Cover image for Hotel kid : a Times Square childhood
Title:
Hotel kid : a Times Square childhood
Author:
Lewis, Stephen, 1929-
Personal Author:
Edition:
First Paul Dry Books edition.
Publication Information:
Philadelphia, Pa. : Paul Dry Books, [2002]

©2002
Physical Description:
214 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780967967585
Format :
Book

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F128.5 .L694 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

"Funny, poignant, sad and wistful...This is a very fine book--about a person, and a city, growing up."-- Philadelphia Inquirer

"This delightful yet poignant memoir is highly recommended for both public and academic libraries."-- Library Journal (starred review)

"The charming Hotel Kid is as luxurious as the lobby in a five-star hotel."-- San Francisco Chronicle

A Manhattan landmark for fifty years, the Taft in its heyday in the 1930s and '40s was the largest hotel in midtown, famed for the big band in its basement restaurant and the view of Times Square from its towers. As the son of the general manager, Stephen Lewis grew up in this legendary hotel, living with his parents and younger brother in a suite overlooking the Roxy Theater. His engaging memoir of his childhood captures the colorful, bustling atmosphere of the Taft, where his father, the best hotelman in New York, ruled a staff of Damon Runyonesque house dicks, chambermaids, bellmen, and waiters, who made sure that Stephen knew what to do with a swizzle stick by the time he was in the third grade.

The star of this memoir is Lewis's fast-talking, opinionated, imperious mother, who adapted so completely to hotel life that she rarely left the Taft. Evelyn Lewis rang the front desk when she wanted to make a telephone call, ordered all the family's meals from room service, and had her dresses sent over from Saks. During the Depression, the tough kids from Hell's Kitchen who went to grade school with Stephen marveled at the lavish spreads his mother offered her friends at lunch every day, and later even his wealthy classmates at Horace Mann-Lincoln were impressed by the limitless hot fudge sundaes available to the Lewis boys.

Lewis contrasts the fairy-tale luxury of his life inside the hotel with the gritty carnival spirit of his Times Square neighborhood, filled with the noise of trolleys, the smell of saloons, the dazzle of billboards and neon signs. In Hotel Kid , lovers of New York can visit the nightclubs and movie palaces of a vanished era and thread their way among the sightseers and hucksters, shoeshine boys and chorus girls who crowded the streets when Times Square really was the crossroads of the world.

"[T]his postcard from a vanished age nicely captures a special childhood rivaling Eloise's"-- Kirkus Reviews

"A colorful and nostalgic snapshot of a vanished era."-- Bloomsbury Review

"Chockfull of history and wit, Stephen Lewis' account of his charming yet preposterous childhood spent in a suite at the Taft Hotel ordering from room service and playing games like elevator free fall is a five-star read. Hotel Kid pays tribute to an elegant time long ago that was very elegant and is very gone. It's a book we've been waiting for without realizing it: at long last, an Eloise for grown ups."--Madeleine Blais, author of Uphill Walkers: Portrait of a Family

Stephen Lewis on Hotel Kid : "Raised in a loving cocoon of chambermaids, bellboys, porters, waiters, and housedicks, I led a fairy tale existence as the son of the general manager of the Hotel Taft, just off Times Square and Radio City. During the darkest days of the Depression, my younger brother and I treated our friends to limitless chocolate éclairs and ice cream sodas. Vague longings for a 'real American life' rose only occasionally -- as rare as the home-cooked meals my mother attempted once or twice ayear. From my privileged vantage point in a four-room suite on the fifteenth floor, overlooking the chorus girls sunbathing on the roof of the Roxy Theater, I grew into adolescence, both street-smart and sheltered by the hundreds of hotel workers who had known me since I was a baby."


Author Notes

Stephen Lewis has written children’s films for television and produced instructional films for a number of educational publishers. For twenty years, he headed various divisions in instructional technology and traditional print for the educational publishing arm of IBM.

In the 1980s, he moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he began writing for newspapers and magazines. For a non-profit organization there, he founded and directed the memoir-writing workshop Writing Your Self.


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

This literary memoir, ideal for chuckling at with a glass of port near a roaring fireplace while surrounded by sleepy grandchildren and old photos, is perfect for those who long for the way things were. For New Yorkers of many decades and for the younger set who push strollers along upper Madison Avenue to church on Sundays, Lewis the founder of a New Mexico memoir-writing workshop produces pages of carefully honed prose about his childhood growing up in the landmark Taft Hotel, where his father was general manager. The nostalgic goings-on unfold in the Times Square hotel and in the New York suburbs during the 1930s, WWII and the postwar boom years. With an appealingly innate whimsy, the author dutifully tries to provide psychological insight into human motives ("If power corrupts, hot fudge corrupts absolutely"). The book is as much a family history as a time capsule, as Lewis chronicles the menu from his father's bar mitzvah dinner and tells of collecting victory stamps with the hope of turning them in for a war bond. Lewis, who is kind in print to his family and those he knew, wraps up his book with a contrasting snapshot of his old Taft Hotel home in its new incarnation as the Michelangelo, and speaks with distaste of the "Roy Rogers Family Restaurant and TGIF on the corner." Sweet and unchallenging, this is a friendly portrait of a bygone Big Apple. Photos. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

The founder of a Santa Fe memoir-writing workshop, Lewis grew up in midtown Manhattan's Hotel Taft, where his father presided as general manager for 33 years. In this beautifully written memoir, he lovingly recaptures the experience. Lewis's parents moved to the hotel in 1931, when he was 18 months old and his brother 17 months younger. The establishment provided them with everything; Lewis writes that he never needed to buy a bar of soap until he traveled to Europe in his mid-twenties. His mother rarely left the hotel and, unlike most mothers, did not shop, cook, or clean. Instead, employees brought meals to the suite, and shops delivered dresses. As a result, observes Lewis, "she grew increasingly imperious on a steady, heady diet of servility"; the only employee she never yelled at was Robbins the Package Boy (at the Taft, people's names were their jobs). Lewis pays tribute to an earlier New York, when there were at least 25 theaters within eight blocks of his home and the Roxy, a movie palace, was next door on Seventh Avenue. That was before the city's penchant for demolition and excess development blotted out much of the neighborhood's light as well as its character. This delightful yet poignant memoir is highly recommended for both public and academic libraries. Elaine Machleder, Bronx, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.