Remembering Bodo Lemke
If Dave Evans was the HEART of Convention Sales, for the CP, then Bodo Lemke was, unquestioningly, the SOUL of Convention Services & Catering !! Did any employee work harder, arrive earlier, stay later or dedicate themselves more than Bodo to make the CP the legendary hotel for which it was famously known ?
Bodo's attributes were many. I arrived, as Sales Manager # 6, in May, 1970. As Bruce mentioned, the month of the TV affiliates. I recall that when I was scheduled to meet with Bodo, according to my "orientation schedule", he was too busy to teach me 101. Instead, I was tutored by Kenny Poe--his super #2 guy.
But, Bodo told me the following,"when you arrive in the morning inspect all the meeting rooms, both California & Mezzanine levels, and again at lunch, and once more before you leave". "Make a list of questions and I'll see you in a month"...ha. It was the best advice I could have received. That routine gave me the immediate confidence to sell "Quality" of service which, as we all know, distinguished the CP from our competition, both in LA and SF.
In all my Hotel Sales capacities, for the following 25 years, I emphasized the importance of Sales Managers, "walking the floor" just as Bodo taught me.
As David B mentioned Bodo was the master at maximizing revenues. Although, Evey gets credit for coining the phrase, "It's not what you book, but what you move", it was Bodo who practiced it furiously to improve F&B profits. When Polly (the Queen of the space reservation book) came marching into the Sales office we all squirmed knowing we were about to loose our meeting space to Catering for some famous Hollywood mogul booking a million $ Bar mitz.vah. But, again Bodo, the dynamic leader and teacher, was always looking out for the "House" !!
I remember the time, during a huge full house National Anheuser Bush distributors convention, when Bodo grabbed me and told me to crouch down, in front of the stage, and follow Auggie (Anheuser) Bush, back and forth, during his after dinner speech. Auggie, #1, had several too many adult beverages and I was there to catch him if he fell off the stage. It was embarrassing as hell, but, funny later.
I love the old CP stories. And the opportunity to work there provided us with many life long great friends. What more can you wish for in a career? We all know Bodo felt the same about the Century Plaza Hotel.
Happy Holidays to you all. Pat O'Daniel
David Evans: Recognizing Bodo Lemke (December 15, 2016)
I send this today with very mixed emotions "Happy and Sad" The one and only Bodo Lemke passed away Sad we lost we lost a pioneer the first convention service manager in Westin when Bodo was named to this position in the early days of the Century Plaza. Bodo was one of a kind the best ever a tireless worker who made of us in sales look good and covered our posteriors He was the reason why so many groups returned no challenge was to small I am happy he is relieved of his pain and serious medical challenges he is now in a better place May you rest in piece Bodo thanks for making us all look so good With deep love and affection David Evans
David Evans: Closing of the Westin Corporate Offices (April 2016)
At 11 an suggering from acute heart failure I could barely walk a block I ventured from my temporay office in the Motel across the street there until my last day before my forced retirement due to my heart issues with my loyal assitant Andre Gillis ( had a secretary in White Plains Lina Vitarelli now exec assist to Starwood's CEO)
I walked accross 6h ave and went up to Lynn Himmelmans office on the 34th floor...... to tell him Westin after 75 years was Sayonara
Lynn was in his office.........I told him at noon today Westin in Seattle is history..........I told hin I was the lasl person on this planet who would do this and reminded him he scared the shit out of my while i was on the front desk during my first days with WIH at the Olympic in the fall of 1961.........he was speechless for a minute or so then said I know you are not well I appreciate your visit then he got a tear in his eye and wished me the best and thanked my for my wonderul career at Westin
Noon March 31st 2000 the techie from the Sheraton shut us down...........I left the building and went home
David Evans: 12th Floor Yacht Club (April 2016)
In 1974 I was a young first year officer actually the youngest VP at Westin......... in April Bobbie and I recevied a shocking invitation to join Eddie and Nel Carlson on their wonderful sailing boat for the 12th Floor yacht club Westin weekend ......... We were scared to death and really not looking forward to spending two days in close quarters with the Carlsons.......... Bobbie smoked this made matters worse and to add fuel to this fire.......
Newman told us that the Carlsons didn't smoke or drink so we said oh my
pergurtory for two days and must be politically correct
.........not my exact mantra ( as you both know)
So we set sail on Friday night that May in 1974 scared to death and more nervous that a cat on tin roof...... about 10 minutes in to the trip accross the sound Bobbie says I have to have a smoke .. Nel and Eddie were below at the time so she lit a up a cig on the fantail ......puffing fast and nervously hoping not to get caught
About 5 minutes later a real shocker Nel pop her head up from below ....... Bobbie hurredly dumps her Cig off the back of the boat....... but notices when Nel appears she has a cigarette in her mouth............Bobbie and I are and in shock ..........then to add fuel this fire Nel says "would like a drink? ......... at this point I would have thrown Bill Newman to the sharks
This was the beginnng of an extarodinary weekend with the Carlsons........all bets were off no titles just a very warm and welcoming couple .......... one small item though on Saturday at dinner on the boat Eddie got into his cups ......he had a bad week he had to tell his long time friends at Boeing UAL was buying the DC 8ts and 727's he spent a good hour on this very facinating........ a great example of company taking a customer for granted...... don't Eddie ever told many about this
So that is my 12th Floor Story ............I told Newman that Eddie was my new found friend ........in fact Nel and Bobbie became very good friends ..
Ray Sylvester: Ping-Pong Diplomacy (February 2016)
Perhaps nowhere else is more befitting than the Mayflower Hotel to reflect on the history of China-US relations. It was in this hotel that China opened its liaison office in the US in 1973. The Mayflower hosted the liaison office of China for about 8 months. During that period, the Chinese Liaison Office developed such a close relationship with the hotel that the hotel named one of the ballrooms "Chinese Ballroom," where we just enjoyed the pre-dinner reception. Thank you, Dr. Wang and Ambassador Sasser for your thoughtful arrangement. (Chinese Ambassador to the U.S., Zhang Yesui November 11, 2011)
After President Nixon's historic trip to China in 1972, the Chinese delegation established their liaison office on the 6th floor of The Mayflower Hotel in 1973. Bill Hulett was the GM; Kim Chappell the EAM; and I was the SAM. Kim and I thought we should attempt our own ping-pong diplomacy, and Bill Hulett agreed the hotel could purchase a ping-pong table and install it in the wide 6th floor corridor. Kim is a gamesman and talented at everything, including ping-pong, so I figured he would compensate for my lack of talent. We engaged two women in the liaison office and they crushed us in three games. As I recall, neither Kim nor I returned to the table during the 8 months the Chinese were with us.
Ray Goad: Westin 12th Floor Yacht Club (December 2015)
"Behind the spectacular rise of Western Hotels, and its metamorphosis from Western International Hotels to Westin Hotels and Resorts, was simply the people. They made the difference due in no small part to the culture of the Pacific Northwest. Part of the Westin culture was a management style personified by the “12th Floor Yacht Club.” It was more of an annual rite of passage than a club. From the Executive Office, situated for many years on the 12th Floor of the Olympic Hotel in Seattle, the annual memo would be received in the late spring. The call would be for boat owners to rendezvous on a Friday evening in a secluded anchorage on the Sound. There they would tie the boats together, form a “raft,” or a small island of fellowship before the term “team building” had ever been heard. It was always suspenseful to learn who would be the guest of each boat. The following morning, they would cruise together to a facility with dockage, and the shoreside hospitality of a small banquet room for toasts, performances, and annual presentation of the coveted Gordon Bass Horse’s Ass Award. The event commenced in 1970 and continued for 18 years until Westin was sold to Aoki. Much of this crude video was made by actually photographing the scrapbook of Pat Bass, whose diligence no doubt contributed to earning earn Gordon Bass the title of Admiral of the 12th Floor Yacht Club."
See Above for Video
Liam Lambert:A Miracle in Manila (January 2016)
The guests of honour at the annual "Prayer Breakfast" were Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila, President Cory Aquino, President of the Philippines and Mother Teresa. After the 2 hour prayer session it was my duty to escort the dignitaries from the ballroom to the main entrance of the hotel.
As I was leading them through the lobby Mother Teresa tugged on my sleeve and said " Sir, I noticed a lot of unfinished food left on the plates in the ballroom. Would you be able to put the scraps in a bag and I will bring them to Binondo (a suburb of Manila housing Mother Teresa's house of Joy for orphans, and the aged/dying). Nobody refuses Mother Teresa, so I hurried back to the ballroom, called my colleagues together and explained what to do. Within 15 minutes, after much scurrying about, there were more than 30 large black plastic bags full of food stacked at the Porte Cochere of the hotel. Mother Teresa caught my eye and wondered if there was a way to get these food bags to Binondo. One does not refuse Mother Teresa!
Our 12 white Mercedes Benz Limousines were driven to the Porte Cochere, bags were loaded in each so you could not fit anything else in. And off we headed, myself and Mother Teresa squeezed into the first Limo. Binondo is the poorest neighbourhood in Manila, a few brick buildings surrounded by shanty towns. When the 12 glistening white Mercedes Benz' pulled up the crowds gathered. Mother Teresa appeared from the lead Limo to the tumultuous applause of the populous. She proceeded to distribute the food from the bags. I noticed that the food was not scraps from the table, as she had requested, but fresh bread, croissants, bacon, eggs (still in their shells) sausages in their packaging, smoked salmon still sealed. I guess in the frenzy my colleagues back at the hotel raided the fridges and followed their hearts, a touch above magnanimous. To the recipients this was a miracle. Mother Teresa appearing out of the blue, from a white chariot, bearing loaves and fishes. You see prayer breakfasts do work.
Tom Hosea: The FIRST Westin Hotel (Novemeber 2015)
The name change to Westin Hotels was announced at the Manager’s Meeting at the Century Plaza Hotel in January 1980. I was the opening general manager of the soon to be Cincinnati Plaza hotel under construction in Ohio.
At the coffee break immediately after the announcement, Bill Hulett, Vice President of our project, and I made a beeline to each other with the same idea in mind. If hotels joining the family hence forth were to be Westins and over time existing hotel would be rebranded, why couldn’t Cincinnati be the first Westin Hotel?
We went up to Bill’s room and called the Galbreath organization to float the idea with them as they were principle owners of the Cincinnati project. Bear in mind, opening had been delayed due to construction challenges, so we had a warehouse full of hotel furnishings, fixtures, and supplies much of which had logos and signatures.
Galbreath approved, provided it would not add to their costs in the hotel. Next we then sought out Harry Mullikin to get him on board. With his nod of approval, we set about the task of renaming the hotel just weeks before the opening.
I contacted Peter Quatronne, our controller in Cincinnati, and gave him the assignment of gathering every piece of material that had the name Cincinnati Plaza and or the old WIH logo. From towels to matchbooks to business cards to sales and catering contracts to name badges. We even had to change the signs on the exterior of the building with that contractor.
It was decided that I would go the Landor & Associates, the folks who designed the new logo and signature, in San Francisco immediately following the close of the Manager’s Meeting. Peter was to ship his gatherings to their office and work would begin to create an item by item “standards book” for the company to follow to insure consistency in layout, type face, font sizes, and placement on all items that would display the logo and name.
Suppliers waited with bated breath, as items were designed and then approved, so production and printing could commence, with final products hopefully in our hands prior to opening. Well, we made it and the Cincinnati Plaza became the hotel that never was, while the Westin Cincinnati became the first Westin Hotel.
Wayne Bodington: (February 2016)
The FIRST Westin Hotel - Postscript
As a postscript to Tom Hosea's musing below - "The FIRST Westin Hotel" - to this day some 35 years later, the associate cafeteria at The Westin Cincinnati is still known as CP's in commemoration of, as Tom says, "the hotel that never was", the Cincinnati Plaza.
Ray Sylvester: Space Needle Starts With a Simple Napkin (October 2015)
In 1959, an unlikely artist inspired by the Stuttgart Tower in Germany was sketching his vision of a dominant central structure for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair on a placemat in a coffee house.
The artist was Edward E. Carlson, then president of Western International Hotels. His space-age image was to be the focus of the futuristic World’s Fair in Seattle, whose theme would be Century 21. Carlson penciled the shape that would become the internationally known symbol for Seattle, the Space Needle.
However, Carlson and his supporters soon found moving the symbol from the placemat to the drawing board to the construction phase was not an easy process. The first obstacle was the structure’s design. Carlson’s initial sketch underwent many transformations. One drawing resembled a tethered balloon and another was a balloon-shaped top house on a central column anchored by cables. Architect John Graham, fresh from his success in designing the world’s first shopping mall (Seattle’s Northgate), turned the balloon design into a flying saucer. A dozen architects on Graham’s team worked on sketches and ideas before a final compromise was reached just a year and a half before the fair was to open.
The next hurdles were location and financing. Since the Space Needle was to be privately financed, it had to be situated on land which could be acquired for public use but built within the fairgrounds. Early investigations indicated such a plot of land did not exist. However, just before the search was abandoned, a suitable 120-foot-by-120-foot piece of land was found and sold to investors for $75,000 in 1961, just 13 months before the World’s Fair opening.
Construction, managed by the Howard S. Wright Construction Company, progressed quickly. An underground foundation was poured into a hole 30 feet deep and 120 feet across. It took 467 cement trucks an entire day to fill the hole, the largest continuous concrete pour ever attempted in the West. Once completed, the foundation weighed as much as the Space Needle itself, establishing the center of gravity just above ground.
The five level top house dome was completed with special attention paid to the revolving restaurant level and Observation Deck. The top house was balanced so perfectly that the restaurant rotated with just a one horsepower electric motor. In keeping with the Century 21 theme, the final coats of paint were dubbed Astronaut White for the legs, Orbital Olive for the core, Re-entry Red for the halo and Galaxy Gold for the sunburst and pagoda roof. The 605-foot tall Space Needle was completed in December 1961 and officially opened a mere four months later on the first day of the World’s Fair, April 21, 1962.
The Space Needle’s elevators were the last pieces to arrive before the opening, the last one just one day before the fair opened. New, computerized elevators were installed in 1993. The elevators travel 10 mph, 14 feet per second, 800 feet per minute, or as fast as a raindrop falls to earth. In fact, a snowflake falls at 3 mph, so in an elevator during a snowstorm it appears to be snowing up.
Storms occasionally force closure of the Space Needle, as they did for the Columbus Day storm of 1962 and the “Inauguration Day” storm of 1993 when winds reached 90 miles per hour. The Needle is built to withstand a wind velocity of 200 miles per hour. The Space Needle has withstood several tremors, too, including a 2001 earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale. The tallest building west of the Mississippi River when it was built, the Space Needle has double the 1962 building code requirements, enabling the structure to withstand even greater jolts.
The Space Needle was built for just $4.5 million, and has had its share of milestones, including numerous weddings and a jump by six parachutists. During the World’s Fair, nearly 20,000 people a day traveled to the top. The Space Needle hosted over 2.3 million visitors during the Fair and is still, over 40 years later, Seattle’s number one tourist destination.
In 2000, the Space Needle completed a $20 million revitalization. The year-long project included construction of the Pavilion Level, SpaceBase retail store, SkyCity restaurant, O Deck overhaul, exterior lighting additions, Legacy Light installations, exterior painting and more.
Ray Goad: The Westin Brand (December 2015)
Mid-Career as a corporate lawyer I was fortunate to find myself as Associate General Counsel of what was then known as WESTERN INTERNATIONAL HOTELS. In 1930, hotel owners Severt W. Thurston and Frank Dupar, both of Yakima, Washington USA, formed a partnership in order to manage their hotels more efficiently. Together with Peter and Adolph Schmidt they formed Western Hotels, with seventeen properties, all but one in the state of Washington.
Early management developed each property individually. After more than two decades of rapid growth, prompting a name change in 1954 to Western International Hotels, many of its properties were merged into a single corporate structure in 1958, and the company went public in 1963 as Western International Hotels Company. In 1970, the chain was acquired by UAL Corporation, the parent company of United Airlines.
By the early 1980′s Western International Hotels had some 60 properties, mostly in the U.S., but including such landmark properties as The Plaza Hotel in New York, The Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles; and, the St. Francis Hotel on Union Square in San Francisco. Part of it’s attraction to it’s almost exclusively high-end business executive travelers was that each of it’s core urban hotels commanded a distinctive identity as a truly luxury, prestige property, always in the best location: The Olympic Hotel Seattle, The Crown Center Plaza Kansas City, The Bayshore Inn Vancouver, The Continental Plaza Chicago, etc.
However, as Associate General Counsel, I would have referred to my desk an increasing amount of claims that had actually occurred in a small, but growing non-luxury motel chain known as Best Western Hotels. A classic case of consumer brand mis-identification.
At the very emergence of the idea that all markets were, or were becoming Global; this up-start Best Western Hotels, changed it’s name to Best Western International Hotels. The Board and Management instructed me to file a lawsuit claiming trademark infringement, and to prevent this obviously confusing identity to legally continue. I did so, and as the law suit progressed, the first alarming truth we learned was that, standing alone, there was no protection under the law for generic names like “Western,” “International,” and of course “Hotels.” Therefore, the only claim for infringement would be if someone actually used the identical order of words that our Company had spent almost 50 years building as a brand identity.
As I began to understand this awful legal realization, it became my task to report to the then CEO Harry Mulligan, and at his direction, later to the Board, that the Company had no real choice but to change it’s name. Because the Company’s flagship was The Plaza Hotel, the world famous NY landmark, the idea was initially to rename the Company The Plaza Hotel Company. However, I had to advise the Board that while this might seem like a strong brand name, it was burdened by all of the same problems of the existing name. The word “Plaza” was not trademark protectable. Not to mention that a quick trademark search showed more than a 1,000 hotels and motels in the U.S. alone that used the word Plaza.
What followed, provided me with a lifetime of experience and understanding of what make a good Brand Name; and, the strategic steps that must be taken to create a strong and memorable consumer Brand. Authorized to retain one of the leading brand identity consulting companies; and, at a cost of more than $400,000 in 1980 dollars, I had the rare opportunity to learn many valuable lessons about brand identity. We performed a computer analysis of thousands of names generated as being synonymous with the established image of the Company.
I learned that the best brand names are short. The rule of thumb is five to eight letters–maybe a few more if they flow right. The most protectable names are new words, that cannot have trademark conflicts: Exxon, Kodak, Walkman, Häagen-Dazs, DieHard, Liptor, etc. At the same time the name must for the most part, posses product association, imagery, character (personality) and differentiation.
At first we came up with the name Windhover (the “h” is silent), which is a hawk indigenous to the British Isles. Everyone fell in love with it. A logo was produced and cast in bronze, which if you look closely you might see that it merges the shape of a W with the head and tail of a hawk. However, as all good designer’s do, Landor had a “throwaway” option, which we felt confident would be rejected as being too common, and not ringing with the British prestige of the Windhover. It was a computer generated contraction of the words Western and International: WESTIN. Harry Mulligan and the rest of senior management selected the “name” Windhover, with the logo “symbol” of the hawk. Landor had generated a logo “symbol” of a rather bland stylized chandelier to hang over the Westin name.
Actual production of all of the collateral products using the new name Windhover was commenced. However, when what we thought would be the final presentation of the name change for formal adoption by the Board of Directors was made, questions were raised by Edward E. Carlson, the Chairman of the Board. Already the legendary “Eddie” had started as an elevator operator with the Company as a graduate of the University of Washington. He went on to become President the Company, served as the CEO of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair–and is credited with the conception of the Space Needle. By this time he also served as the Chairman and CEO of United Airlines, the Company’s then Parent.
On that memorable day, Eddie said I like the logo symbol of the hawk, but I really like the name “Westin,” because it keeps parts of the historic names of Western and International. He then asked: “What would you think of the name Westin with the hawk logo?” And so after almost a half million dollars, and the work-product of the best minds in the business at that time, a shot-gun wedding of two disparate creative ideas were merged.
For its 50th anniversary in 1980, The Company changed its name to the current Westin Hotels & Resorts. I went on to successfully register the new brand in 142 countries. As is often the case when brands grow in identity and consumer recognition, the symbol of the hawk was merged out, and what remains today is a Brand Name, the mere typeface of which is recognized around the world as one of the strongest and most enduring Brand identities of its time.
In 1987, UAL Chairman Richard Ferris announced a plan to make UAL into Allegis, a travel conglomerate based around United Airlines, Hertz Rent a Car, Hilton Hotels, and Westin and linked by Apollo. This strategy failed, however, and Westin was sold in 1988 to Aoki Corporation of Japan. In 1994 Aoki sold it to Starwood Capital, real estate investment firm and parent of Starwood Lodging, and Goldman Sachs, an investment bank. In 1998 Starwood assumed full ownership of the company. Built initially from the strong Westin brand identity, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide is now one of the world’s largest hotel companies. Starwood owns, operates, franchises and manages more than 1,000 hotels, resorts, spas, residences, and vacation ownership properties under nine different brands. Every wonder where the idea of the “W” came from?
November 16, 2015 UPDATE: Marriott is buying Starwood to make the largest hotel company in the world. Together, the companies will operate or franchise 5,500 hotels with a total of 1.1 million rooms. The company will span 100 countries.
Ray Sylvester: Godzilla Visits Peachtree Plaza (June 2013)
1977 Peachtree Plaza Hotel. Westin Annual Management Conference. Monday morning 8am Sun Dial Restaurant 72nd Floor.
While enjoying continental breakfast and the view from the Sun Dial on the opening day of the 1977 Annual Management Conference, a large group huddled by the floor to ceiling windows as the outside window washing unit began to descend into view. The occupant was none other than Joe Guilbault, General Manager outfitted in a gorilla costume. As the window washing platform began to sway and bang against the building "Godzilla" was persuaded to return to the safety of the roof.
T. Peter Blyth: So Close to a Nobel Prize (May 2012)
Oslo Norway, May 1973
Senior VP and D&C boss J.Wm Keithan introduced me to my new assignment, GM of SAS Hotel Scandinavia. WIH had not yet received Norwegian Government Concession to operate in Norway, as we lobbied for approval Bill and I took a tour of the Capital. The Nobel Institute, home of the Nobel Prize for Peace is located near where the new hotel would be constructed.
The illegible brass placque on the door reads: Nobel Institute.
Nobel Peace Prize winners that year were Henry Kissinger and Le Doc Tho.
Ray Sylvester: Mr. Trader Vic Seattle Remembered (April 2012)
Who can forget the glory days of Trader Vic's in the Benjamin Franklin / Westin Seattle? The famous scorpion cocktail with four straws? Miniature umbrellas and fresh fruit garnish on all the exotic drinks. Even more so who could forget the gracious host, Harry Wong who was the consummate presence. What follows is part of an article that ran in the Seattle Times following Harry's passing.
Chris Canlis, whose father, Peter, founded the 55-year-old restaurant that bears the family name, notes it wasn't just the drinks or the South Seas décor that drew a generation to Trader Vic's. "I think it was a way of being cared for that really grew out of the era of restaurateurs like Vic Bergeron, Peter Canlis and Victor Rosellini." And in Seattle, says Canlis, Harry Wong was the embodiment of Trader Vic's. The restaurant's front-man and manager, Wong "was a gracious, warm, welcoming presence in the downtown dining scene. He set the tone."
"Harry Wong would do anything for his customers," says Tom Robinson, whose wife, Barb, got him hooked on Trader Vic's in 1959. Together they've since traveled the world sipping Tiki Puka Pukas and eating Prawns San Francisco. "Harry was known for his hospitality and his sense of humor. He always recognized us and saved our favorite table."
Once, when the Robinsons were dining with Barb's dad — "a real meat and potatoes guy" — Harry sent out a basket of warm dinner rolls, not something you'd normally find at Trader Vic's. "Later, I asked him where he came up with the rolls," says Robinson. "He'd sent someone up to the Golden Lion in the Olympic Hotel to get them."
Doug Guiberson remembers Wong as a best friend and mentor during his 10-year career with Trader Vic's and after, when Guiberson left to manage Canlis. Today, he's GM at Kirkland's Third Floor Fish Café, where he often encounters patrons from the old days.
"Trader Vic's was decades ahead of any restaurant," he notes. "Back then, you never walked into a place that smelled of curry odors and exotic spices. The spareribs out of the barbecue oven, the lamb chops, the steaks, it was just a fantastic product."
Article: Seattle Times
Ray Sylvester: A President's Election Concession Speech (April 2012)
On November 3, 1992 George H. W. Bush made his concession speech in the Grand Ballroom of the Westin Galleria in Houston. After many hugs and tears among those in his party in an adjacent staging room, Marlin Fitzwater, Jeb Bush, Mrs. Bush and Jim Baker left to enter the ballroom leaving me alone with the President and his military aide who waited outside the room. Mr. Bush lifted a leg onto the armrest of a nearby chair to tie his shoelace, then straightened his jacket, said, "Well, let's go" and entered the ballroom to a cheering crowd.
Years later I was able to recal the story when I ran into former President Bush in a local Houston grocery store.
Ray Sylvester: Chinese Embassy at The Mayflower (January 2012)
Immediately following Richard Nixon's historic trip to China in 1972, the Peoples Republic of China set up temporary a Liaison Office in The Mayflower Hotel the following on May 1, 1973.
My role as Sr. Assistant Manager was to arrange the room requirements and to assist the PRC Business Manager in arranging for transportation, menus and other recreational needs such as providing a ping-pong table which could be accommodated in the large corridors of the hotel.
As good hosts Kim Chappell (Executive Assistant Manager) and I thought it would be good to initiate our own ping-pong diplomacy by challenging some of the women to a few matches. Needless to say we were quickly dispatched, and avoided the subject thereafter.
When they needed cars, they puchased three Cadillacs with cash. When they paid the weekly bill I visited the Business Manager who would sit across from me, sitting on the twin beds, open a briefcase and count out payment in cash.
They were super guests and Bill Hulett (General Manager) and our team hosted them in a farewell party when they were ready to move into more permanent quarters.
As a gesture of goodwill on their part they sent the famous Chinese acrobatic troop to the hotel to entertain the hotel employees and their families. They also gave the hotel a uniquely stitched silk image of panda bears. That memento sat in the hotel lobby for many years thereafter.
Finally the owners of the Mayflower and Bill and Penny Hulett were then invited to China as guests of the PRC. They were among the very first westerners admitted to the country after several decades.
One day while checking a guest in I received a call at the front desk from Bill Hulett. "Guess where I am? I'm in Shanghai. It takes a wheelbarrow of money to buy something here, and everyone is staring at Penny because they've never seen a person with blonde hair before."
This was history in the making!
Photo: Ray Sylvester welcomes Chairman of Liaison of Peoples' Republic of China in the United States, Huang-Zhen, to the Mayflower. Mr. Zhen remained in that role until 1977.