Shhhh…The Carlyle Hotel, on the sweet, sweet spot of Madison Avenue near 76th Street, is “the palace of Secrets,” declares the New York Times. Don’t you love it?
But, who can really keep a secret? Big secrets. Presidential secrets.
Every American President from Truman through Clinton has been a guest of the Carlyle.
Think about it, the ultimate presidential reality show all wrapped up in one art deco hotel enclosing all too knowing walls.
JFK kept an apartment there for the last years of his life, when the Carlyle was known as “the Winter White House.”
Rumor had it that Marilyn Monroe was escorted in and out of the side doors, and even through secret tunnels.
No New Yorker was going to miss that.
Years later, bellman Michael O’Connell reminisced: “Those tunnels. President Kennedy knew more about the tunnels than I did”.
Just how many side doors did Marilyn slither through in her lifetime is yet another unsolved mystery.
Walking to school one day, my then-BFF and I practically mowed down Robert Kennedy in front of the Carlyle.
In her squeaky high voice, Wendy asked for his autograph.
He replied, complied, and even said “yes,” mimicking her high voice.
He was so attractive; she wasn’t even slightly offended.
Not everyone has to be presidential to indulge in secrecy.
There was a tale of a tryst to be, gone bad… very, very bad indeed.
A married couple were both in a revolving door at the Carlyle on their way to having affaires with mystery lovers. (If the Carlyle didn’t have revolving doors, don’t shoot the messenger).
The wife thought that she had hallucinated her husband, but it was no hallucination, it was her real little honey pot.
She shifted into hard drive and drama-queened it.
“Who am I? Where am I? What am I doing here?” she asked woozily.
Ah, the Carlyle.
Does it give even the less than the Presidential and royalty the air of being beyond important?
One infamous photographer/playboy used to stay there with the model of the minute.
In order to call him, you had to ask the operator for his name of the month and add a password when you reached his room. Open Sesame, until passwords and models reinvented themselves.
Imagine what it took to get through to Mick Jagger.
Playboys with endless money gave parties in their Carlyle suites, greeting guests with popper necklaces (that’s amylnytrates if you missed the seventies), then didn’t remember who their guests were the next day.
One very married President was staying at the Carlyle with his alleged mistress when they decided to enjoy the land of the free and walk to dinner, minus Secret Service. After all, it was a “kinder and gentler America.”
On the way uptown, they were (or so the story goes) mugged, nothing major, but enough to draw the attention of the police.
Even the New York private school mothers had the 411 on this, so where was the “extra, extra” in the papers?
I love the Carlyle: the evenings with Bobby Short, Woody Allen, Bemelmans Bar, and the steak tartare.
A moment of warmth under the heated Carlyle awning on a snowy day was blissful.
“Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead,” wrote Benjamin Franklin, who might have enjoyed a stay at the Carlyle had he been borne in a different time.
Can the Carlyle keep a secret, especially the ones whitewashed in “wouldn’t-you-like-to-know?” and oozing in fame, power, and sensuality.
The Carlyle is, was, and will continue to be an extravaganza of erstwhile and ongoing escapades, fading into another era and embracing the next unforgettable must read chapter.
Fortunately, the night is still young.
Image courtesy of New York Natives, Photographer: Camilla Webster