Peering into the lives of the rich and famous is something we don’t all readily admit to, but definitely something we all share a common interest in. The world’s elite can often get away with things us mere mortals could only dream of, so any window that offers a glimpse into their lives tends to be swamped by interest. Enter: The Savoy.
No: it’s not a zoo for Rich People, but it’s not (that) far off either. London’s most iconic and luxurious hotel operates almost like a miniature Las Vegas, with the rumour going: if you can afford it, you can have it. Flinging open its doors to those who could afford to stay since 1889, The Savoy has since welcomed a plethora of famous faces alongside lesser-known, but no less wealthy, individuals and catered to their every whim.
As reported by news.com.au back in October, a documentary released in the UK offered viewers an unprecedented look behind closed hotel doors, accompanied by stories of some of the hotel’s longest-serving staff. Head butler Mr Davoren, who oversees a staff of 10 responsible solely for servicing the hotel’s 37 private butlered suites is quoted as saying, “I will do anything for you – as long as it’s legal.”
The most prominent high-profile scandalous story to come from the hotel relates to Irish poet Oscar Wilde. We won’t go into the details here, but one witness, chambermaid Margaret Cotta once made some horrifying claims, this 2001 article in The Guardian reveals.
Moving on to stories of a less barbaric (but still outlandish) nature, Mr Davoren recalls how a guest once asked him to collect an item from a nearby jewellery shop.
“When I brought back this small bag, I took it to the gentleman and put it on his desk. He said, ‘Sean, do you know what’s in the bag?’ and I said, ‘No, Sir, I don’t know’,”
“It was only a pink diamond ring worth over a million pounds. I nearly had a heart attack.”
“First of all, I wouldn’t have walked in the street. Secondly, I would have had security men with me going there.”
The recipient of such an expensive piece of jewellery? “My mistress”, the guest quipped.
However, that hasn’t stopped stories of what The Savoy’s most esteemed guests have
demanded asked for during their stay. While it is certainly part of the package that a guest is given the absolute best in customer service, there was, at one stage in the hotel’s history, an entire room dedicated to keeping lists of the personal preferences of its regular guests.
German-American actress Marlene Dietrich, for example, requested 12 pink roses as a chilled bottle of Dom Péringon to be awaiting her in her room for her arrival, while other guests recorded their preferences for mattress firmness and the temperature of their morning porridge.
The Savoy is also where you will find The American Bar, one of the most famous bars in London, if not the world, and the birthplace of The Savoy Cocktail Book, a bible for bartenders around the world today, written by Harry Craddock, head bartender from 1925 to 1938.
It was at this bar where Neil Armstrong would have his first drink upon returning to earth, a new cocktail invented by then-bartender Joe Gilmore, called “Moonwalk”, and where former UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill would store his own personal bottles of whiskey.
Today, The Savoy continues to attract the rich and famous, although perhaps unsurprisingly, with the rise of social media and peoples’ need to make themselves appear to be of a higher status than other, it is now just as much an Instagram Landmark (where you have to question whether people who pose for a picture outside the entrance actually go in after) as it is an essential piece of world history.