Why New York City's Hotel Carlyle Has Been a Celebrity Favorite for 90 Years

A new documentary, on DVD and on demand on Friday, explores the Manhattan landmark where George Clooney loves to stay and Jackie Kennedy once lived

01 of 15

An Essential Part of the Skyline

the hotel Carlyle New York hotel press images
Andrew Moore

Situated on the corner of East 76th Street and Madison Avenue on New York City's quiet and glamorous Upper East Side, the five-star hotel has hosted everyone from Lucille Ball and John F. Kennedy to Bono and Naomi Campbell since its doors opened in 1930. "You can't compete with time and legacy," Always At the Carlyle director Matthew Miele says. "The key to the intangible quality of people always wanting to return is the staff."

02 of 15

Personalized Stays

the hotel Carlyle New York hotel press images

Named after Scottish author Thomas Carlyle, the hotel provides guests with monogrammed pillowcases and a concierge who recommends new restaurants and activities based on personal preferences.

"We know more than half of our guests really, really well," Carlyle Chef Concierge Waldo Hernandez says. "We also have residents that live here, and they're like family to us. We know their likes, their dislikes. A lot of our guests who continue coming, we know what restaurants they like, we know what type of shows they like. If anything new comes up, we know exactly who to send where."

03 of 15

George Loves It Here

promo shots for the always at the Carlyle documentary
Justin Bare

"[Nowhere] I've ever stayed to compares to this," Clooney, staffers' favorite VIP, says in the doc. "The way you're treated, this isn’t just a place you come and lay your head."

04 of 15

Old Hollywood Loved It

Peter Lawford and Frank Sinatra arrive at John F. Kennedy He
George Mattson/NY Daily News Archive/Getty

Stars like Frank Sinatra (right) and Peter Lawford regularly met up at the hotel.

"What you would perceive as a stuffy Upper East Side address is where people like David Bowie, and Andy Warhol and Hunter Thompson — and to this day, Neil Young — hang out," Miele says. "And they choose to go there as their hotel. You wouldn't expect rock and roll icons like that to be like, 'Oh yeah, The Carlyle's cool.' But there it is right in front of you."

05 of 15

Having a Ball

Lucille And Desi
Dick Hanley/Archive Photos/Getty

Lucielle Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz stopped by in 1954.

06 of 15

Hollywood's Home Away From Home

Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell Sighting at the Carlyle Hotel - July 28, 1983
Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell Sighting at the Carlyle Hotel - July 28, 1983. Ron Galella/WireImage

As the hotel matured, a new wave of A-listers — like Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn — flocked to the Manhattan hotspot.

"If you're staying here, you feel like you’ve made it," actor Jon Hamm says in the doc, adding, "I've never stayed here."

07 of 15

Legendary Acts

Photo of Eartha KITT
Ebet Roberts/Redferns

Late singer-actress Eartha Kitt took the stage at the Café Carlyle, the hotel's classic cabaret, when it reopened in 2007. The space has also played host to Elaine Stritch, Judy Collins and Woody Allen.

"A lot of people love the Café Carlyle because it's a small, intimate cabaret," Hernandez explains. "Rita Wilson comes here a lot and performs in there. She loves it. Katharine McPhee just performed earlier this year."

08 of 15

Fit For a Lady


Princess Diana frequented The Carlyle while she was alive in the '90s. "That was probably the most memorable guest that we've ever had stay here," Hernandez reveals.

09 of 15

More Royals in Town

The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge Arrive In New York
Samir Hussein/Pool/WireImage

So when Diana's son Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton came to New York for the first time in 2014, they followed royal tradition and stayed at The Carlyle.

"To actually see the Duke and the Duchess was like goosebumps to me," Hernandez admits. "I saw them four times. And she said, 'H!' to me, which was kind of cool."

10 of 15

Christmastime in the City

The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge Sighting In New York City - December 07, 2014
James Devaney/GC Images

For Wiliam and Kate's December 2014 visit, the hotel decked the halls with a U.K. flag. Hernandez reveals that the royal couple always used the front door, rather than the more private back entrance, and even "ordered pizza from a local spot."

11 of 15

JFK Holds Court

President-elect Kennedy with Eleanor Roosevelt

American political figures hit up The Carlyle as well. President John F. Kennedy, seen here meeting with Eleanor Roosevelt just after his election, was a frequent guest during his time in office with his wife Jackie.

12 of 15

Jackie's Refuge

Jackie Kennedy Leaving Carlyle Hotel

Jackie lived in the hotel for 10 months after her husband died in 1963 before buying a place nearby on Park Avenue.

"She came in here a lot," Hernandez says. "She actually met Audrey Hepburn at The Carlyle, which is really cool."

13 of 15

A Beloved Bar

publicity imagebemelman's bar in hotel carlyle in New York
Don Riddle

Named for its wall illustrations by Madeline artist and auther Ludwig Bemelmans, the Bemelmans Bar has drawn celebs for decades. Stars and guests alike drop in for the chance to see an impromteau performance from the likes of Cyndi Lauper, Liza Minnelli and Lady Gaga.

"In Bemelmans Bar we have live music every night, and it's a really huge destination for New Yorkers and out of towners," Hernandez says. "A lot of celebrities love to just get up and sing. Mariah Carey's been in there before. She did it one year after the Rockefeller Christmas lighting. Bono's done it as well."

14 of 15

Supermodel Status

promo shots for the always at the Carlyle documentary
Justin Bare

"You feel like the history of Jackie O., or presidents and princesses. People like that," VIP Naomi Campbell says in the film.

Hernandez adds, "She's a wonderful person surprisingly, because she hasn’t had the best reputation, especially in hotels and treating hospitality people in a great way. But she is really, really cool. She's very friendly to the concierge, to the bellmen, to the elevator operator. She's really nice and approachable. She always looks amazing, by the way."

15 of 15

Housing Broadway's Best

Andrew Testa/REX/Shutterstock

Prior to her 2014 passing, Broadway legend Elaine Stritch called The Carlyle home for 12 years.

"I remember one day she came to the concierge desk and she wanted a stamp, and I gave her a stamp and she kept licking the back of the stamp," recalls Hernandez. "She's like, 'This stamp doesn’t work!' Well, it was a peel off stamp. I was like, 'How do I tell her that they don’t do that anymore? They're all stickers!' "

Other past and present Carlyle residents include designers Calvin Klein and Diane Von Furstenberg, as well as major CEOs.

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