Small Details Spell Success for Hotel Chief: Guests and Employees Get Priority with Stan Bromley

Article excerpt

The butler knows best. But when the hotel's self-styled "butler" also happens to be its regional vice president and general manager, the perspective changes.

A butler heeds the call of master, mistress or guest. A general manager knows nearly everything about the care and feeding of guests in advance. Or tries to. Stan Bromley of the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown is both. Hotel publicity materials dub him, affectionately, "the ultimate Jewish mother" - a sign of status in the profession.

His act is convincing for a butler who lives in Potomac and is on a first-name basis with many of the famous people he serves. He estimates he is in regular contact with some five dozen people of greater or lesser celebrity for whom he does special favors -TV's Larry King, for instance, whom he considers a friend - and from whom he may receive favors in return.

"If I can provide comfort, I have power," he says in his charmingly direct manner, which hides a wealth of discretion and tact. He is a juggler of roles who calls himself "a combination of country club and condo manager - businessman, butler, rabbi, priest, psychiatrist, taskmaster and worrywart." And no wonder, since in addition to the property here, he oversees two hotels in New York, and one each in Boston and Palm Beach, Fla.

The current week provides rare downtime in Mr. Bromley's life, a break before the new Congress comes to town and inaugural festivities get under way in January. It marks an abrupt change from a two-week period earlier this month when the hotel was the site of some 35 parties in addition to "hosting" the Crown Prince of Morocco, in town for the National Symphony Ball; a former U.S. president traveling under a pseudonym; and Lebanon's head of state, all with separate security details.

Also present: movie star Laura Dern, diplomat-banker Richard Holbrooke and NBC-TV honcho Bob Wright. The hotel's owner came through at the same time employees were holding their annual children's Christmas party, which cut back considerably on staff. After a party for the Helen Hayes Awards committee held there this month, so many people were lined up to retrieve valet-parked cars that the head of housekeeping was called upon to schmooze impatient patrons crowding the lobby.

Staff moved 180 cars in an hour that night, probably setting some kind of Guinness Book record. Another time, the head of housekeeping got to baby-sit the dog belonging to a groom in a wedding taking place on the premises; the dog, of course, was part of the ceremony.

Efficiency! Industry! Diplomacy! The need to be ever considerate, ever humble. To be the last word in service in order to be first. Awards, praise, persistence. The latter is paramount above all.

Born Stanley Bloomberg in Johnstown, Pa., Mr. Bromley, 52, was the son of an innkeeper who died when Mr. Bromley was 14. During high school, he worked summers in an uncle's hotel in Lake Placid, N.Y., and soon after graduation took himself to Switzerland to enter the Ecole Hotelier Lausanne and later worked his way up from dishwasher at the Orly Hilton outside Paris to food and beverage director at the Stanford Court in San Francisco. He joined the Four Seasons in 1989.

His center of operations is a windowless room below ground in a warren of executive offices near the front of the hotel. Upstairs are 196 luxuriously appointed rooms and suites behind a stern brick facade heralded by a clock tower at 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Built in 1979, the building originally was going to be part of a moderately priced motel chain. Its square lines since have been softened by bountiful greenery and soothing decor, making the interior into something resembling a well-lit stage set.

As middleman in the ever-changing world of guests and 400 full- and part-time staff, he alternates sweet talk with the sour, taking two to three pages of reminder notes each day: anything from the taste of the coffee in the dining room to expressions on employees' faces. …