There are lots of things money can buy. In an underwater room in a resort in Zanzibar, you can wake up to reef fish gliding past your bed; have the fuck of your life in an ultra-luxurious glass igloo in Finland with a panoramic view of the northern lights; do a little dance in a jacuzzi carved out of an ancient cave in Mexico; or sample the many wonders of a Bolivian hotel made almost entirely of salt in the world’s largest salt flat.
But access to such wild and exclusive experiences often comes with something wilder – the implicit assumption that wealth gives the bearer of said wealth the carte blanche to make the weirdest demands.
Not just for themselves but sometimes for their pets and staff, too.
A sommelier from a three-star Michelin restaurant in the Piedmont region of Italy recently told VICE that he’d once encountered a couple in their sixties who ordered the finest veal sirloin steak cooked rare. All that sounds fine until you realise that the order was for their dog.
So, to understand just how sublimely creative people can get with their desires and demands in those pretty places meant only for the ridiculously rich, we asked hotel insiders to give us a ringside view of their world. (We’re sticking to their first names as, obviously, they might get in trouble with their employers for spilling this high class tea.)
“At midnight, he would step into the hotel lobby with over two dozen security guards, and start crawling on the floor, asking his guards to do the same.”
Only a few months back, the president of a multinational automobile conglomerate who holds immense sway over the who’s who of Indian politics was staying at the hotel where I work in the housekeeping department. Late into the night, he would step into the hotel lobby with over two dozen security guards surrounding him, and start crawling and growling on the floor like an animal. He would even ask some of his guards to do the same. It probably gave him some weird power trip.
He’d then proceed to have dinner, not from his plate but from the plates of his two escorts who’d sit on his either side. He’d call them Sundari (which means “beauty”) and Param Sundari (“utmost beauty”). He enacted this animal ritual every night in the lobby for nearly a month in front of other visitors who’d silently witness the sheer horror of it all. —Shrishti
“It was a strange sight – watching the Hollywood star and PETA ambassador pose with two elephants by her side.”
I worked at one of the most popular hotels in the world as a food and beverage manager. This hotel is frequented by many Hollywood celebrities and biggies since it’s a heritage structure, too. One such celebrity, a prominent ambassador for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) back then, insisted on doing a photoshoot with two elephants. This was unheard of. We had to take special permissions from the local municipal corporation to get these elephants all the way from the outskirts of the city, nearly 70 kilometres from the hotel. We also discovered that local rules mandate the elephants rest for a sufficient amount of time, are properly fed and hydrated. So, along the way, we had to run from pillar to post to arrange for well-ventilated halls and grounds for the elephants to rest. We had to purchase massive buckets for their water, too.
The actor, of course, was blissfully unaware of the gargantuan efforts we had to put in just because she wanted to pose with the elephants for reasons known only to her. It was a strange sight – watching the Hollywood star and PETA ambassador pose with the two elephants by her side. —Anjum
“The sheikh booked two floors of the hotel for his entourage that largely consisted of his many wives and permitted only female hotel staff to enter the area.”
When billionaire sheikhs from the Gulf countries travel abroad, it’s a spectacle. It’s often hypocrisy at its finest because they want to hold on to their religious values but retain all the luxuries. When a particularly high-ranking sheikh from Saudi Arabia visited the hotel where I worked as a publicity manager, he asked for two floors to be completely cordoned off from any visitors, except the female hotel staff. We found out that many of the rooms were occupied by his wives. Often, in the middle of the night, we would hear death metal blasting from the windows of these rooms. We can only imagine what happened in those hours. —Rhea
“He asked for 20 cooked lobsters to be laid out on his body and dipped his shirt in an ice bucket filled with three Italian red wines.”
At the restaurant in our hotel where I work as a front office manager, we have a regular customer who consistently ranks among the top 500 richest people in the world. Even though he is usually very composed, one day his stock plunged to a record-breaking low. That night, he wanted to sleep on the table of the restaurant and asked for around 20 cooked lobsters to be laid out across his body. As if this wasn’t weird enough, he asked the hotel staff to empty three Italian red wine bottles in an ice bucket. He dipped his shirt in that bucket and kept wiping his face for the next few hours with that thousand dollar wine-soaked shirt. Of course, he had pre-booked the restaurant for the extravagantly private mourning of his tanked stocks. —Willie
“The horse had to follow the groom everywhere, whether he was eating or shitting.”
I worked as a receptionist in a luxury hotel that is one of India’s oldest. Weddings here are chaotic and they can go either way; any hotel staffer will tell you as much. Some take the soul out of you and others genuinely make you happy for the couple.
In the late 1980s, the wedding of a mega industrialist’s son made all of us confront boundaries of our sanity we didn’t know existed. For starters, the groom had a horse and he wanted to be on or around it always, even in the lobby. The horse had to follow him everywhere, whether he was eating or shitting. It was only on the second or third day that we found out he had developed an unhealthy, almost sexual, infatuation towards the horse. It didn’t take a detective to crack it; he had named the horse after his ex-wife. And everyone in his family and that of his [new] wife somehow seemed okay with it. –Wajiha
“He wanted to have dinner off a blow-up doll resembling Taylor Swift.”
This millionaire from China had a disastrous singing career before he made it big in the tech space. Somehow, it seems, he never got over his past. So, whenever he would come to our hotel, where I work as a bellman, he’d demand his food be served inside a special guitar that he’d hollowed out himself. Initially we pitied him because it seemed like a classic case of trauma to our amateur eyes. But things came to a head when he actually wanted to have dinner off a blow-up doll resembling Taylor Swift. The doll itself was heavily bejewelled and had an expensive swimsuit put on it. This continued for a few days until we found the doll riddled with what looked like bullet holes, lying supine outside his room. —Rayna
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