Friday, August 27, 2010

Call Security! The Life And Times Of A Hotel Detective International Inn And Shoreham Hotel Washington D.C.

Click on the picture above to enlarge it. That is the Shoreham Hotel in the picture above. The picture below is of the old International Inn Hotel. I worked at both places.
Here is some good information on the Shoreham Hotel. There is a link at the bottom of this wikipedia page to a good history of the hotel.

Click on the above pictures to enlarge them.
Here is good information about the man who designed the International Inn which opened in 1962. Interesting that he also the designed the Hotel Americana Bal Harbour on Miami Beach among others there.

I worked for 25 years as a Hotel Detective in Washington D.C. We were also known as Security. Hotel Detectives were once known long ago as House Dicks.
I will tell some incidents from my days as a Hotel Detective as I can remember them.
I will try to keep each vignette as short as possible.

#1: A young man comes in the hotel in the afternoon and goes to the restaurant. He orders the best steak and champagne. He is not dressed well. It is getting late in the afternoon and he keeps ordering and eating. Finally the staff gets nervous about whether he is going to pay or not. They call Security. I go to the restaurant. I wonder why they served him in the first place. By the time I get there the young Vietnam Veteran restaurant manager has the guy in his office. I stand outside. I hear yelling and then thumping and crashing. The manager is yelling at the guy telling him to never come in his restaurant again.
The Asst. Security Chief shows up. He has just come on duty. He is related to the restaurant manager. He asks what is going on. I tell him. He says. "Butch will kill him". Meaning Butch will hurt the guy. The Asst.Chief hurries in the office to keep Butch from hurting the guy any further.
The guy is from Romania. He tells us he has just gotten out of jail. He did the same trick the day before at the Mayflower Hotel. The police he says just arrest him and keep him overnight and then they let him out and he goes and does it again in another hotel.
Times are tough in Romania. Many people have left to come to the USA.
The police are called and they take him away.

#2: Again it is mid afternoon. I am in the restaurant talking with the bartender who is orginally from Thailand. I am looking at him as we talk with my back to the window facing the swimming pool. He suddenly says you better get out there. I ask why. He says some guy just jumped on a woman.
I run out to the pool. The lifeguard is sitting on top of the guy. The police are called. The young woman is wearing a two piece bathing suit. The guy had jumped on top of her and she is not hurt so much as just surprised. When the police arrive one of the wits on the force says to the guy "You know in this country we usually offer them a drink before we jump on them". The young guy is not American. Maybe Muslim maybe Middle Eastern.
I get a chance to ask the guy why he did what he did. No one had bothered to ask him. They weren't the least bit interested in why he did it.
He tells me he did it because his religion tells him to. I guess he was offended by her showing so much flesh.
They take him away. The young woman goes back to sunbathing.

#3: We ran the garage operation at the hotel. I ran the monthly parking accounts. No one else wanted to do this but I figured out that if I ran it all by myself when hard times hit and layoffs and firings occurred they would keep me on to run the garage. And that is what happened. At one point we closed for renovation and I was the only Security guy kept on because of the monthly parking accounts.
We also oversaw the garage equipment and the garage attendents. That is the cashiers and the valet parking.
One day I was in the lobby and got a call that there was no one in the garage booth exit. I said that is not possible. I had just seen the guy out there. But I was told there was a line of people waiting to get out of the garage.
I went outside and it was true I could see no one in the garage booth. I went over and looked inside. The cashier(an Ethiopian namde "Sami")was down on the floor on his prayer rug saying his prayers. I watched for a moment or two and then asked him to get up and attend to the customers.

#4. Some of the best events happened late at night when I wasn't there but I would be told about them in the morning when I came on duty.

They had hired a young woman from Chicago to run the Personnel or Human Resources department. Since this was a somewhat small hotel of only 300 rooms her operation was a one or two at the most operation.
This was in the 1980s and she fell under the spell of a guy from Texas who was working in the sales office. He got her hooked on drugs. Cocaine primarily. But she was also seeing the head of the sales dept. who was a young man recently graduated from the University of Virginia.

Whenever I went to Personnel to find her on business I never could find her. She kept her office closed and locked all day. Or she would open the door a crack and tell me she was busy and to go away.

So it came to pass one night things suddenly got more interesting. We had a former U.S. Marshall working the night shift. He was a middle aged black guy with an easy going attitude. He was from Louisiana originally. He had played football at Grambling in La. and had had a tryout with the New Orleans Saints.

The morning in question I arrived at 7am and he was in a shaken state of mind. He told me that the lady in charge of Personnel had been downstairs in her office with the head of the sales dept. in the middle of the night. Something had not gone right and she ran out of the office with no clothes on wearing a chain necklace and nothing else. She was in a stoned state of mind running around the hotel basement and lobby naked.

He had to deal with this crazy naked white woman. He told me it made him most nervous. He was worried he might somehow get implicated or accused of something. However he did get something to cover her naked body and managed to handle the situation from that point on.

It was a sensitive time since we were getting a new manager that next day. Discussions were held as to tell the new manager or not. Decisions were made.The new manager was told of the events. She was let go. So was the sales guy who got her on drugs. Somehow the sales manager kept his job.

#5: The owners of the hotel liked to present a high class image. When Reagan was first inaugurated(1980) the manager and the owners installed a guy in a tux in the lobby to play classical music on a grand piano.
The manager invited all the Hollywood and other celebs over for a fine brunch before the swearing in ceremonies. So Wayne Newton and his band came over from wherever they were staying along with many other celebs. But this story is about Wayne Newton's band from Las Vegas.
Somehow the band members didn't like the stiffness of the classical pianist and the general uptight air of Washington,D.C.
So on the morning of the swearing in the lobby was full and the guy was playing his classical music. Wayne Newton's band guys from Las Vegas had seen and heard enough of the classical piano player. The band guys were standing over by the front desk. One of the guys dropped his pants and turned and showed his naked backside to the piano player. They all laughed. It all happened so fast I am not sure how many people saw him. Nothing came of it. Case closed.

#6: We got a call early one Sunday morning from a tour bus driver who was sleeping in a room on the top floor of the Shoreham Hotel. This was a larger hotel I had worked at previously. The bus driver said someone was scratching on the walls of his room.
We went up to take a look. It was around 7am. He was still in bed. We listened and indeed we could hear scratching on or in his walls.
I went out and walked up some stairs up toward the roof. I got inside the roof and found that pigeons had come in through the vents in the outside wall and were scratching on the man's room walls. We got the pigeons out somewhow. Case closed.
Use the link below to read about the Shoreham Hotel. You can see photos and also take a virtual tour of the hotel.

#7: We got calls from time to time to put homeless people out of the lobby and public restrooms which were not kept locked. Sometime junkies would go in the men's room across from the Executive Offices and go in a stall to shoot up. The guy(Richard from Panama)who cleaned what he called "the water closets" would complain to me about the blood in the stalls he had to clean up.

I got to work around 6am one morning. At that time we had the British Airways crews of the Concord staying with us. They had to get out early every morning so a buffet would be set up for them in the lobby at 530am. We also had an old man who worked for us who would carry bags at that time of night since no bellman was on duty. This man kept holding them up moving slowly with his hands out for a tip. They finally could stand it no longer and moved out to a hotel at Tyson's Corner nearer Dulles Airport where the Concord would be waiting for them. He was not on duty the morning of this incident.

I had just arrived at work. We got a call to remove a homeless man from the lobby who was drinking coffee and eating from the British Airways buffet. I went up to put him out. When I got there one of the British Airways female flight attendents told me "Why don't you let him have some coffee?" The guy was an older short black man. I told him he had to go. He replied that she had offered to let him stay. I told her she was interferring and that if he had walked on her plane she would not invite him to stay. It was still dark outside. I asked her if her social conscience was bothering her. She said "I can't believe you said that".

The guy behind the front desk must have called our office again because I saw our night man who was an ex football player and former U.S. Marshall coming around the corner heading for the lobby. He also happened to be black. He came on without saying a word picked the short black man up by the seat of his pants and his collar and bum rushed him out the front door. The short black man said "Why am I being molested". He did not come back in.

The British Airways female flight attendent looked shocked but said nothing.
The former U.S. Marshall did not say a word to anybody. He just calmly walked on back to our office. He never said a word to me about it or to anybody else. Case closed. End of story.

#8. At The Shoreham we had 3 military guys working the night shift. They had been doing this for 3 years. It turned out one of them would come in and punch the other two in so that all 3 got paid but only one was working each night. They finally got caught and got fired.

Before they got fired I heard about this story. The one on duty on the midnight shift would sometimes go in a vacant room and take his clothes and go to sleep. This one night the midnight telephone operator who worked alone in a room in the basement of the motor inn called and said she needed Security to bring her some bug spray. He ignored her. She kept calling back. He finally got tired of her bothering him and he said he took some bug spray over to the phone room and sprayed it all over the room and her.
She complained but nothing came of her complaint. Case Closed.

#9. I was standing in the Lobby of the Washington Plaza Hotel near the front desk. The Washington Plaza is what the International Inn Hotel became after it was sold and shut down for renovation and then reopened.

I saw a well dressed black lady over by the elevators. The Washington Plaza has a small lobby and it is possible to stand near the front desk and see the elevators and also out the front door and also down to the bar and restaurant.
I looked back toward the elevators and saw the black lady stick her leg out and put her foot in the door as if to try and stop the door from closing. She got on the elevator and disappeared.

I was back in the office a short time later when the phone rang. The Security Chief answered it. He listened. Then he told me there was a lady in the lobby who was saying the elevator closed on her foot.
I told him I saw her stick her foot in the elevator door on purpose in an effort to keep the door from closing. He asked me "Are you willing to swear to that in court?" I told him yes. He then told her what I had said. No further complaint was made. She dropped the matter. I never heard anymore about it.

#10. We had an air curtain in the front door of the Washington Plaza. That way the sliding glass doors could be kept open and the air conditioning or heat could operate up through vents in the grate by the front door. These vents had narrow openings of less than half an inch. It was not a problem to walk on unless you were in high heels.

A female jazz singer(she will go unnamed)who was playing at Blues Alley was staying with us. The hotel had a contract to put up all the jazz musicians and singers that performed at Blues Alley. Mose Allison, Miles Davis, Nancy Wilson, John McLaughlin, and others had stayed with us.

She had a date with the quarterback of the Washington Redskins(he also will go unnamed). They had been out on the town and came back late to the hotel. She somehow managed to catch one of her high heel shoes in the grate at the front door and the heel snapped off.

She started cursing. She said, "Who is going to pay for my MFing shoes?" She got louder and louder. The quarterback looked embarrassed. He tried to calm her down. A report was made and she was told the hotel insurance would cover the costs of her shoes.

Years later I learned that this famous black female jazz singer had committed suicide. It was a very sad story. She had problems she could not handle. I dont know what they were but I do know she had trouble keeping a relationship with men. She was very tall. Taller than most men. And she also was a very demanding personality. It was a great loss to the jazz world.

#11. The Christmas season was always a time of crime in D.C. We had many junkies in the neighborhood and they preyed on the parked cars in our garage late at night.
At that time all of 14th Street near Thomas Circle and Mass. Ave. was full of pimps,and prostitues, and junkies. Especially late at night. The area has since been cleaned up and all that is mostly all gone.

But one Christmas one of our female employees left all her Christmas gifts in her automobile overnight. The next morning we were called to the garage. Someone had broken into her car and not only stolen all her gifts but they had ripped the gift wrapped packages open and left the empty boxes and gift wrapping on the garage floor.
Thefts from cars are the #1 crime in D.C.

More Hotel Detective Stories to follow. Check back from time to time.