Magazine article Newsweek

Return of the Hotel Butler; Talk about Service: One Manservant Bailed a Famous Heir out of Jail

Magazine article Newsweek

Return of the Hotel Butler; Talk about Service: One Manservant Bailed a Famous Heir out of Jail

Article excerpt

Byline: Rukhmini Punoose

The word "butler" still conjures up visions of a Wodehousean gentleman in coattails effortlessly managing every detail of an English country estate. But thanks to a growing trend at luxury hotels from Tokyo to Las Vegas, manservants are getting a makeover. Instead of the famously stolid butler of Victorian descent, today's version is a warm and affable personal concierge-cum-valet. And all you need to do to get one is make the right reservation.

Relying on individualized service to set them apart, tony boutique hotels have turned to butler services in an effort to lure customers away from large five-star chains. Like the butlers of yesteryear, these major-domos are apt to look upon an unstarched collar with a somewhat jaundiced eye.

But they're also trained to surf the Net, play a sommelier, unobtrusively pack and unpack bags and plan parties. They can even organize hot-air-balloon rides. "Any hotel can provide all the trappings of modern society, but few can make their guests feel secure and welcome," says Liam Ryan, manager at London's 51 Buckingham Gate, which recently added butlers ($597 to $1,460 per night; www.51-buckinghamgate.com).

The Howard in Edinburgh has service fit quite literally for a queen. Head butler Cory Douglas Campbell was employed by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. To ensure that standards are met at the hotel, Campbell runs an intensive butler-training course that includes field trips to a 700-year-old castle, where participants learn to set a proper dinner table laden with silver and gold. Campbell's butling feats have included having a Domino's pizza delivered to a family on the Edinburgh-to-London train, assisting at a medical emergency when a guest overdosed and bailing out the grandchild of a prominent American from a Bohemian jail. …

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