How many superstars must stay in a hotel in order for it to staff a full-time “film concierge?”
If that sounds like the setup for a lame joke, you obviously haven’t been to Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York. That’s where you’ll find Kolene Elliott, responsible for driving 25 shoots (from commercials to feature films) to the Royal York, each year. But you don’t have to sign up for one of her behind-the-scenes film tours of the York—start your own on the lower level where you’ll find floor to ceiling black and white photos of Hollywood glam who have strutted their stuff along the hotel’s 72 km of carpeting for decades. Feel free to meander independently through the gilded ballrooms (which once doubled as theatres for silent movies) but if you’re lucky to get on one of Elliott’s tours you’ll poke into the stars’ dressing rooms and leave with little known facts . . . did you know the hotel’s claim goes back to 1929 when it was deemed the tallest building in the British Empire? The Royal York also had the largest hotel kitchen in Canada with a bakery that could produce over 15,000 French rolls a day, its own bank, golf course and a 66-foot-long switchboard staffed by 35 telephone operators.
And the superlatives aren’t stuck back in the ’20s and ’30s—for this is no frumpy has-been. Like Disney, the Hollywood stars and overall numbers behind the York’s operations continue to stagger. Eleven world leaders stayed here during the G20 Summit of 2010 and if every bit of dining space in this massive property were used, its 110 chefs could feed 10,000 people at one meal. As for rooms, well, there are 1,365 of them—a little more than one per staff member—that’s if you were to count all 1,200 employees. As for stars—they were all aglitter recently during the International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA) that featured an appearance by Bollywood superstar, Shahrukh Khan. The Royal York was one of the host hotels for the three-day film and fashion extravaganza—a role they also play annually, during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) where the Royal York’s Library Bar has always been a magnet, as is its $14 Festival Buzz martini. If that massive clock that ticks time in the lobby looks familiar, it’s because you’ve seen it in countless films (including last year’s release of Red with Helen Mirren and John Malkovich) as well as Chloe and Amelia to Grey Gardens and Cinderella Man.
Yet for all its firepower, the Royal York doesn’t clobber you with gaudy glitz. Like other historic properties it has cozy nooks aplenty, clusters of overstuffed slouchy chairs, Travertine pillars and hand-painted ceilings. Though now hugged by skyscrapers, the Royal York remains as stately a beacon in Toronto as it did in 1929, when it first opened. No other hotel in Toronto does such a good job of marrying its elegant colonial past with its modern persona but see for yourself. For flat-out glam and stunning views, do what the likes of Matt Damon, Robert Kennedy, Justin Bieber and Andrew Lloyd Webber have done—book the 1,830 sq. ft. Governor General Suite that comes with the use of the hotel’s Beamer and a personal butler for a paltry $1,800 per night.
Or, the 5,000 sq. ft. Royal Suite for a few shekels more! In case you can’t join Elliott on one of her behind-the-scenes hotel tours, join up! as we meet the film concierge in the gilded lobby of the Royal York. (The Fairmont Royal York, 100 Front Street, Toronto, 416-368-2511; rooms start at $259/suites start at $539 but check the web for last-minute deals; fairmont.com/royalyork).