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Linda-Marie Singer is The Live Wire

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THE WALDORF-ASTORIA: Always copied; never duplicated

NEW YORK CITY: It's four o'clock in the afternoon, and my head is humming as I wheel my suitcase into the entrance of The Waldorf-Astoria. Remembering that this was the first hotel to give prominence to Art Deco in the USA, and the first really elegant hotel to host New York society, it's time to add my name to the exclusive roster.

A bellman catches my eye and quickly takes my luggage up to the Reception Desk. "Coming in from a long trip?" he inquires nicely. My mind is not on his question, but rather on the famed lobby, a 1930s Art Deco masterpiece.

A woman greets me from behind the Reservations Desk. Happily, she's not a gum chewing eighteen-year-old who wants to know, "Where ya guys from?" Instead, she gives me a verbal mini tour of the premises. I tell her all I really want is the room key.

Quite a bit more than a room and a bed.
Quite a bit more than a room and a bed.
The housekeeper follows me to my quarters on the fourteenth floor and asks whether I would like turndown service. "But I just got here" I say. She nods her head. "I'll wait for your call if you change your mind." Inside I think I hear something. What is it? Silence. A good night's sleep will no longer be in doubt.

Known for more than fifty years for its lavishness, The Waldorf-Astoria still surprises with its non-conformity. With 1,380 guestrooms including 200 suites, no two are alike unless you count original Art Deco motifs, marble bathrooms, and high ceilings. My sumptuous accommodation is stylishly decorated in rich burgundy and burnt mustard hues. The walls are pale linen so nothing distracts your eye.

Now close your eyes. Imagine it's October 1, 1931. Opening day of The Waldorf-Astoria. Thousands of onlookers are strolling along its 50 plush red carpets in front of the main entrance. Inside, 20,000 people are assembling to hear a radio address by President Hoover from Washington, D.C. Flashbulbs are popping. High Society matrons are buzzing. Can this be real? Is it possible that the first skyscraper hotel soars forty-two floors above mid-town Manhattan, spans 81,000-square feet between Park and Lexington Avenues and 49th and 50th Streets. With 2,200 rooms, no wonder on this day back in 1931, The Waldorf-Astoria is pronounced the largest hotel in the world!

Of course that includes the Waldorf Towers, "the hotel within the hotel." Occupying the 27th to the 42nd floors of the historic structure, The Waldorf Towers was the first to suggest that people live permanently in private suites. Over the decades, it has played host to royalty, show business, U.S. presidents, and of course to Cole Porter who composed his many famous melodies while living in his Waldorf Tower suite.

With so much of an historical feeding frenzy over the long years, lesser establishments would have wilted from all the continuous media attention; The Waldorf-Astoria has thrived. While other venues have tried to outclass and outrank the "Queen of Hotels," they haven't been able to duplicate the elegance and genuine charm that have captivated hotel guests for over half a century.

For now, the stay is nearly over. The clock is ticking. The Front Desk lets me know that I must leave by one o'clock. I leave at exactly one, not a moment before.

301 Park Avenue
New York 10022

Phone: 212-355-3000 or 800-WALDORF
Fax: 212-872-7272

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Linda-Marie Singer "The LIVEWIRE" for Travel Watch. Former President of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association, and created the national writers conference, "The Days of Wine & Proses." She is a travel and entertainment reporter living in the San Francisco Bay Area. (More about this writer.)

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