The Plaza by Julie Satow [7/10]

Reading “The Plaza: The Secret Life of America’s Most Famous Hotel” is an absorbing, deft passage through an aspect of America’s 20th Century, from the hotel’s glitzy unveiling in 1907 through to its most recent bizarre ownerships. An additional layer of enjoyment arises if you ever stayed there, as I did in the early 1990s, for then all the references to the Oak Room, the Palm Court, the chandelier-capped lifts, and the sumptuous location on Fifth Avenue looking into Central Park are familiar. Julie Satow chronicles the high-style owners, the famous or infamous guests, and the fate of the hotel staff. Highlights include the 1964 pandemonium of a Beatles stay, Truman Capote’s gala party a couple of years later, the turbulent Trump ownership years from the late 1980s, and the almost phantasmagoric transformation into a condominium/hotel complex in the mid-2000s. Is there another global hotel with such a century-plus reputation for luxury and status, such frenetic longing in its history? I doubt it and this excellent book certainly seals its reputation.

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