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Whale Tales From a Seattle Concierge

Photo: Book Bindery

The thing about Seattle, if you didn't already know, is that there is not much outward flashy showing of money, not a ton of extravagance or anything else that might be mistaken for a garish sensibility. As proof, in continuance of Whale Week, a veteran Seattle concierge gives us the scoop on what VIP requests he's granted during his time at The Alexis, Hotel Vintage Park, and his current residency at Renaissance Hotel. Meet Russel Hathaway.

What are some of the more posh experiences you've arranged?

Tours NW has this nice Mercedes SUV with a huge sun roof and they did a charter trip for one of our guest couples, took them out to Woodinville to go wine tasting and then came back and they made wine at BYOB followed by a wine makers dinner at Book Bindery.

There's a beautiful old sailboat, Schooner Mallory Todd, out on Shilshole. I arranged for a couple to charter it and they sailed around the San Juans and then came back to Willows Inn on Lumi Island. They had dinner at the Inn but stayed on this beautiful old sailboat. When they got on the boat, the chef on board prepared lunch for them with wine pairings.

Who are these people?

The average person just wants to see the city. It's the people who call weeks in advance, "I'm coming for my husband's 50th birthday and we want to blow the lid off the place." They never give me much information about themselves other than the event, so the birthday, the proposal. Proposals sometimes get elaborate.

Forget elaborate. Talk about a proposal gone wrong!

Well, like the guy who wanted his room (at The Alexis) filled with candles. There were a bunch of candles on a glass table and they got so hot...the couple was in their big sunken bathtub and all of the sudden they heard this noise; the glass table had just exploded and pieces of the glass went through the couch. There was this big question of, "was that my fault?" What we found out had happened was that they moved a bunch of candles onto this glass table with nothing underneath them.

And they wouldn't be considered whales, but we've definitely had some VIPs.

Such as?

Maya Angelou, for instance. She stayed (at The Alexis). She didn't insist on it, but we knew she loved the Johnnie Walker Black Label. Not insanely expensive, but not cheap! It seemed like the more obscure the celebrity was, the bigger the demands.

Any other VIP stories?

The Gates Foundation used to have a lot of their guests and staff stay at The Alexis and Bill (Gates) would occasionally walk through and there was no apparent security, no apparent bodyguards or anything like that. This was about four years ago, maybe five. On other occasions Melinda would come in and drive herself. Very down to earth, no tiaras.

I think the fact that Seattle is not a place where people are really showy about their money is great.

· All Coverage of Whale Week [~ESEA~]