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The Waldorf Astoria - THANK YOU!!!

A Waldorf Story by Gerry Byrne

The Waldorf Astoria – THANK YOU!!

I’m a kid from the Bronx. Grew up right by the Yankee Stadium. Attended St. Angela Merici grammar school, followed by Fordham Prep and then Fordham College (BA-1966). Three years as a Marine Corps officer followed, including a 68/69 tour in Vietnam. I came back appreciating life and, indeed, “living”, not a bad mind set to attack next steps. I also had an embedded asset. I had the Jesuits and the Marines who set my core foundation in ethics, integrity and leadership. Those basics have lasted a lifetime. Thank you, Saint Ignatius and, Semper Fi, to my beloved Corps.

But wait, a BIG Thank You must also go to The Waldorf Astoria. Paying for college was a challenge. My challenge. As a freshman, I started out working afternoons loading trucks at UPS, then night shifts at the Post Office and, alas, as a file clerk every evening at Tiffany & Co. It was in early 1963 when the “miracle of 301 Park” happened. Thanks to a Fordham job posting, I was hired as the receptionist for the Waldorf’s Banquet and Sales Department. My headquarters was a 4th floor desk by the elevator. My role, greet clients and prospects and, when asked, give facility tours. I wore a striking black sports jacket with a Waldorf logo. I wore it with pride. Seven days a week!! 4:30-8:30 Monday-Friday and 11-7 on the weekends. I loved it. It was frontline exposure to the best of the best in hoteling. Great folks. Clyde Harris, Tom Kane, Eugene Scanlan, Frank Fisher, Rene Sauthier, Marino Lividini, John Lividini, Mr. Stanke, Hugh Weir, and Mrs. Boynton were among the names I remember well. But it was also all of the service staff, the waiters, and the front desk folks who created such positive, memorable impressions. The amazing Waldorf became part of my DNA.

Never knew the absolute truth about the equal sign (=) between the Waldorf and Astoria but I was told it represented the alley between the Waldorf and the Astoria Hotels when they were on 34th Street. The alley became the famous Peacock Alley. And there was the incomparable Grand Ballroom, the Starlight Roof, The Empire and Sert Rooms, and the Louis XVI!! And I was part of it all!!

And yet one more Waldorf “Thank you” for my wonderful 51-year marriage. I met my wife, Liz, on the “D” train platform after work on a Thursday night. Liz at the time was the designer’s model for the nearby Saks Fifth Avenue. We were both on that train platform headed back to our homes in the Bronx. Two remarkable children and two wonderful grandchildren later, the Byrne family enthusiastically awaits a Waldorf reunion in 2023.

So, yes, I love the Waldorf=Astoria. A wonderful part of who I am.

Gerry Byrne

Vice Chairman
Penske Media Corporation