Last month, I got to fly up to San Francisco with a couple of other very funny people and do a fundraiser for a kid’s summer camp. It was extremely fun and they paid for me to do one of my favorite things in the world: Stay in a hotel!
My romance with hotels began when I was very small. My ever budget-conscious father always planned our family road trips so that if an overnight stay was required, it tended to happen in the home of any obscure relative who happened to own a sofa-bed. But occasionally, when that plan game plan failed, we got to stay in a motel! To me, these joints were magical since they not only had color TV and air-conditioning (two things we did not have at home), but beds that if you put a quarter in, vibrated and gave me that same special feeling I got while sitting on the hood of a running car.
When I became a professional actor in my 20’s, I discovered that if I wanted to rack-up enough weeks of employment to qualify for unemployment, I needed to do the occasional “out-of-town” gig. This was when I was introduced to the world of real hotels that delivered clean towels and sent a nice lady up to make your bed. I loved it.
Once when I was doing a new play festival for a regional theatre in Louisville, I got assigned to a downtown “residential hotel.” I was initially thrilled since I was young and single and it was nice and close to the night club district. I then discovered that “residential hotel” was code for “low-rent senior citizen housing.” It wasn’t that bad a place, but the hallways always smelled sort of musty and there was usually an ambulance parked out front. The low point came one night when I met a cute guy about my age in one of the local clubs and invited back to my place. When we got off the elevator, we were instantly forced to plaster ourselves against the wall as an EMT crew rolled one of my neighbors down the hallway on a gurney. This had actually happened before, but this time the guy had a sheet over his face and nobody seemed to be in much of a hurry. Talk about a buzz-kill.
A few years later, I was in Philladelphia doing one of those fancy costume dramas at a big theatre there. It was the holidays and most of the cast decided to head back to Manhattan for New Year’s Eve, but I was in a bad mood. I’d just broken up with my then-boyfriend and decided to sit out the holiday in our old, but nice-enough hotel in downtown Philly. The front desk guy discreetly informed me that "a big group" was arriving for the weekend and it still wasn’t too late if I wanted to catch the last train out of Dodge. When I asked what kind of group, he told me it was some sort of Asian Christian Conference. That didn’t sound so bad. Not wanting to re-pack all my stuff, I decided to stick it out on the 17th floor.
I stayed up long enough to watch the ball drop, then called it a night. I had just dozed off when I was jarred awake by the fire alarm going off. At first I tried to ignore it. Clearly this was some Asian kid’s idea of a good Christian joke. But it just kept ringing. Five minutes passed. “I’m not getting up,” I groused. Then I began to envision the headlines: “Promising Young Actor Killed in Tragic New Year’s Eve Fire.” Following standard fire drill procedure, I skipped the elevator and took the stairs. There I encountered an Asian family who were (to date) the most terrified people I’ve ever encountered in my life. “This is bullshit” I said to them in my best unconcerned voice. Unfortunately, my remark didn’t comfort them much since they spoke no English. We descended about five floors when, for a brief second, I thought I smelled something. It smelled like cigarette smoke, but it was enough to make a believer out of me. I picked up one of the smaller kids and we hauled ass down the next 12 flights as the headlines in my head began to read “Heroic Young Actor Perishes Trying to Save Asian Family.”
Finally, we reached the lobby which was jammed with angry people. I quickly noticed a few firemen criss-crossing the lobby; chatting into their walkie-talkies; none of them looking terribly concerned. Clearly, I had been right all along. Pissed-off, I abandoned my new Asian family and started the long climb back to floor 17.
The next day, word of my heroics had apparently been translated into English and I was being nodded to respectfully by every guest in the hotel. The front desk guy even sent up a thank you note along with some vouchers for free food, booze and a massage. Stuffed, drunk and being kneaded by a nice pair of strong hands, my New Year’s Day was spent happily luxuriating in everything the wonderful world of hotels had to offer. As I drifted off to sleep on the massage table, I remember thinking: If there is a Heaven, I hope it has room service.
Copyright 2011 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment, Inc.
David Dean Bottrell is an actor and writer in Hollywood. Catch his reoccurring role on “Days of Our Lives” starting on March 23rd on NBC.