At the Waldorf, I was the director of events, the senior banquet manager. When I started working there in 1958, the hotel was reaching her pinnacle.
Elsa Maxwell, who lived at the Waldorf, was a grand lady and she knew how to throw a party. I remember we had a Friday night in April when the Grand Ballroom was empty and my boss said “Hughie, get something in here.” I remember Elsa said “Why go outside? Let’s create an event.” And that’s when they created the April in Paris Ball.
We used to say that you’re going to have a fundraiser, but remove the “d” and we’ll make it a “fun”rasier. Ha!
When John Ringling North of the Ringling Brothers had his circus in New York at Madison Square Garden, that was the famous year when I had to get a baby elephant over there from the garden and bring it to the Grand Ballroom. And that was really a typical April in Paris Ball!
So when the Waldorf turned 50, I turned 50, and we built a tremendous cake. The chef and I created this menu and as you can see it says “50th Anniversary Dinner Menu” and then we had little notes on there. For instance, the “pâté of pheasant” which was served at the first April in Paris Ball. And then here we have one called “Cole Porter’s martini gin sherbet,” which is a tribute to Cole Porter as it was served at so many of his swell parties at the Waldorf Astoria.
I think working there all those years and dealing with celebrities, it did affect my personality for the rest of my life. There was only one word I could say when I left there and that was knowing “elegance.”
I always look for the good in somebody, and I don’t tell them that. I try to bring it out. Working there had a great impact on me.