Thursday, March 31, 2011


Did you hear about the thieves who reported themselves to the police? They were trying to break into an office building a few days ago in Cologne, Germany when their elevator became stuck. They couldn’t get out, so they finally used the elevator’s emergency phone to call the authorities. Firemen freed the two men and they were immediately arrested.

I know the feeling. When I was working at my first hotel, a high-rise hotel of 29 stories, I found myself stuck in the elevator on the 25th floor. I remember having to talk myself into remaining calm. Since I was the Assistant Manager [MOD} on call at the time , I didn’t think it would be too cool if I lost my cool. I too was rescued by firemen, but fortunately not arrested.

Have you ever been stuck in an elevator? If so, perhaps you had a similar experience.

I’m not a big fan of all the seemingly frivolous laws that our state and national representatives enact for us to live by but, whoever decided on making it a law to have phones in elevators did good by me.

I sleep pretty well most nights but when I do have a nightmare, it is most often about being stuck in an elevator in a really tall building.

I’m glad hotels don’t have a 13th floor. That would just add to my weirdness about lifts.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


There are both advantages and disadvantages to living in a hotel, particularly one you manage. The good is that the commute is quite tolerable, in this case an elevator ride. The bad is that you are “available” 24/7.

My wife Christine reminded me one day that I had gone 21 straight days without going out of the hotel. You might ask, how is that possible? While we were based in Miami and with The Sheraton Corporation and we lived in a hotel that was like a small city. The Sheraton Four Ambassadors Hotel contained 744 suites, 7 restaurants, 3 bars, men’s and ladies shops and salons, 2 large ballrooms, a 522 foot lobby [the largest of any hotel in the world], a spa, a yacht club and employed 450 associates. It was easy for me to become distracted for rather long periods of time and caught up in my work as there was plenty of it. We lived in the hotel on the 21st floor of tower two [there were 4 towers] overlooking Biscayne Bay.

In October of 1971, I was still a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and had been on reserve training all weekend. I had completed my duty around 6pm Sunday night and came home for a late dinner with my wife and two young daughters. I left our suite about 9:30pm to check in with all the various outlets and departments of the hotel. I returned to our suite after completing my nightly rounds around 11:30pm. Christine and the girls were already asleep, so I tried my best to not disturb them while I crawled in to bed. At 12:45 am the phone rang. Christine answered it as usual since it was located on her side of the bed. I knew a phone call couldn’t be good news at that early hour of the morning but when I heard her say, “Oh my God!”, it was confirmed that it was not going to be a fun day.

I leaped from bed and dressed hurriedly. Christine paced nervously as I finished dressing. When I asked her where I was going, she replied, “There has been a shooting in the North Ballroom and several people have been shot”. As I raced to the elevator from our suite, I heard her faint voice say, “Be careful”.

When the elevator cab reached the first floor lobby level, there were already several employees anxiously awaiting my arrival. They filled me in as best they could as I raced towards the ballroom. They had assured me that the police had already been called and were on their way. As I approached the north end of the lobby, I could hear shots still being fired. My adrenaline was racing as all I could think of was, “How dare someone hurt my employees and guests”. And then, I witnessed the bloodiest, most chaotic scene I had ever encountered in my life. I thought I had seen a lot between my Marine Corps training and my years in management of large full-service hotels, but none of that had prepared me for this.

People were screaming and frantically running everywhere. Several had been shot and were slumped over in lobby chairs and sofas either in shock or in pain. I did the only thing I knew to do since I didn’t know exactly what was going on, I yelled at the top of my lungs for everyone to get out of the area and to seek cover. When I ran into the ballroom, I found two of my bartenders curled tightly inside one of the portable bars in a corner of the room. I asked loudly, “What happened”? They said that two men had come in to the ballroom and just started shooting at members of the wedding party. I then saw a very large man who was crawling on the floor on all fours one minute and then leaping abruptly the next, knocking over tables and chairs alike as he lurched up and forward with each effort to stand up. I determined that he had been shot in the back.

As I returned to the lobby, I encountered another man who had been shot in the neck and as I approached him he went running out the front door of the hotel. I watched as he ran down the well lit, elevated and lushly landscaped main entranceway to the hotel. I could hear the sirens getting closer and see the flashing lights now and calculated that the police would surely encounter him as they approached the scene. I remember thinking how surreal this all was and how time seemed to be moving at a slowed pace. I couldn’t wait for the authorities to get there to help the injured and to help me sort out what had happened.

Get there they did, and in full force . There were 10 police cars , 3 fire engines, 4 ambulances and an assortment of other official looking vehicles.

After the police had captured one of the alleged shooters and completed questioning of him as well as numerous members of the wedding party, it was determined that the wedding party had consisted of several members of the “Cuban Mafia”. According to the authorities, they had apparently overstepped their boundaries in to the drug territory of the “Puerto Rican Mafia” and as a result had been targeted for assassination.

Once help had arrived and all of the injured were attended to, I proceeded to assess the physical damages to the hotel. The hotel lobby and ballroom looked like a war zone. There was blood everywhere. Authorities counted 21 bullet holes in the walls of the lobby and ballroom. A total of seven people had been shot, one had died from his wounds.

I remembered that we had a large convention checking in that afternoon and it was now just after 2am. We had a lot of work to do to get the hotel ready for our arriving guests as well as those already in house who would be wanting to go about their business in a few short hours. I asked all of the major department heads to report to work immediately. Our Executive Housekeeper also lived in the hotel and was quickly on the scene. She contacted a contract cleaning company to assist with the work load. The Chief Engineer went into immediate action as well. He played the role of a general contractor as he arranged for dry wall and wall vinyl repairs, painters and an army sized clean-up crew. The goal was clear. We had to turn a major crime scene back into a fully functioning convention hotel in a few short hours.

At approximately 7:30am the army of workers had completed what was nothing short of a miraculous feat. The lobby was pristine clean, the bullet holes were repaired and all wall surfaces were recovered in vinyl and repainted.

What a night! I now knew where I was going. I was headed upstairs for a few hours of much needed sleep.

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