The Pierre Hotel
“Ocean’s 8” Synopsis:
A group of smart and glamorous women manage to pull off a heist at the Metropolitan Museum, stealing dazzling jewels during the annual Met Gala. Glamour, intrigue, fashion, and a heist, a great combination for a movie and intrinsically New York. Actress Anne Hathaway was in a suite of the Pierre, getting dressed to go play her main role in the heist at the Met, unaware that the Pierre itself had more than a story to tell, since this is where fashion and glamour meet grime and crime.
The majestic Pierre Hotel would be its own filming location. It stands tall with its 714 rooms and forty-two stories on 61st Street and 5th Avenue overlooking Central Park. It has a magnificent grand ballroom, a frescoed rotunda and stunning rooftop, with a regal copper roof placed on the top like a crown.
The rooftop was modelled after Mansart’s Royal Chapel at Versailles and hosted grand opulent parties up until rich residents of the Pierre tired of having to wait for their turn on the busy elevator, closed the rooftop, and sold it as a sixteen room apartment, which was recently listed for 125 million dollars.
The Pierre was opened by Charles Pierre Casalasco, a twenty-five year old French-Corsican who studied haute cuisine in Paris and worked at the famous Hotel Anglais in Monte Carlo before moving to New York City. He first worked for the Ritz Carlton, that is to say the original one on 46th and Madison that was unfortunately demolished in 1951.
Pierre engaged with the upper-class of the day, such as the Vanderbilts, JP Morgan and the Astors and, with his strong drive and high-end connections, he formed a joint venture and, in 1930 he opened the Pierre Hotel.
Unfortunately, the Great Depression forced the newly opened hotel into bankruptcy in 1932.
The hotel was then bought by tycoon Paul Getty who turned some of the suites into private residences for the uber-wealthy.
At the time of its conception, the hotel was meant to be simple and refined. While I doubt that the adjective “simple” applied, the “refined” one was definitely successful; so much so that none other than Coco Chanel gave the Pierre her “imprimatur” during her first trip to New York in 1931, and from then on its allure has endured. Audrey Hepburn lived at the Pierre while filming “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and Karl Lagerfeld, once famously said, “I discovered New York from the Pierre.” Pierre Berge of Yves Saint Laurent owned an apartment at the Pierre and then sold it to Valentino, who later sold it to designer Tomas Maier.
Once you experience the glamour of the Pierre, you cannot stay away from it. Hollywood celebrities past and present like Sophia Loren, Barbra Streisand, Dame Joan Collins, Julianne Moore, Lady Gaga, as well as famous Valentino fashion designer Pierpaolo Piccioli and numerous others continue this tradition today. The elegant Pierre hotel with its beautiful views and stellar service was, and still is, home to la crème de la crème of the international elite. It is the epicenter of New York social life, with an intoxicating mix of glamorous uber- wealthy guests, heads of state, shady international financiers and Hollywood celebrities.
As if in a good thriller movie, powerful Italian banker and financier Michele Sindona owned an apartment at the Pierre from where he ran his unscrupulous business. Coincidentally, President-elect Richard Nixon – who apparently knew Sindona – also stayed for an extended period of time at the Pierre.
The New York Times and The Washington Post in the 80’s often wrote about Sindona and his international 007-style intrigues, involving the Vatican bank, as well as the leader of the illegal masonic lodge P2, with whom he had been plotting a coup d’état in Italy, and the New York Gambino mafia family.
Sindona, attempting to recover his financial losses, drove the Franklyn National Bank into bankruptcy, which at the time made it the largest bank failure in U.S. history, causing the intervention of regulators including the New York Superintendent of Banks (and incidentally my father- in- law) Harry W. Albright. Sindona was arrested by the FBI and had to put up his apartment at the Pierre as security for bail. He was ultimately extradited to Italy where, during his jail time, he was poisoned with cyanide in his coffee.
Diamonds are Forever
Meanwhile, under the same royal copper roof of the Pierre hotel, generations of oblivious upper-class romantic Cinderellas and bellicose bridezillas with heavy-lifting diamond engagement rings, say yes to the dress, and marry in its opulent ballroom.
Surrounded by bucolic frescoes, marble balustrades and spectacular Murano glass chandeliers adorned with cascades of fresh flowers, these lavish and elaborately decorated weddings attract celebrity guests and their wealthy friends.
A few years ago I made a reservation for a client of mine to stay at the Pierre. The next morning when I stopped by to greet him, he told me that he had found a dazzling heart- shaped diamond ring from Cartier in his safe and reported the lost ring to security immediately. No one had claimed the ring, nor during my guest’s stay nor soon after his departure.
Apparently, a ditzy Cinderella failed to notice that her Cartier diamond ring had gone missing! The bond among jewelry, diamonds and the Pierre led renowned jeweler Bulgari to open his first store inside the Pierre hotel in 1972, where it remained until 1989.
In 1988 Actor Richard Burton, said that the only Italian word that Elizabeth Taylor (who had 10 engagement diamond rings, one of which recently sold for $ 8.5 million) knows in Italian is “Bulgari”. By the same logic the only French world she probably knew in French was “Pierre,” and she did in fact have an apartment there.
The Beauty and the Heist.
Diamonds are not exclusively a girl’s best friend, in fact, the Pierre had proven irresistible for suitors who had a strong attraction to jewelry and wealth, just not…. theirs.
Thieves Samuel Nalo and Robert Comfort had a weakness for luxury hotels, having previously stolen from the Carlyle, the St. Regis and the Sherry Netherland.
Nalo and Comfort teamed up with the Italian Lucchese Mafia family and the Albanian Mafia, and on the night of January 2, 1972 at 3.50 a.m., while most of the guests were asleep recovering from New Year’s Eve parties, they performed a rather unusual check- in.
The hotel guard was held at gunpoint while nineteen staff members were handcuffed and ordered to face down on the floor. In two and a half hours they managed to steal about 27 million dollars’ worth of belongings, carefully selecting the safety boxes which were filled with jewels that the guests had worn during the celebrations.
They were well organized and incidentally, well mannered, calling the hostages “Miss “or “Sir” and never raising their voices.
Upon “check-out” they even tipped twenty dollars to every employee who had been handcuffed.
Noblesse oblige! After all, it is still the Pierre. It was the largest and most successful robbery in history.
Sophia Loren was thankfully, not a guest that day; she had already been robbed of one million dollars at the nearby Hampshire House hotel two years earlier.
While we may never receive an invitation and join Anne Hathaway at the exclusive annual Met Gala, we can still experience the Pierre, where all the stars shining over Central Park make an annual descent to their suites and parade in unison to the Met.
The Pierre Synopsis
A refined French Corsican immigrant, Pierre Casalasco, opens the Pierre hotel in 1930. Today, another refined French Corsican immigrant, François Luigi, carries on that legacy and runs the hotel with an amazingly dedicated staff.
In these ninety-one years in between the two Corsicans, the Pierre has lived through celebrities, fashion, suspense, intrigue, glamour, Mafia families, diamonds, and a New York-style heist.
Oscar winning for Best Picture and Best Performance
Critically acclaimed. You will “check out” craving for more.
It is a must-stay. 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Pierre Glamour: 13.
This is the Pierre and this is New York. That’s all folks.