For Hotels, Scandals Add to Lodging's Allure

There's a reason why a lot of scandals happen in hotels.

Whether it's the anonymity, the convenience or the Frette sheets, people behave differently in hotels than they do at home. The fact that many often choose to behave badly is what makes them so interesting.

According to Francisca Matteoli, author of the upcoming Hotel Stories (Assouline, May 2002), hotels create a sense of freedom.

"Salvador Dalí was completely crazy when he stayed at the Hotel Meurice, bringing in animals and half-naked women and drawing on the walls," she says from her home in Paris. "You can bet he wasn't doing that in his home."

Which highlights another reason why people, especially rock stars, are always trashing hotel rooms: Someone else will clean it up for you.

The Better the Hotel, the Juicier the Scandal

It isn't the fault of the hotels that unusual events tend to take place within their walls. In fact, it's usually a compliment. The better the hotel, the juicier the scandal. They attract rich and famous people, and things tend to happen.

All of these events only add to the allure of a hotel and elevate it to "legendary" status.

Some hotels, such as the Beverly Hills Hotel, embrace these events as part of their lore. The hotel seems rather proud that the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes rented three of their bungalows, and it was the site of Michael Milken's Thursday night "no wives" party. After all, Milken could have chosen any hotel, but he chose theirs.

And as the adage goes, there is no such thing as bad publicity … only bad timing, such as in the case of the TriBeCa Grand and Mariah Carey having her breakdown there.

Other hotels hate to admit it, but acknowledge that a scandal only helps bring in rubberneckers. Two months after the Monica Lewinsky story broke, people were still flocking to the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City to see exactly where Linda Tripp taped her. Every time the news covered the taping (and her 11-hour interrogation), the façade of the hotel would be flashed on TV. No amount of money can buy that type of publicity.

Click here to take a quiz matching the hotel to its scandal

Below are more examples of famous hotels and their infamous tales:

The Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills, Calif.: The pink stucco Beverly Hills Hotel is home to dozens of Hollywood tales. Eccentric recluse Howard Hughes lived there on and off during the 1950s, paying as much as $350,000 per year (more than $2 million in today's dollars). Hughes rented three bungalows: one for his wife, one for his Muslim bodyguards and one for himself. Rumor has it that he ordered his roast beef sandwiches to be left in the fork of a tree in the garden so he could fetch them unseen.

More interestingly, and out in the open, is that the Beverly Hills Hotel was home to former junk bond king Michael Milken's Thursday night "no wives" party, which was a highlight of his annual "Predator's Ball." (The hotel was owned by Milken's fellow indictee and 1980's master of the universe, Ivan Boesky.) The hotel confirms that ladies' underwear often hung off the crystal chandelier. Spokespeople for the hotel were more than happy to talk about the Milken parties; we can only imagine what else has happened behind its pink walls that they're not telling us.

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