I once stayed in a hotel in Sydney where Elton John resided during his wild days and the guy behind the counter got me coke, they turned a blind eye to the trail of late night visitors and Alice Cooper was rumoured to have taken his python swimming in the roof top pool. I know this rumour isn't true because I started it, whilst sitting in the rooftop sauna drinking frozen margaritas in a thunderstorm looking out at the rain popping pool.
Such was the hotels reputation for debauchery no-one ever actually questioned it. On the last night of my stay I had twenty people in my room and when we left in the morning I noticed a massive crack across one of the windows, they never contacted me about that. You might think this place sounds like a dump but in fact it was a very classy and private hotel. The best thing about it, and this has to be the best thing about any hotel, they let me do whatever the fuck I wanted and never once complained or interfered. In fact they helped me on my way.
If there's a true definition of a great hotel it's a place you can go and do whatever you want, with better furnishings than your own home and no need to tidy up afterwards. I'm not talking about the mindless trashing and destroying of property which some poor cleaning woman has to clean up but the opportunity to be as private, filthy and downright weird as you want without ever being judged or reprimanded. You want to see a great hotel in action in the movies? Forget Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas or California Suite and think of the kindly concierge who takes Julia Roberts shopping in Pretty Woman.
Over the past twenty five years I've had the pleasure of staying in some fantastic hotels and have come to know what defines a great place to check in to. It is not a poncy Euro-trash bar with celebrities mouthing off. It is not having faxes delivered in lime green envelopes that cost $10 a time. It is not having every surface edge razor sharp and every male model staff member dressed in black like they're auditioning for a Japanese new wave sex video. The things that make a great hotel are the same things the rich and raucous have always gone to hotels for. An opportunity to fuck and drink and relax in private. The lure of instant hotel sex with someone you've just met, or illicit hotel sex with someone you shouldn't be with, or indeed planned hotel sex with someone you most definitely should be with is over-powering.
One night back in the 80s I was running back to my room at the Hyatt on Sunset (Led Zepellin called it the Riot House) and found a couple in power suits, who had obviously just met at a conference, practically punching the face off the manager to get a room. The place was full, so I just thought fuck it, they were so keen that I gave them my room key. It wasn't like I had anything to steal and some record company was paying for it anyway. They offered money but I didn't take it. I figured it would just add to the quality of their anecdote when they got back to their mates. "Then this scrawny English guy came out of nowhere and like.. just gave us his room." When I got back for breakfast the sheets were everywhere, there was a used conditioner bottle by the bed and a business card with a thank you note. But you know what? To this day that guy's in the States somewhere telling that story about his great hotel night in Hollywood.
The first thing on the hit list for a great stay is the atmosphere of a hotel. You want to feel like you're the only guests that are there, the only guests that matter and once you're in your room you want to forget about everything that's beyond the door. The best hotel I've found for this is The Lowell in New York, who probably won't welcome the publicity. No-one I ever mention it to has ever heard about it and indeed I hadn't before I stayed last Easter. Since then I saw mention of it in Andre Aggassi's excellent autobiography and once caught a news clipping that Madonna had been living there. The Lowell will not tell you these things though because they are discreet. It looks discreet and feels discreet. The suite we stayed in was so comforting my girlfriend and I turned our backs on Manhattan on Saturday night and stayed in and fucked instead. Champagne, oysters, fries and we were away but the thing I remember was the quality of the upholstery on the chairs and the depth of the mini-bar.
I haven't drank for ten years now so you'll believe me when I say it takes a lot to impress me with alcohol. But the room bar at the Lowell did. A great hotel needs a great room bar and I'm not talking about some glass fronted replica of Barbie's suitcase with mini versions of big strong drinks. At the Lowell they had two deep filled cool drawers with what amounted to an impressive rock and roll rider. It's not often sheer envy and opportunity have prompted me to consider coming off the wagon but this was one of them.
After the atmosphere and the bar you need to think bed. This is really simple. One end of the bed should be in a different Zip Code to the other. When you lie on it you should always think, 'I wish my bed at home felt this good'. Even if you've felt that before and then gone home and spent $6000 on a bed like I did you should still feel bettered by the bed in your next hotel room.
It should be low enough to allow you to fuck half on and off it, using both the floor and the comfort of mattress to bounce off. But also high enough to use the wall mirrors if you fancy it. I'm not sure about roof mirrors. A few years back four magazine colleagues found themselves in a Love Motel in Rio with some ladies, only for one of them to call time on the activity at dawn when he looked up from beneath a Brazilian 'good time girl' as they insisted on calling them, and realised the car correspondent of our title was simultaneously watching him in action in the ceiling reflection and masturbating.
If the only place you can fuck in your suite is the bed then you are also in trouble. The bathroom is of course obvious. But you also have to be able to hang your partner over the balcony and let them enjoy what - if you're high up - can be described as a cross between rear-entry and atmospheric re-entry.
Swimming pools and rickety lifts are also important. A small lift with a history of stopping between floors should be seen as a godsend and not a hinderance and a private pool without a lifeguard might not fare well with the hotels insurance company but is a superb chance to get her wet by well.. getting her wet..
At the recently refurbished Grand Hotel Du Cap Ferrat, which is the finest establishment I've joined Picasso, David Niven and Liz Taylor in staying in, they have rather modestly called the private pools in their new DeLux apartments plunge pools. Carefully placed rocks and the angle of balconies mean you enjoy total privacy in each of these watering holes. If you want to impress someone and have the money, believe me, fly over to Nice now. Boris Yeltsin was one of the most outrageous world leaders of recent times, no stranger to walking out of the White House near naked in the hunt for booze and pizza, so you can only wonder what went on when he chose to stay at the private villa the Grand Hotel also have on their grounds. Most passers by assume big walls round hotel gardens are to keep nosey papparrazzi out but in Boris case it was probably to keep him in.
Other key issues. If you're in delivery distance of a local Agent Provocateur shop that's good. If you have hotel staff that don't need a sign to tell them not to barge in, that's good too. And if they'll let you bring your own stuff in that's even better. I was staying at the superb five star spa resort Six Senses Hideaway in Ko Samui, Thailand where couples from Switzerland retreat for three months at a time and the Formula One legend Michael Schumacher stays. At dinner I asked a fantastically entertaining and garrulous senior staff member what the strangest thing he'd ever experienced was and he replied "The Russian with his meat." When I asked if he was unkindly referring to woman of a certain profession he replied "No, he already had some interesting friends along and then he flew in a huge stainless steel fridge from Moscow with cuts of his favourite meat."
Believe me there's nothing wrong with the food at that hotel, it's fantastic. But good on them for helping the oligarch with his meat feast. So there you go. Forget about mere distraction like sharks in the tank behind reception and the fake volcano going off on the front lawn. These are the simple things that make a great hotel. Atmosphere, Bed, Bar, Discretion, Privacy, Balcony, View and it helps if there's a beautiful woman too.
Finally next time you nick a bathrobe or a bottle from the mini-bar or leave unsightly stains on the bed sheets remember you are only at the foothills of what can and has been done in hotels around the world throughout history. One time in Paris Salvador Dali ordered twenty sheep, a horse and a gun to his room and he got them too. So next time you check in, stop being so meek assert yourself and start getting the hotel experience you deserve.