager from another hotel in the Group, where no doubt they would share their highs & lows of their chosen profession. Good for him, I thought, he needs someone to have a good natter with, and hopefully give a bit of a boost to his sagging confidence.
Emilio popped his head around the door of the switchroom and asked me to let him know when his friend arrived but then stayed talking to me. We were standing chatting by the switchroom door, he seemed in good spirits, suddenly his eyes brightened and a faint flush spread across his face as he looked past me and I guessed his friend had arrived. I turned to see who his guest was - and my jaw hit the floor as I found myself gazing into a pair of familiar blue eyes...........