I'm a bellman at 
a hotel full of celebrities. Image 1.

Matteo Berton


It’s actually two jobs

I work at a luxury hotel as a bellman during the day and answer room service calls late at night.

As the operator, you’re on the front lines of receiving telephone communications. If someone needs to speak to a guest, I’ll transfer calls to their room. In the event that it’s a celebrity who has a pseudonym, the caller would have to request the correct pseudonym. There used to be a lot of prank callers. They’d just call and talk dirty, and sometimes I’d entertain that for a minute if it was really slow.

I also take room service orders. For late night, it’s a lot of audibly inebriated people, ordering drunk munchies, etc. At the end of the shift, I start to do breakfast orders and wake-up calls. We live in a time where everybody has an alarm clock in their pocket. Everybody has a phone. Most of the time, when doing wake up calls, I can hear a person’s phone alarm going off in the background.

They just want a person to be doing a thing for them. Which is another thing I’ve seen being a bellman; this sort of person just wants to give people money to do stuff.

As a bellman, I'm the door person, so when the guests are checking in, I'm the first person they interact with. A car pulls up and they have luggage and you offer assistance if they need it, bring their stuff in, go through the whole schpiel. When that’s all settled, the guest gets keys and if they want assistance upstairs, we accompany them.

I'm a bellman at 
a hotel full of celebrities. Image 2.



In the vestibule, there’s kind of a fake wall that opens up into a little tiny room that we’ll take breaks in. Mostly, it’s where we keep our coffees and stuff, because we’re not supposed to bring things on the floor in front of guests. But what it’s probably most used for is if we get a text or something, we’ll go in there and dick around on our phones for a few seconds. The other guys described it to me as a mini-break room. There’s just, like, one sad looking wooden chair, a couple of shelves.

I was in there taking a little break. It was a long day, kind of slow. And I just hear this loud guy in the vestibule, which is basically an echo chamber between two sets of glass doors. “Man, this was a 50 million fucking deal we gotta close on this shit!” It was like he just took a face-full of cocaine and made a phone call. It was so loud. I took out my phone and made a little voice memo recording of it to play it for my co-workers. I went to the front desk and they were already looking in his direction with “what the fuck” expressions on their face. But that kind of asshole isn't common. Most of our guests are pretty cool.

A lot of the guys that have worked there for a while claim to have ghost stories. It opened a few years ago, but it’s constructed to look old. There’s a cemetery nearby. There was one night when a bottle from the bar just was in the middle of the floor late at night. I can never tell if it’s bullshit, but one guy seems convinced. There’s an event space on updatiars floor where other security guys have seen an old man asking where the light switch is. They check the cameras and there’s no old man, nobody went up or came down at that time. People are like, yeah I’ve seen the old man asking where the lights are! The Shining-style. But I’ve never seen any of it.

Our little amusing way
of sticking it to the paparazzi in
a minor way is just to photobomb their pictures. Some guys have their own trademark faces that they make. 

Dealing with requests

The famous widow of a 90’s rock star was staying there a lot when I first started. She just generally was ridiculous in any interaction that we’d have. Sometimes, she’d have really specific requests that weren’t room service. One time she called and she didn’t like the turn down cookies. Housekeeping, in the middle of the day after they’ve cleaned the rooms for guests, they put a little cookie on the pillows. And she didn’t like the turn down cookies, but she did like the cookies they had at some other hotel she stayed at the night before. So she asked at some point in the middle of the night to have a bellman go on a run to this other hotel to procure her preferred turn down cookies.

She wakes up to order breakfast in the afternoon and I was told by the other operators that she had a regular breakfast order of oatmeal with a shot of Jameson. I don’t know if anyone confirmed this but my understanding is that she put the Jameson in the oatmeal for flavor. I always thought that sounded awesome. I haven’t tried it myself.

Mostly, people send us to get average drug store stuff like Advil, cigarettes, scripts (prescriptions). There’s actually, in the mini bar area, an intimacy kit that has condoms and other items. So nobody has specifically requested something like a sex toy that wasn’t available there.

We’ll also deliver the other kind of script — film scripts. Basically, any documents that are printed out that people are emailing, or faxed in or whatever. Because there’s a lot of movie industry people that stay there. Typically, it’ll be emailed as an attachment to the operator who then prints it out, and then they’ll call a bellman to get it.

Sometimes you need to get the bell cart because a guest has a shitload of luggage, but sometimes it’s a person rolling in with just one bag. I recently wheeled in a bag for this famous actor who plays a superhero. When it’s just one bag you almost feel like, this person doesn’t need this service. We get to his room with the one bag. I’m like, “Do you want me to put this on the rack for you?” And he gives me $20. Which is standard for people that have a ton of money. A $5 dollar tip is standard for anybody. But somebody who’s loaded, $20 is standard for everything.

I was told by the other operators that she had
a regular breakfast order of oatmeal with a shot
of Jameson. I don’t know if anyone confirmed this but my understanding
is that she put the Jameson in the oatmeal for flavor. 

I'm a bellman at 
a hotel full of celebrities. Image 3.


Fans and Paparazzi

When I started as a bellman, I got to dive right into the paparazzi experience because a former sitcom star who is a tabloid favorite was staying that week. 

They park across the street. Paparazzi, independent contractors or whatever. Sometimes they’re just there hoping to catch somebody and sometimes they clearly know, they have some kind of information about a big name person being there. Just from a personal standpoint, it’s hard to respect or relate to people that are basically being stalkers for pay. Their livelihood is to stalk people. Some of that’s maybe unfair as a categorization because there are celebrities that clearly court that kind of attention and want to be photographed, and create situations for that to happen.

Our thinking is like, there are weird guys outside trying to take pictures of our guests. So our little amusing way of sticking it to them in a minor way is just to photobomb their pictures. And it all happens so fast. So some guys have their own trademark faces that they make. Like this one guy has a triangle face which is a tight kind of smile, bareing his teeth, looking like a puppet. Everybody’s got their own. You never really know if they’re going to get a usable picture but the idea is try to get yourself framed as close to their head as possible. So it’s difficult or not possible to be cropped out.

The paparazzi irritate me, but the fans are unsettling. The paparazzi are looking with dollar signs, but teenage fans or dorky middle aged women are looking at these people with stars and hearts in their eyes like cartoons. People who are fans of, like, a boy band style-celebrity are highly illogical people. There will be this gaggle of five teenage girls in frigid weather, just standing around outside waiting for a boy band-er. We’re not supposed to tell people when a celebrity is in-house but we’re also not supposed to deny they are there, so fans always take your answer as a maybe and they stick around. And you’re like, “For real he’s not here, you’re cold, just do something better with your beautiful young life!” Who does that, for hours in the cold? I don’t like anything that much.

What’s weird are the lurkers that are fans. A lot of lurking fans are just really mouth-breathin’ weirdos, others are Pokemon-gotta-catch-em-all types; autograph hounds in the middle of fans and paparazzi. Those people stand there for hours. There are hedges, so they’re literally lurking in the bushes. They’ll wait there for a three second interaction. But some wait around for the next time, hours later when they’re coming out just to get another three second interaction. 

My favorite fan used to send faxes - like part 1, part 2, part 3, up to part 20-something. To Keanu Reeves. It was like an epic poem about the love that they shared together. It’ll be 7 or 8 pages at a time, just a few stanzas, in a big font. It’s at least once a month, if not more. It’s not even sad. It’s, like, about how they need to be together. As far as I know, Keanu Reeves has never been a guest at the hotel. Maybe she just sends that to all the luxury hotels.

My favorite fan used
to send faxes to Keanu Reeves ... As far as I know, Keanu Reeves has never been a guest
at the hotel.

I'm a bellman at 
a hotel full of celebrities. Image 4. 

The elevator and
the fallen star

One night there was a weather emergency and they had employees stay in rooms. I was shooting the shit with my coworkers and at some point I went to turn in. I was on the elevator and a girl walks past and hits the button before me. I see it’s a very famous actress that was a child star, known for getting in trouble, and she’s going on this rant about not letting the Mexicans come. The elevator doors open up and I get in and she holds the door for a second for an entourage to appear. I’m suddenly in this pack of seven-foot-tall blonde women just yapping above me.

They were not paying any attention to me when I asked them to hit the button, so I missed my floor and we go straight to their floor, and we get out. And the guy she was with made a gesture like “come on, join us” so I get out into the hall on the top floor and there was this banging at the door to the stairwell because it’s locked. And the actress just says, “Who the fuck is that? Don’t let anybody that I don’t know in here. I’m not dealing with bitches I don’t know anymore!” But they’re about to go into the room to the party or whatever and I’m like touching, elbow to elbow with the star and she notices me for the first time apparently. She touches my shoulder really sweetly and says “Are you with us?” And I had this moment of temptation - I knew that the guy had kind of invited me along but at the same time, I didn’t know if I would be in trouble for hanging out with a guest, especially a celebrity.

I was just curious to see what kind of a weird scene that might be. But obviously I’m processing all of these thoughts, so I’m not speaking out of my face very well. I said no words at all, I said, “uhh I don’t know” and she very politely directed me saying, “Well the elevator doesn’t go to this floor but you can take the stairs down.” That occurred earlier in my employment so I might have responded differently today but her presence was a little overwhelming. She came in yelling and she’s really high energy. She has a kind of debaucherous reputation and I was like, “I don’t know if I’m ready for this.” 

I'm a bellman at 
a hotel full of celebrities. Image 5.

On the difference
between "us" and "them"

The best part of the job is really just being able to have little interactions with people. Coworkers will goof around when we’re not actively doing a task. If the weather’s nice, just stand outside and check the scenery, do some people watching, come inside and mingle with the front desk people. It’s not very stressful. 

I feel like with any job the best part is the people and the worst part of it is the people who aren’t the best part.

For me the job has really removed the urge to make generalizations about people. Celebrities are busy. They’re keeping to ridiculous schedules that are kind of impressive. It seems hard to be a celebrity. Just like with my co-workers, some people are cool and some people suck. Some rich people are cool and some of them suck. You can’t say the same thing about all musicians or all fashion industry people or all old money people or all new money people.

The hotel is in a neighborhood that has experienced a dramatic change over the past couple of decades or so. It’s a neighborhood that used to have a reputation for seedy activity. Some of the remnants of that are still present. So it’s interesting to see the juxtaposition of the worlds, because it’s everything from bum to billionaire. But it’s funny that they’re so close to each other in that specific place. There are insane people. It’s almost like a reminder … I guess other kind of luxury hotels in other places probably have a higher degree of isolation. But here, you can’t forget that there’s people beneath you. There’s a whole other world and you can see it.

I feel like with any job the best part is the people and the worst part of it is the people who aren’t the best part.