My letter from the managers of the Waldorf Hotel group, asking me what they should do to convert the former Fairmont (once Roosevelt) Hotel to incorporate it into their own brand, hasn’t arrived – yet. Since they might be too shy to ask or uncertain of what the latest postage rate is, I’ll save them the trouble and present these suggestions here:
1. Save the Sazerac. We’re talking about the bar as well as the drink. The Fairmont/Roosevelt’s Sazerac bar was one of the most elegant drinking places in the city and the only one named after a native drink. If its walls could talk (wouldn’t that be a curiosity) they would probably be slapped with slander suits to try to prevent them from revealing the political conversation and dealings spoken there through the decades.
In the last year of the Fairmont, some bad changes were made to the Sazerac: Please, take away the widescreen TV – nature didn’t intend for the room to be a sports bar. Also, bring back the banquettes – the elegant curved sofas that had been replaced by ordinary tables.
Order a new batch of Sazerac glasses and be sure your bartenders know how to fix the drink, including the twirl when the glass is tossed spinning into the air so that centrifugal force spreads the simple syrup. And don’t forget the Ramos Gin Fizz, another Fairmont classic. Reviving the Sazerac is more than just saving a bar, it’s historic preservation.
2. Save The Blue Room. This was once the most elegant supper club in the city and one of the tops in the nation. True, supper clubs aren’t as popular as they once were but how about at least an after-hours jazz band? Make it a place where conventioneers can relax before returning to their room. Also think about “Broadway South.” Once the Orpheum and other area theaters are active again, the Blue Room can be the place to go before and after theater. Planned right, the Blue Room can have a role in the emergence of the new theater district.
3. Save the murals. There are beautiful Art Deco-era murals in the hotel by artist Paul Ninas. Several are in the Sazerac including one showing a scene at Jackson Square with a character in a white suit wearing a panama hat who many people have assumed to be Huey Long. The murals in the bar are so grand that saving them should be obvious. But there are more. Go to the University Place end of the hotel next to the escalator. An area that had been walled off for storage – that was once an airline ticket counter – has a beautiful, long, hidden mural of early aviation hidden inside. Tear down the wall, Mr. Waldorf, and let the mural shine again.
4. Keep the Christmas spirit. Dreaming of a white Christmas in New Orleans meant walking beneath the Fairmont’s block-long canopy of angel hair. No hotel in the city has as much of a nostalgic hold on the native population as does this building. There are nearly as many stories of visiting the hotel’s lobby during Christmas as there are of Hurricane Katrina survival – only the former are a lot happier. (And remember the Teddy Bear teas for kids where even the finger sandwiches were fixed in the shape of the cubs.)
Help the locals save their culture and they’ll love you for it. We will even toast you success – over a Sazerac.