Ray Sylvester: East Meets West a.k.a Polyester Suit Meets Mao Suit
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 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 Chief of Liaison and eventual Ambassador Huang-Zhen to the Mayflower
December 30, 2012
Ray Sylvester: Mr. Trader Vic Seattle Remembered
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
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.