WHEN Hollywood star Fred Astaire topped the pop music charts in the 1930s with Puttin’ on the Ritz, fans in the United States all thought it referred to debonaire Americans.
After all, there was reference to New York’s Park Avenue, and putting on the Ritz was an expression about dressing fashionably.
The Americans were blissfully unaware it was inspired by the ultra-fashionable hotel in London’s Piccadilly, the Ritz. One verse said it all: “Strolling up the avenue so happy / All dressed up just like an English chappie / Very snappy!”
Over the years, guests have included royalty such as King Edward VII and the Queen Mother, world leaders including Sir Winston Churchill and French President Charles de Gaule and bucketloads of celebrities like Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward and Judy Garland.
It is a case of only the best will do at The Ritz.
And that includes its very dapper, and very knowledgeable, head concierge Michael De Cozar.
De Cozar’s first day of work at The Ritz was on July 30, 1973, when he was employed as a page boy to run errands for the guests of the day.
Through commitment and hard work, supplemented by charm and wit, at 20 he was promoted to junior concierge and four years later he became London’s youngest-ever head concierge.
So, it is obvious there is no task beyond him when it comes to pampering guests. Other concierges pale into insignificance.
A dozen pillows to fill the five-star room’s bathtub so a guest could sleep in that rather than his queen-size bed? Easy! Two walking machines in the bedroom, one for the guest and other for her dog? Simple! Michael can boast even more than that. It was a simple task to provide fresh seawater from Brighton Beach for one important guest’s daily bath.
But what about the guest who asked De Cozar to buy him a battleship. Not a toy one, but a dinky-di, former Royal Navy fighting machine.
It was a trifle more difficult than most requests … but not impossible.
While the guest flew back home to America, Michael went to search, ultimately finding a decommissioned 1200 tonne corvette languishing in Newcastle upon Tyne, and with the Royal Navy happy to sell.
He clinched the deal, and had the old warrior towed across the Atlantic to the guest’s home on Lake Michigan. It is still moored there today as the ultimate in an adventure playground for the grandkids, complete with onboard sandpits, basketball court, TV room and sleepover facilities.
Didn’t we say Michael De Cozar was the epitome of concierges?