Hilton tales #3

It was 1972 and some of the reception staff at the Hilton were talking excitedly about the famous comedian Charlie Callas who was appearing on British TV as a guest of the Welsh singer Tom Jones. He would be staying several days, of course, at the Park Lane Hilton hotel. I had never heard of the Greek American comedian who apparently was a good friend of Tom Jones and on American TV.

Eventually during the day Charlie wandered over to the Trader Travel desk to 'chat me up' and invited me for dinner in the upstairs restaurant. He was a charmer and I had no special plans after I finished work at 20.00, so I gladly accepted.

I recall I was wearing a sexy maxi purple dress with a little slit up the front so that my black lacy tights showed. My brown hair was long and parted in the middle with 2 French decorative combs. I had never seen his American TV shows nor his famous 'telephone call' comedy routine. For me, he was just a nice charming American called Charlie!

Over dinner he spoke about how he was discovered as a drummer which somehow got him on TV after a wild performance one night. He spoke about his Greek heritage having the same name as Maria Callas, the world famous opera singer. He asked about my life and my background and seemed interested in what I had to say. Charlie, with his prominent Greek nose and irregular features, was a very seductive man and I instantly fell for his charms. I began to fantasise!  He told me he had f.... hundreds and hundreds of women and loved sex!

Bedtime came quite early around 22.00 and we got into the lift which accidentally went down to the ground floor to let people out. When the doors opened there was the bitchy General Manager who saw Charlie with me and knew we were heading to his bedroom up on the top floor. 

About an hour later, while we were making love, the manager pounded on the bedroom door shouting that he knew I was inside and that I had to leave.  No discrete phone call, just traumatic knocking on the door! I was so scared I fled like a frightened rabbit into the bathroom. Charlie was furious, opened the door and told the perpetrator to go to hell and that he would be checking out in the morning. I was crying with shame. The sexy atmosphere had been broken. He dressed and accompanied me downstairs bundling me into a waiting taxi at the back entrance of the hotel.  I was distraught trying to hold back my cascading tears. At least the manager gave us an hour of lust and not just a mere 20 minutes!  The 70s was a time of sexual freedom and experimentation. I was somewhat of a libertine in those long ago and far away days.

The next day Charlie rang to say he had checked into the Inn on the Park hotel next door to the Hilton and could I come over that evening. I told him I had lost my job and didn't want another possible repeat performance suggesting he come to my room at Warwick Mansions in Hampstead where I rented a cozy intimate room with a large single bed and Polish and Brazilian colourful artefacts and textile wall hangings.  I recall I wanted to take his photo but he refused. How was I to know he was so famous? To me he was lovely Charlie and I had fallen for him in a big way. He was so stimulating, relaxed and open unlike the usual run of the mill men around. In fact I find the comedians I have subsequently met are very serious people.

The next morning the cold matter-of-fact General Manager sent for me when I got in to work at 14.00. I had had very little contact with him: just glares. He would see me sometimes sitting outside my long desk by the bar in the comfy chairs or sofas in the centre of the lobby and would reprimand me for sitting there. Of course the seats were for clients not Trader Travel staff. Now decades later I fully understand he was only doing his job but thought him at the time to be a miserable misogynist. He formally informed me I could no longer work at the Hilton. The rules were that staff could not enter guests' bedrooms. I pointed out I was not Hilton staff and that I was an employee of Trader Travel, not the Hilton.  He would not accept that and demanded I left by the end of the week making any excuse to my boss. He agreed he would not write to my boss about my 'bad' behaviour which might have hindered me getting a good reference if I left quietly.

I was so upset because first the shame of being 'fired' and secondly  I loved my exciting job, advising tourists where to go in London, what to do and see in Europe as well, meeting prominent Americans and Internationals guests some of whom asked me to dine with them. I had spoken to Shelly Winters, Jeff Korda from Canada, a nephew of Alexander Korda the film director, had chatted to Telly Savalas who played Kojak on TV in 1973 and struck up a friendship with Tom Pollock who had taken a cut in the benchmark movie 'American Graffiti' and who, a few years later,  I stayed with Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles. I had booked a holiday in Tunisia the following week. Thus I lied to my manager that I had to leave London and my job to go to Liverpool because my father was seriously ill and I had to help my mother. Trader Travel never paid me for my week's holiday to Sousse. The week's holiday was in lieu of my notice so they got out of paying me.

I recall calling Charlie from London airport. He had had all his calls screened but I got through. Through my tears I told him how much I missed him and how I longed to be with him again. He was very sweet and understanding on the phone knowing that I had lost my job because of my evening with him.

Was he worth it? Yes! I never saw him again but when my friend Anna Mae went to Vegas some years later, she saw his show and went backstage to meet him having heard about my fling with him. He remembered me amongst all his conquests and said nice things about me. I forgot all about him until 2016 when I saw the King of American Comedy had died aged 83 and began to look at his You Tube references like Roasting Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.  I had no idea how wacky and formidable he was. Young Jilliana was so innocent in 1972 but she learned fast.  That's life!

Written at Casa de los Bates, Motril, Spain 11/2/17.


High Anxiety - Mel Brooks 1977 - as a dog
You Tube - 'phone call' sketch
You Tube Charlie Callas roasts Frank Sinatra
You Tube Carson Tonight Show 1976
You Tube Charlie Callas stand up routine - The Hunters 1969
You Tube a touch of Callasness
You Tube spinning plates
You Tube  Charlie Callas (drumming) on Merv Griffin show 1978
You Tube Charlie Callas in performance 1978
Google - Charlie Callas photos and obituary

Wikipedia - Kojak 1973
Wikipedia - Tom Pollock

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