On a Pet Policy

As a former pet owner, I have traveled with my bulldogs on out of town trips before. And, as I would make my plans, those plans would always have to include finding accommodation that would allow me to have my dogs in the rooms with me. That concept of a pet policy isn’t that new in American History, but it has been pretty much the right of the wealthier classes in the United States to not only afford family pets but also to travel with them.

The Hotel Belleclaire in New York City has been declared a historical landmark and a building of cultural and architectural importance. The hotel of over 250 rooms was designed and built in the early 1900s on New York’s Upper West Side between Central Park and the Hudson River. While today it is a mix of long-term, rent controlled apartments and some nightly accommodations, when it was built, it was one of the city’s premier hostelries. People like Mark Twain, the acting Barrymore family, Babe Ruth, and Maxim Gorky all stayed there in the early days the hotel was opened.

And the Belleclaire was one of the first hotels of its kind to allow pets, although discreetly. The original newspaper stories about the establishment boasted that the staff knew how to be discreet regarding the needs of a sophisticated (i.e., wealthier) clientele. That meant learning to put up with pampered pups and cuddled cats for the guests at the hotel.

But that discretion had its limits, it turns out. A hotel staff is only expected to go so far. It seems that the kerfuffle began with a hotel guest who checked in under the name of T.R. Zann in 1920. Zann let it be known that he was a well-respected and widely-praised musician on the continent. He made the unusual request that his piano be shipped to him and brought by the maintenance department to his room on the 7th floor. And that’s what happened. The large, heavy crate was hoisted into the service elevator and brought to Zann’s room by an army of service workers and bellhops.

And then the story took a strange turn.

The manager received a phone call from the kitchen. It seems that Zann had made an incredibly odd request from room service. The kitchen asked the manager to discreetly verify the order with the guest before it filled it and sent it on its way to the 7th floor.

It seems that the musician wanted steak. Lots of steak. Fifteen pounds worth. And all of it rare.

The manager called Zann. The musician confirmed the order. When it was ready, the manager accompanied the waiter and his cart as the raw meat was taken up to the waiting man. When their knock at the door was answered with Zann’s brusque, “Come in,” the pair of hotel employees almost suffered a cardiac arrest because of the pet that stood before them in the center of the room.

The manager beat a hasty retreat to his office where he immediately called the police. They arrived and with them a horde of reporters in tow. Zann was removed from the premises, and the pet was taken into “custody” by the Bronx Zoo.

But, there was another catch. You see, Zann was not actually Zann at all. No, he was actually a Hollywood publicity agent named Harry Reichenbach. He was in New York to drum up buzz for the studio’s next big picture: The otherwise completely forgettable Revenge of Tarzan.

It’s why he registered under the name T.R. Zann, and it’s why he had a lion smuggled into the Hotel Belleclaire.


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