What excitement. Today Mrs Thomas and I reported to the staff entrance of the Savoy to have our security photographs taken and take possession of the keys to the museum vitrines and a swipe card that gives us access into every room in the Savoy. Now the work truly begins. The dust sheets are off, the lights are up and we can finally see the glory that is the Savoy rise again after two years of darkness. You almost long for the Carmena Burana to be piped over the sound system as we count down to the opening on 10/10/10.
First things first Rowley. Do you like the archive image of the Savoy in the Edwardian era? I am thinking of blowing it up A3 size to hang in the museum. We need a signature image to introduce the room and I think this has the magic that we need to draw the crowds into the hotel’s illustrious past. I have to say that having Mrs Thomas at the Savoy today has been a boon. She reminded me that my way of working is go, go, go then collapse when really we should actually think about eating once in a while. We did, at 2.30pm at Joe Allen with a scrummy glass or three of champagne as a much needed reviver.
So what did I love about the Savoy with the dust sheets off? I have to say the black and gold Beaufort Bar is fabulous. It is sexy, grand, clandestine and ever so slightly naughty. They are definitely playing my song with those interiors. The gold leaf alcoves are made for adulterous cocktails and cabaret.
Equally marvellous were the river view suites. I don’t think another hotel in London has that spectacular view of the Palace of Westminster that inspired Claude Monet and made Maria Callas, Judy Garland, Katharine Hepburn and Winston Churchill feel that they were rocked to sleep by the Thames. These rooms are a triumph. We snuck into the Royal Suite today and my dear it is indeed regal in the manner of Versailles; a suite of rooms opening the length of the Savoy facade with dining rooms, libraries, bedrooms and dressing rooms all enjoying that panoramic view.
I am becoming increasingly optimistic about the museum space and its showcases. OK, we have the wrong showcase in the American Bar corridor but it can be dressed nicely until the real deal arrives in November. My priority now is not to add to the worries of my boss the lovely Julian Haddon (one part Terry Thomas to two parts Machiavelli) or the GM Kiaran who always shows such immense grace under pressure. If there are problems Mrs T and I will deal with them. These chaps have the weight of the world on their shoulders. They do not need archive ‘ishoosh’ (as New Labour used to pronounce the word) to add to their distress.
That said, I think Julian enjoys the drama. I think he’s one of my favourite people in London. Very early in my association with the Savoy we practically had a knock down verbal fight on the old mobile for which I apologized in the cold light of day: not for the content but the tone. It was one of my attempts to stop smoking that usually render me as pernicious as Nosferatu with tooth ache. The fact that Julian was elegant enough to understand made me his for life.
Have I told you about Brett? Brett is the director of communications who I always suspected was a treasure. He is serenity itself and I think a brilliant front man for the Savoy. He will go down in history as one of the truly great PR men at the ‘monarch of hotels’ as Dietrich called the Savoy. Brett is a great lover of cabaret as am I. If we have our way, the Beaufort Bar will rival the Cafe Carlyle in New York as the premier cabaret club in the world. I would love to see Elaine Stritch (a Savoy veteran) fist down over a baby grand belting out Broadway Baby to an enraptured crowd.
Equally fabulous is the ITV crew who are filming a fly on the wall doc about the Savoy renaissance to be aired in December. I have had an absolute ball filming with the director Matt and the gorgeous Shona. They have followed me buying exhibits for the museum, consulting with the Savoy art supremo Peter Millard and slugging cocktails the size of Lalique vases at the private members’ bar above Rules. I love telly but more to the point I adore that crew. They are witty, pretty and gay (in the old fashioned sense of the word).
This was a rather Savoy obsessed letter darling but, let’s face it, the Savoy will haunt my dreams until the 10th of October when it is opened. I do so wish you could see it. You’ll recognize the American Bar from all those times we used to drink there. You may even recognize some of the rooms because I am sure you like I had one or two occasions to visit a Savoy stateroom in our time.
I do feel as if my holiday is a very long distant memory even though I’ve only been back in the UK for a matter of days. There has to be a way that one can take the house in Corfu for the month of September and arrange it so that I can write in the mornings and spend the afternoons on the beach after rose-soaked taverna lunch. On that thought I will dream of half litres of vino and scrumptious grilled white fish eaten at a table for two by a crystal-clear sea with the mountains of Albania in the distance. Speak soon my darling. Until then…