New York City’s Waldorf Astoria is one of the most famous hotels in the world. Over 85 years of operation, its suites have hosted every US president since Herbert Hoover, and its towers have counted Hollywood legends Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, and Frank Sinatra among its residents.
With such star-studded guests, the staff who works behind the desks of the towers have received some pretty outrageous requests, all of which they’ve fulfilled with a gracious attitude and a smile.
As the Waldorf Astoria prepares to close for a period of renovations starting March 1, Business Insider paid a visit to concierges Michael Romei and David Ibarra to hear their stories.
Michael Romei, chief concierge
- Sarah Jacobs
Since he started at the Waldorf Astoria as chief concierge in 1994, Romei has always made sure that his guests are comfortable.
While Frank Sinatra was residing there, Romei had freshly baked bread from Vesuvio Bakery delivered daily to Sinatra’s door. Romei also understood that breakfast for actor Jerry Lewis meant having a bagel, so one of his personal favorites, Ess-a-Bagel, was delivered to his room everyday.
One of the more outrageous requests Romei has received came from a guest who wanted to skydive in the nude. After making many calls, Romei finally found a place in New Jersey that would accommodate them.
“It’s not a common request,” Romei said.
Other requests Romei has received involve a bit more logistical planning. To name just one example, Romei worked with a film industry investor to get actual blood oranges onto the set of the film “Blood Orange.”
“They were filming in Cuernavaca, Mexico,” Romei said. “And at that time, it was not allowed to import blood oranges into Mexico.”
He ended up having to purchase the blood oranges from a Manhattan food market, then arrange for someone to fly them to Mexico City.
“I called [a colleague] at Les Clefs d’Or – which I’m the former General Secretary of – and arranged one of the Mexico City-based concierges to pick up the blood oranges so the [film crew] wouldn’t have to go through customs,” Romei said.
By the next day, the film crew had the blood oranges for the final scene of the film.
David Ibarra, Towers concierge
- Sarah Jacobs
Ibarra has also had some memorable experiences of his own, including when a guest asked for his help setting up a romantic dinner date on a private yacht. Unfortunately it was winter, and the water was frozen over.
“So [the guest] had me look for an ice cutter, one of those little tug boats that breaks the ice in front of the other boats, which I didn’t even know existed, but it got done,” Ibarra said.
Another time, a guest staying in the presidential suite couldn’t figure out what Chinese restaurant was his favorite. The guest had narrowed it down to two restaurants, but couldn’t remember which one he had previously eaten at.
“[The guest] didn’t want to go to the Chinese restaurant. He wanted them to come to him,” Ibarra said. “So I called both Chinese restaurants and ordered identical menus, and I told them to please bring their staff, and it [would] all be paid for. Neither restaurant knew that the other was coming, and because of union rules we had to have our own waitstaff there.”
“So picture the presidential suite, an entourage of about six to eight guys, and two Chinese restaurants serving identical meals at the same time. It was almost like a taste test to see which one was better.”
It was that same guest who wanted to go see a movie, but didn’t want anyone else in the theater with him.
“I called the theater [and explained] he wanted to buy every single seat,” Ibarra said.
The theater had no problem fulfilling that particular request.