There's the story about the two hotelkeepers in the Catskills who met during the season. "How's business?" one asked. "Terrible," replied the other. "I have an empty room." "So, what's terrible about one empty room?"
"It's the dining room!"
"Do Not Disturb" will debut on Sept. 10 on Fox. It's a sitcom about the wacky ("meshuge") staff at the Inn ("kretshme"), a fictional hip hotel in New York City. It stars General Manager, Jerry O'Connell and Niecy Nash as the Human Resources Director.
The program is based on Abraham Hibbinbotham's experiences working at The Paramount Hotel on 46th and B'way. (In 1993 he worked the front desk.)
When I read about the new program, my thoughts turned to "Kamoose" Taylor's Hotel Rules and Regulations. (A selection)
(Rules posted September l, 1882, at the MacLeod Hotel in Alberta by Henry "Kamoose" Taylor, proprietor.)
The producers/writers of "Do Not Disturb" should look to the hotels in the Catskills for script material.
On Dilbert.com, Scott Dilbert writes, "During my college years, I worked two summers as a desk clerk for a resort in the Catskills. That's where my boss taught me that one of the services we offered was listening to irrational whining. He explained that certain [hotel] customers enjoy complaining. To them, it's not so much about getting a solution to the problem as it is the complaining itself. The resort catered to people's vacation needs, and if complaining was what they needed, it was our job at the front desk to listen to it.
We were trained to write down the complaint on a slip of paper clearly labeled "Work Order." And
throw away the piece of paper when the complainer left. Okay,
not every single time. Sometimes the
complaint involved something fixable, and
we fixed it. But often the complaints were
purely recreational, as in 'The leaves on the
trees are rustling too loudly in the wind.'
I would express concern, apologize on behalf of the resort, and make a big deal about writing down the details just right. "Are ALL the leaves a problem, Mrs. Johnson, or is a particular group of leaves being extra noisy?"
I confess taht I did not believe my boss when he said people complained for recreation. But I witnessed it often and became a believer. You could tell the diffrerence between the people who wanted a solution and the people who were in it for the complaining. The first group would just mention the problem on the way to the pool. The recreational complainers would bring a snack and a thermos and set up a campsite by the front desk. They were going to be there for a while, describing their pain, suggesting alternatives, asking for the manager, and anything else to make the experience last."
Esterita "Cissie" Blumberg ("Remember the Catskills - Tales by a Recovering Hotelkeeper"), provides the best material.
She writes, "I was at my desk one evening, tired and talked out from a hundred conversations. A woman called, after a dozen previous phone meetings, to make final reservations. I started to repeat her vital hotel statistics and began with: 'We are holding a room with bath for Mr. and Mrs. Charles Gerber' when she interrupted, "Please," her voice was angry, "the reservation is for Doctor and Mrs. Gerber." "Well," said I of the loose lip and questionable humor, "It has been my experience that anyone who insists on the title is a chiropodist." Dead sillence on the other end of the phone, and then, "Who is this?" "You'll never know," said I, "we just fired me."
Another story by "Cissie": "During all my years 'behind the front desk' [at the Green Acres Hotel], I had two recurring nightmares. In one, I saw streams of cars driving up to the hotel's entrance on the first of July--but nothing was ready and the place was dismantled and disheveled. In the other, we were spruced up, shined and primed to receive guests--and no one came!"
Hennie Youngman ("Take My Life, Please!"), writes about the Swan Lake Inn: "Our main currency for all these jobs [tummler, emcee, busboy, etc.] was the joke.
"If a guest complained about the size of his room, for instance, I would give him a recitation of how lousy my own accommodations in this joint were:
'My room's so small it has a three-cent stamp for a rug.' I might say, Or, 'My room's so small, the mice are hunchbacked.' Or, 'You should see my room. I put the key in the door and it breaks the window. When I complained, they gave me a room without a window!'"
Sid Caesar ("Caesar's Hours - My Life In
Comedy With Love and Laughter") worked
at Kutsher's Country Club in Monticello,
one of the premiere hotels in the Catskills.
He was a full-time comedian and a stand-in
musician. The management didn't
understand what he was doing. (They were
looking for a tummler--like Mel Brooks.)
Sid thought he was going to be fired.
The night before he was due to leave, he did a sketch called "The Crazy House." He played an inmate in a luantic asylum, who was tring to escape ("atloyfn"). Two other goys played the asylum guards who tried to catch him. Caesar ran through the audience ("oylem") yelling and throwing rolls of toilet paper ("tualet-papir") into the air. He was doing improvisational comedy onstage and the audience loved it. The management had never seen an audience react quite that enthusiastically.
The sketch was the big topic of conversation the following morning. His
bags were packed and he was waiting for
the hotel bus to take him back to Monticello and then to a bus to take him to New York City. The manager came
over and said, "Let's not be hasty. I think we have a place for you."
Yes, those were the days! Caesar says, 'People went to the Catskills in droves from New York City and stayed at least a week. The top customer paid $35 a week. The average hotel had two hundred rooms, ten meals a day--at least it seemed like ten--and all the sour cream,buttermilk, and green chicken you could stand."
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe hopes that the
guests at the Inn will stay
there a very long time and that the sitcom will be a hit.
More Majorie Wolfe
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