A Common Denominator Between Bette and the Royals

From the Toronto Star

How suite it is being treated Royally


It smells like queen spirit.

Queen Elizabeth had left the building — specifically, the Royal Suite at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel — but we swore there was the scent of lavender lingering.

There were no Corgi smells.

Her Maj. was in town Oct. 9 to 11 for the Golden Jubilee visit and we scored an overnighter at the coveted suite when there was a vacancy last month.

The hotel has catered to three generations of Britain’s royal family, assorted crowned heads, politicos and boldface in the Royal Suite. And then us.

We were queen for a day: Actually, more like half a day and a night. We — myself, my consort, Rob and my mom, Nellie — showed up dressed down. And damn, if we hadn’t left our tiara in the shop. The Royal Suite goes for about $2,000 per night, but you get to sign the guest book. Ours was the first entry after HRH’s last visit.

The Royal Suite has been in operation since the hotel opened in 1929 but this guest book only went as far back as 1979. The showbiz crowd ranged from Gene Kelly to Kenny Kramer, “the real Kramer.”

We especially liked the inscription from Joe Regalbuto of Murphy Brown fame: “Finally some place with some class.”

There were the heads of state like Pierre Trudeau, Corazon Aquino of the Philippines, François Mitterand of France and Desmond Tutu, Archbishop of South Africa. Ronald and Nancy Reagan signed in ’88. Both have cramped, childish signatures. Must be a Republican thing.

George Bush Sr. signed in ’95, when he was U.S. prez. He misspelled “hospitality.” He should have copied from Roch Voisine’s inscription on the preceding page.

Among the crowned heads was Princess Margaret, whose signature is very similar to Margaret Thatcher’s. Must be a Margaret thing.

There are also King Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, King Harold and Queen Sonja of Norway and Queen Of Mean Suzanne Pleshette.

One signature was indecipherable. Rob suggested it looked like Tom Green. It wasn’t.

We were met at the door by in-room dining captain Patrick Ahmed. Actually, they were huge double doors — no mere portals for these immortals.

The suite is decorated like your grandmother’s dream house in chintz and flounces. “We added doilies, a lot of doilies to the room,” explained Melanie Coates, director of communications and public relations. “That is very traditional.”

Rob made a beeline for the bathroom to check out the queen’s throne.

The queen doesn’t pee. She gets someone to do it for her.

The place was huge. You could drop our house in it and still have room left over for a pool and a pony: Three bathrooms, two bedrooms, a living room and a giant dining room that could sit 16.

It is a tad intimidating. Nellie was afraid to sit on the Queen’s bed. “They’ll have to launder the bedspread,” she protested.

Nellie even tried to rewrap the soap in the bathroom. “The next people staying here can use it,” she reasoned.

No need to worry about recycling the queen’s toiletries. They weren’t even the same ones she used. Hers are exclusive to HRH, as specified by Buck House and unavailable to plebs.

When friends dropped by for cocktails, Nellie stayed in the Queen’s bedroom watching figure skating. She was tempted to phone her sister, Lucy, and gloat, but resisted.

After the friends left, we settled down for dinner, overwhelmed by the 13 empty chairs. We were royally attended to by Ahmed, who has been with the hotel for 18 years and who was part of the Queen’s behind-the-scenes service team. The Queen was served by Marco Porato, director of in-room dining, who was allowed to serve her only one dish.

The Queen travels with an entourage of 60, said Coates.

“They were housed in her quarters; they took up the entire floor, which is the size of a city block. Plus floors above and below.” That in addition to local authorities and RCMP.

The hotel’s exec chef John Cordeaux cooked for the Queen. “The chef met with Buckingham Palace three months before,” Coates recalled. “The chef showcased Canadian fare like venison, local produce and Canadian wines.”

We ate off the Epic In-Room Dining menu and tried not to blob on the tablecloth. Every time we did, we cried, “the Queen did it.”

HRH had two breakfasts, two afternoon teas and two dinners. One dinner, she ordered off the In Room Dining menu instead of the more elaborate dinners pre-arranged for her. She had to order in. You’d hardly expect to see her hunkered down over sushi at Benihana.

Head housekeeper Shanti Persaud Tewari looked after the Queen’s quarters.

“Shanti did the special touches like lavender,” Coates explained. “She went to Yorkville and had a tablecloth custom-made — the one you dined on.”

Oops. This was not the time to bring up the spills.

The Queen sleeps in a king-sized bed at the Royal York.

“The bed is custom made,” Coates said, “made to her specifications and brought in specially for her. It’s odd-shaped, more of a square than the usual king-sized beds.”

Do Phil and Liz sleep together?

“I can’t say,” Coates demurred. “You have to be discreet.”

I couldn’t pry it out of her.

The hotel has been featured in movies like That Old Feeling with Bette Midler, Serendipity with John Cusack and The Tuxedo with Jackie Chan. They were shooting the Eloise TV-movie upstairs and we could go snoop but we opted instead to watch Saturday Night Live.

Just like the common folk.

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