Two television shows have the hotel industry buzzing: Anthony Melchiorri’s “Hotel Impossible” on the Travel Channel and Gordon Ramsay’s “Hotel Hell” series on Fox. In the “Hotel Hell” series, Gordon Ramsay sets out on a quest to “fix horrid hotels, awful inns and just plain bad bed and breakfasts.” And in “Hotel Impossible”, Melchiorri, a renowned hotel fixer, helps to turn around the businesses of struggling hotels.
No matter the show, the national exposure that the hotel in each episode receive undoubtedly brings a good amount of positive PR and awareness. It’s their 15 minutes of reality show fame. Melchiorri is definitely easier to watch than Ramsay, but both series astutely point out that unless they shape up, some hoteliers just shouldn’t be in the hotel business. Oh no…He found dusty knickknacks in the lobby - run and hide!
Standing out from the buzz in all of the hospitality industry publications is Larry Mogelonsky’s recent blog on the HOTELS magazine site. The column highlights lessons learned from “Hotel Impossible”, outlining ten insights that hoteliers can gain from watching Melchiorri rip through hotels like a (loveable) Tasmanian Devil. These tips are especially important for independent hoteliers who may not be held to a strict operational brand standard - and they are also a great reminder for every hotel team from the bellman to the General Manager. Excerpts from the HOTELS blog:
Lobbies are a social experience. Outdated décor, cluttered furniture and a lack of good F&B offerings will drive people away from the lobby and ultimately from returning to a hotel. The lobby should be an extension of a pleasing first impression, and it also has to be inviting for a host of other activities. The first step always centers on your front desk and its clerks. This is the nexus of operations. People shouldn’t be discouraged from hanging around or approaching a staff member…
There’s no excuse for not listening to online reviews. Note the word “listening” — not “reading.” There’s a big difference. With typos, missed punctuation and run-on sentences galore, sometimes it’s hard to process what it is your past guests are saying. If this is an area where you need to improve, try this: print off each review onto a separate page (Sorry, trees!) and take notes in the margins. From there, transcribe the key points into a spreadsheet, then look for overlap. Keep in mind that when a guest takes the time to write a review, they will most likely be describing their “sticking points” — the things that stuck out and lingered in their minds, for better or for worse. Pay attention to the “worse” pile, as these are items you’d better fix if you want guests to consider returning.
Check out the full story here. And hoteliers, if you are listening, remember to play to your strengths or your next guest may be Anthony Melchiorri (or, gasp, Gordon Ramsay)!
The film Arbitrage follows hedge fund king Robert Miller (Richard Gere) from Wall Street to Harlem as his life begins to crumble from self-inflicted wounds, in a crime thriller that is partially ripped from the headlines.
Swindler, liar, cheater, morally-bereft, philanthropist, family man - all of these characteristics are rolled neatly into one tycoon. I watched in suspended animation, waiting for the “Madoff moment” as Richard Gere really became his loathsome character. Miller’s wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) is more concerned with getting a $2 million charity check in the mail than she is when her husband comes home at 4 am with internal bleeding and broken ribs. The 1% have it tough out there! He claims that he simply went out for ice cream and she replies, “OK, Don’t forget to take a Lipitor in the morning.” As you watch the film and your contempt for the main character grows, ask yourself, does his life really crumble?
In typical Hollywood stereotype, the Wall Street tycoon’s gorgeous, blonde, braniac daughter is the Chief Operating Officer of his company. Brit Marling’s character, Brooke, never fully develops, though she plays an integral part in the film’s plot. Her final scene with her father, in the ballroom of The Plaza Hotel, is powerful. Oh, if looks could kill.
Every scene involving Jimmy Grant, played by Nate Parker (Red Tails, The Great Debaters), is an uncomfortable I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening scenario. His performance gives the film depth and one can literally feel the pain and indignity that his character endures. I can’t elaborate more, without a spoiler alert.
Thankfully, there is no Gordon Gekko “Greed is good” mantra in the film. But Miller’s assumed chant is "We rich do what we have to do", and that is even more enraging. Pay attention to Graydon Carter, who plays negotiation hardball with Miller in the role of James Mayfield. If only all $400 million buyouts could be written up on a restaurant menu! And watch carefully for Carter’s subtle yet spectacular scene near the end of the film. Outrageous.
In an interview with The New York Times, Richard Gere sums up the twisted and layered plot of the movie, commenting that it is “not just about finance, but personal failing.”
On a lighter note, there is a scene where Miller talks about taking a trip upstate to the country, to a quiet B&B where they can just relax and get away from the city. For a moment, I thought Gere was going to plug his much-lauded luxury hotel, the Bedford Post Inn in Bedford, New York! Alas, he did not. But do watch for a ridiculously gratuitous product placement for Zappos. (Note to PR people: It’s a Sarandon verbal mention with two visuals!).
Arbitrage opens in theaters on Friday, September 14. If you see the film, let me know what you think about it…and what you think you-know-who will do with the $2 million.Tweet
Each month, 3 million students are absent because they feel unsafe at school. If you don’t think there is a difference between “kids will be kids” and bullying, the new documentary film Bully will be an eye-opener.
Directed by Sundance and Lee Hirsch, Bully is a documentary to which every single person reading this can relate. The film is emotionally raw and very real, as it follows five families over the course of a school year. Cameras follow parents and kids into their homes, and also trail bullied kids from school bus to classroom.
I attended a pre-release screening and before the film began, director Lee Hirsch noted, “Everybody has a story. I’ve also learned that writing and art people were disproportionately bullied.” Kids who seem quiet or different become targets. After the screening, I commented to someone about how moving the film had been. A guy in his thirties said, “I may look like a tall guy, but this movie reminds me of when I used to get thrown in garbage cans as a kid.”
There is a growing controversy regarding the rating of the film. Some groups feel the material is too violent for some viewers, while others feel that a PG-13 or R rating will keep away the exact kids who should be seeing the film. As of March 29, the movie will hit theaters as Unrated, but Regal theaters will be sticking with the R rating. Personally, I feel the Motion Picture Association of America is doing a disservice to a documentary film with a highly-relevant topic. Regardless of your opinion: The film is poignant, touching and disturbing, while providing a ray of hope for the future. Warning: Even if you were never teased, mocked or bullied as a kid, you may find the film enraging during certain scenes. And isn’t that the point?
Bullying has proven to be a major challenge in many schools around the country - and this isn’t a case of over-sensitive parents. Two families featured in the film have lost children to bullying-related suicide, while another mother awaits the fate of her traumatized daughter who is in prison after bringing a gun onto the school bus. Yes, this is a tearjerker, especially when the school principal tells one set of parents that the kids on the school bus are “good as gold” because she has ridden the bus herself. This is before they show her a tape of a student being stabbed with pencils and beaten up on his bus ride home.
Alex (12) is bullied because he looks different, Kelby (16) because she is gay. Other kids, like Ja’Meya (14), can’t explain why they are picked on, but they know about the problems that result from the anger, shame, tormenting and loneliness they experience. When Alex is speaking with his mother about the cruel treatment he has gotten used to on the school bus, it is heartbreaking to hear him ask, “If they aren’t my friends, who are my friends?”
Note that cyber-bullying is not addressed in the film - bullying is explored purely on a personal communication, in person level.
Some of the most touching and uplifting moments come from the parents of bullied children. David and Tina Long’s son Tyler committed suicide at age 17, as did Kirk and Laura Smalley’s 11 year-old son Ty. These parents now carry the legacy of their children, doing everything they can to bring more attention to bullying-related issues. View the trailer here.
The $40 Challenge
Hopefully this film will inspire parents, school administrators and kids themselves to become more aware of the challenges surrounding bullying. Here’s a challenge, which I hope will catch on. No matter where you live, one adult and two kids can see this film for less than $40. I hope that every adult reading this can take two kids to see this film. Don’t have kids? Find some. Go with your neighbors, make it a community effort. This film is powerful and can help to start conversations.
Learn more about the film at www.TheBullyProject.com. Please comment below if you have seen the film or would like to share thoughts about the topic. Will you take the $40 challenge?
South African artist Conor Mccreedy opened his ‘African Ocean’ exhibit last night in New York City, at the Charles Bank Gallery on the Bowery. The show, which runs through April 25, features 20 works of painting, photography and film inspired by South Africa. At age 25, Mccreedy already has achieved international fame as an acclaimed artist, former fashion model and entrepreneur who calls New York and South Africa home. The opening event attracted a downtown chic and decidedly international crowd of art lovers, influencers and South African ex-pats.
Bold and stunning shades of blue wash across the exhibit, which includes works on linen primed with rabbit skin glue and pieces that utilize windows from abandoned Soho lofts. An interview and slide show on The Huffington Post highlights the artist’s influences, from Expressionism to his South African heritage.
Mccreedy says that "the raw power and mysterious void of the Ocean" are the source of his artistic inspiration. If you go, be sure to sit inside the full-scale South African shack, which was recreated for the exhibit. Peer through the window for an interesting perspective, as it is constructed of fragments of the original fence surrounding Robben Island, where former South African president Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.
Charming and engaging, Conor Mccreedy is no stranger to press. At age 23, Mccreedy held his first show at The National Arts Club in New York, where he was the youngest artist ever to have a solo exhibition. He was recently profiled in the South African editions of Forbes and GQ. And social media fans take note: Mccreedy is ranked as the most followed individual in South Africa with nearly 300,000 followers on Twitter. (A mere 298,500 more followers than @JMagNYC.)
If you can’t get to South Africa before the show ends on April 25, take a trip down to the Bowery (grab dinner at Pulino’s while you are there) for a dip into the ‘African Ocean.’ Have you seen the exhibit yet? Let me know if you go.
Image: Connor Mccreedy, Desert Shadows.Tweet
In case you haven’t heard, NBC is breaking up “Chuck and Sue”, the incredible New York news duo. The news made headlines this week when NBC announced that it will not renew Sue Simmons’ contract in June. What? Why? Sigh. Who in the world could replace ultimate New Yorker Sue Simmons or match wits with her longtime co-anchor Chuck Scarborough?
The Internet has spoken and apparently people are upset about the decision. Everyone from The New York Times to Liz Smith to Alec Baldwin has weighed in on the controversy. Twitter hashtags promote the #SaveSueSimmons cause. And Kevin McCauley at O’Dywer’s PR has a great perspective on the reasons behind NBC’s decision: Is it money? Or (gasp!) sexism?
NBC is my news station of choice and I have fond memories of watching “Live at Five” as a teenager on Long Island. (Was that before TV remote controls were invented?) Below is a reblog from one of the Tumblr sites created to support Sue Simmons. There is no reason to let trusted New York news veteran Sue Simmons leave her post - wise up, NBC! In the meantime, enjoy…
We’ve been getting some fantastic emails from all the New Yorkers (past and present) out there who insist that NBC save Sue Simmons. (We’re not kidding about this, NBC!)…
Aspiring dancers, singers, Broadway actors and performers are loving the new show "Smash" on NBC. (Personally, I love it because I always wanted to be “discovered”…Haven’t we all?) So I got lucky when my client Classtivity recently asked me to write a story about the show for their blog.
Click here to read the full feature about “Smash”, including a look behind the scenes with Assistant Choreographer Valerie Salgado. Here’s a preview:
Fans of the hit NBC show “Smash” may not recognize Valerie Salgado, but they absolutely know the effortless rhythm of her dance moves. As the Assistant Choreographer on “Smash,” Valerie works tirelessly to perfect the dance sequences we see on the show each week.Spoiler alert! Well, almost. Valerie couldn’t reveal any scoop about the growing rivalry between the beautiful but inexperienced Karen (played by Katharine McPhee) and stage veteran Ivy (Megan Hilty). In the name of journalism, we pressed her (gently) for specifics and Valerie noted that viewers will truly enjoy the newly written music in the show. She added, “And old music is made new again, including styles I never thought I’d be choreographing.”So how does someone who started her dance career in a Creative Movement class at the tender age of three grow up to become an Assistant Choreographer on a national television show? Read our interview with Valerie to find out how she got her start, what gives her butterflies, her advice for aspiring dancers and an inside peek into the world of “Smash”.
Today at the flagship Abercrombie & Fitch store on Fifth Avenue in New York City, it’s all hunks and no turkeys. Shoppers can have photos taken with “101 hot guys” all day at the flagship location. The shirtless wonders are donning low-rise dark skinny jeans, flip flops and that’s just about all. Swoon! Ahem, I mean, fantastic PR promotion to edge out the competition for Black Friday press.
The promotional event is a preview celebration of Black Friday, when all Abercrombie & Fitch stores across the U.S. will open at midnight. Thousands (yes, thousands) of signature shirtless models will be working on Black Friday to ab-solutely help ease the pain of holiday shopping. Did I mention they have abs?
Hollister fans, don’t feel left out. For the first time, Hollister stores will have shirtless models roaming their U.S. locations during Black Friday. Eye candy galore.
More photos below. Happy shopping…
Disclosure: My nephew Mike is one of the models at the event. That’s him solo on the stairs…
It’s true: To my great surprise, I found a pearl in an oyster. Read about the experience in an article I wrote on the cooking and wine site Cook My Way. Click here to read the full story. Preview:
Nothing could be more mouthwatering than freshly shucked oysters, delicately arranged on a platter of shaved ice. But my plate at The Mermaid Inn, a popular seafood restaurant and raw bar in New York City, recently offered up more than just oysters on the half shell. Hiding beneath one of my luscious bivalves was a tiny pearl..
Occupy Wall Street is still going strong at Zuccotti Park in New York City. Yes, the drum circle (shown above) is ear-piercing and drones on for 24 hours…sometimes including trumpets and other instruments that are making their downtown neighbors quite cranky at 3 am. Drumming, singing and rhythmic dancing are all part of the program, which I photographed on October 28.
The park has transformed into a functioning community and marketplace full of demonstrators who continue to protest against corruption in financial institutions, income inequality and unemployment.
The protest began in Zuccotti Park on September 17 and has since spread to 100 cities in the U.S. and 1,500 cities globally. As of November 3, more than 900 people have been charged or arrested in connection with the protest in New York. Go directly to the Occupy Wall Street official site for their perspective. An Bloomberg news update about the New York protests is here.
Not all Occupy Wall Street protesters are hippies. This businessman displays his unhappiness with government plutocracy.
Click below to read on and see more photos…