Ear Plugs

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul’s San Francisco Hotel stop reminds him of Connie Selleca and Josh Brolin

As a kid, I often dreamed of running away to San Francisco—not to be out and proud, but to join the dishy workers at the glamorous St. Gregory Hotel owned by Bette Davis.  When I wasn’t dreaming of life as Mary Tyler Moore, I hatched plots to land recurring roles in TV shows like Hotel, an Aaron Spelling soap opera appearing after Dynasty, starring Josh Brolin as the General Manager and Connie Sellecca as his romantic interest (and assistant general manager).  Although I was a long-time Love Boat fan, something about life on the high seas worried me (as it turns out, I have minor bouts of seasickness), so the land-locked drama about hospitality in the City by the Bay was where I wanted to leave my heart.

Things didn’t turn out so well for me the first trip there with my father.  He booked us into the Stamford Court hotel—not the Fairmont down the road that served as the model for my TV drama.  Forced into sharing a room with my father for the first time in my life, I was bombarded by his earth shattering snoring that must have chased the sea lions away from the wharf.  I called my mother in tears.  Divorced from my father after 25 years of marriage, she sympathized and advised me to ask the concierge for directions to the nearest drug store in order to purchase some earplugs.

“But this is important—don’t let your father find out you are using them,” she warned ominously.

View from my Harbor Court room

While Dad was busy having drinks with a friend, I ducked out of the hotel, snagged some nighttime soundproofing, and popped into the real-life St. Gregory Hotel.  I will never forget traipsing up the large staircase thinking that if I were staying there, Josh and Connie would have taken care of this problem—laughing at the antics, then upgrading us to a suite where I would have my own room.  No surprise that with that kind of imagination, I’d end up with a life on the road.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that a hotel’s charm and comfort often has less to do with the setting and more to do with the General Manager.  That’s the case at Kimpton’s Harbor Court Hotel, the host of my San Francisco stop on the Alphabet City Book Tour.  From my first conversations with General Manager Jason Stone as we planned my event, I could tell he was honestly interested in me, the book, my tour.  Although we had never met, he was friendly in that genuine Southern way.  His handiwork was on display from the moment I arrived.

My friend Diana first noticed the personal attention.  A fellow alum from Greenhill, Diana was my superstar “handler” for the day— driving me from Cupertino to San Fran via the scenic route through Half Moon Bay, then helped me schlep bags to my room.

Harbor Court's personal touch

“There are framed photos of Juan Pablo and Frida by the bed!” Diana exclaimed. “Is that normal?”

It certainly isn’t normal.  And while it might seem creepy to some that Jason had gone online to download pictures of my loved ones, it didn’t to me—after all, I live my life out there online.  When I called to tell him how touched I was by the gesture, he couldn’t have been more humble.

“You told me that they wouldn’t be coming with you on tour.   And I thought after three weeks on the road, you’d be missing them.”

With GM Jason Stone

That night at the Alphabet City Book Party in the back section of the lobby, he sat with my friends and listened to the reading—and even encouraged other guests to attend whom he thought my enjoy the event.

One sweet family staying in the hotel Googled me, saw that I was from their hometown of Dallas, and joined in on the fun.  Turns out, the mother practiced law before my father at one point.  They ended up purchasing five books as gifts, and I gave them theater tips for their upcoming trip to the Big Apple.

My new fans from Dallas!

With Slaton and Kody

Later, Jason offered to pack up some of the left over sushi for Slaton and Kody—my new Bay Area friends connected to me via my sister Paige and Whole Foods.  That Texas connection just keeps on giving.

That night over dinner at new hotspot Thermidor, I marveled at Jason’s innate sense of hospitality.  He smiled graciously.

“I tell my team to treat the guests like they are welcoming them into their home.  At the end of the day, I want guests to feel comfortable, like it is their home.”

When I depart San Francisco tomorrow, I’ll be leaving my heart behind not at Josh Brolin’s grand St. Gregory, but at Jason Stone’s homey Harbor Court.

Oh, and the earplugs?  My Dad discovered me wearing them at our hotel in Pebble Beach.  Mom was right—he was oddly furious and offended.  If only Jason had been there to handle it.

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