The first few minutes of this documentary are a tribute to discretion: a montage of talking heads who refuse to talk–and as Diana Vreeland once said, “elegance is refusal.” The very fact of this documentary verges on the indiscreet, but I forgave the indiscretion and am thrilled to have had a peek. This is a movie that made me want to put on a veiled hat, sip champagne from a coupe, slip into some late night jazz, then retire to my suite and lay my head on a monogrammed pillow. This is still possible ALWAYS AT THE CARLYLE. I am not hallucinating. It is my dream, and it still, against all odds– exists.
Writer/director Matthew Miele takes us on a delicious trip back in time to “The Carlyle, ” the ultra elegant upper East side New York hotel where people dressed, where graciousness was prized and refinement was nurtured. The Carlyle has existed for 87 years. It’s habitues have included Jackie Kennedy (who regularly lunched here on Cobb salad at table 10) and George Clooney–who slyly marvels at its elegance, hints at its scandalous past, but calls it “family.”
Indeed, the Carlyle’s “glam fam” included Marilyn Monroe who purportedly made her way through a secret tunnel (yet to be uncovered) to a certain “Mr. President.” Paul Newman back in the salad days concocted his dressing here. The most famous elevator ride in history took place here according to Piers Morgan: Princess Diana, Steve Jobs, and Michael Jackson!! Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter once interviewed Gonzo author Hunter Thompson here over “a bottle of scotch, a bowl of cocaine, and a bowl of cereal.” Foodie/adventurist Anthony Bourdain calls the Carlyle “completely awesome, and frankly, nuts.”
The documentary gave me everything I wanted– and left me wanting more. More history. More old photos. More tales from its considerate and subtle staff, more of Dorothy Draper’s art deco design, and legendary jazz entertainer Bobby Short’s nights at the Cafe Carlyle’s piano; more anecdotes about Jack Nicholson and the staff, and Bill Murray’s avuncular presence, and the royals popping in, and more celebs from Jon Hamm and Vera Wang, to Lenny Kravitz, Roger Federer, and the late great Broadway star Elaine Stritch who lived to see a suite emblazoned with her name in gold.
ALWAYS AT THE CARLYLE packs the thrill and romance of a bygone era into 92 minutes of pure magic. It made me long for a style that has gone out of fashion but carries on here in the midst of a hyped-up world almost too busy to notice, thank goodness. Maybe if they don’t notice, it can linger a bit longer, offering refuge to people like me who are tired of seeing guys wearing baseball caps out to dinner.
See the film which just opened (WEST NEWTON CINEMA & check your local listings) then head to the establishment itself. I’ve already made my reservation.