The Athenaeum Hotel London (and Surprises)
JACKIE: We want to Talk about the grand finale of David’s spring in Britain sojourn. He loves this winter-fest so much that he has already booked a return in February 2012. And I, the cold-blooded Californian that I am, will hold down the homestead.
*(SURPRISES FOR DAVID: As I write, we’re preparing to go on a secret holiday of my planning. I’ll be Talking about it in my next Talk column, and just know that the next Lawrence and Lawrence will report on a glorious city in the USA. Shhhhh.)
Here he goes with the good reasons that make him keep coming back to England…
DAVID: The beginning of the end: I boarded the Heathrow Express at the airport and headed for London (fastest, least expensive, best way into the city). Destination: Piccadilly in Mayfair.
My first introduction to the Athenaeum Hotel occurred in 1979 in the bar, all warm and wood and whiskey. More varieties of Scotch than I had known existed. And a rare bottle as a gift if one could work through them all. I never did. But I fell in love with the hotel and became a happy member of its roster of guests, many from Hollywood and from the show business world I was then part of.
I schmoozed with Robert Wagner who was shooting episodes of Hart to Hart, joked with Dick Crenna there to do a TV movie (not mine; I was producing Helen and Teacher, which picked up Helen Keller’s life after The Miracle Worker and starred Mare Winningham and Blythe Danner — whose very young daughter Gwyneth Paltrow visited during our shoot). I loved seeing Natalie Wood, and wished when I grew up that I could be another Steven Spielberg — who was living at the Athenaeum while prepping a movie. I housed my stars in the luxurious Athenaeum apartments around the corner and made the hotel my headquarters in the ensuing years for other movies and miniseries I was producing.
Now, years later, I was back home. By sheer coincidence I was given the very same room I lived in for months at a time each time I was shooting. But — wow — what a difference the years have made! The only thing about Suite 305 that remains the same is the splendid view from my windows of the magnificent Green Park just across the road. Everything else is totally up to date in London City! Tastefully high tech and contemporary with a wall of mirrors framing an enormous flat screen TV and DVD player across from my huge bed with a four-poster frame of Lucite and chrome. The desk faces the floor to ceiling windows viewing the park and behind it, across the room, is a stunning surprise: a mirrored door opens to reveal a maxibar with a drawer containing everything from Grey Goose to peanuts to chips. Another drawer is a fridge stocked with fruit juices, bottled water, soft drinks, candy bars and beers. The last drawer is a freezer with ice cubes and (!) Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Now, get this: Except for the alcohol, everything is absolutely complimentary — and restocked daily. What a treat, especially for families. Another pleasant surprise was discovering two old friends, John and Tony, members of the staff and still at the Athenaeum all these years later. Just like yours truly. I am grateful to others like Victoria Smalley, P.A. to General Manager Jonathan Critchard, both of whom welcomed me home; Darren Muylders, the admirable Concierge who got me into Hakkasan for lunch with my dear friend John Scott; and Susanne Wedden, who helped me with a special surprise for my sweet Jackie. Now it was time to whip out my Oyster Card (easiest and cheapest way to hop on buses and tubes) and brave the cold and rainy days. I hit all the old familiar places – Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, The Tate Modern Museum, Royal Academy of Arts, and of course, Harrods (to buy something for the silent auction for Jackie’s then upcoming, now very successful, Actors and Others for Animals event honoring Betty White. Hope you didn’t miss it!).
Back to the warm and dry refuge of the family-owned, Five Star Athenaeum with its gym, sauna and steam room. And its fond, happy memories of another time, another life — no better than the one I’m living, but never to forget.
JACKIE: OK, I’m lucky enough to have experienced this classic hotel and for a change, David is not exaggerating. And, best of all, the Athenaeum is dog friendly!