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Prelude to 1616

Though not living next door to Alice, but next door to the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, this hotel probably knows me better than anyone else other than my ex-wife.

Convention Plaza became my new home after my wife and I decided to take a break from each other. That was over twenty years ago and much has happened during that time. And while Stevie Nicks sung how “players only love you when they’re playing”, I guess that I was a player, and certainly playing.

It was kid-in-a-candy-store-time and which I go into some detail in my upcoming “journography” out in April next year.

The chapter dedicated to those Grand Hyatt Years is titled “1616”, the number of the all-white two bedroom suite with an amazing view of Hong Kong and where I stayed for probably longer than I should have.

Until an extremely pretty young Lithuanian girl moved in with me, I was a “mover and shaker” and music executive moving between the hotel’s Grand Cafe, Tiffin Lounge, the famous Champagne Bar, the club JJ’s upstairs, and then back to the Champagne Bar for one last walkabout before heading back to 1616.

I was in the music industry at the time and our entertainment allowances were pretty generous. This gave us the luxury of time to engage in The Long Lunch which was always at the Tiffin Lounge.

Here was where there was the best and largest buffet lunch in town including Chef Singh’s Indian Corner.

We held most of our meetings and “working lunches” here and which really were about planning our night ahead.

It would be fair to say that the Grand Hyatt was our office from noon until at least 2am.

This “working day” would take us from the Tiffin Lounge at noon to the Champagne Bar the moment it opened its doors at 5pm. This was when a new journey into the unknown started.

There would be the venue’s staff like Teddy, Ah Hei and Mandy to talk to and map out our seating arrangements for the night to ensure that we never missed anything that might happen during the course of the night.

There were the regulars, the irregulars and friends in horse racing along with those in business and music, plus some pretty off the wall characters including very pretty ladies from Eastern Europe who knew me as “Guns”.

Screams of “Guns! Guns!” would ricochet through Convention Plaza at all hours of the morning which would give Security heart palpitations, but all was well.

It was at the Champagne Bar that I ended up one night not knowing and then knowing that I had been speaking to Keanu Reeves for over an hour about the band Dog Star- his band.

It was here that I was somehow introduced to President Clinton and ended up being invited to have dinner with him and his entourage upstairs in the Thai restaurant at the hotel.

After that, “Uncle” Danny, the manager of JJ’s, would make the Red Seas part as we walked through the throngs and were seated at the table right in front of the stage where the various resident bands from Canada played. On the table waiting would be a chilled bottle of Dom Perignon. What else, right? Pretentious? Mais oui.

Who would be with us? Other than the usual suspects, whoever we thought were interesting enough to sit at our table.

There was that memorable night when Norah Jones was persuaded to give an impromptu showcase at the restaurant section at JJ’s.

The very select guest list turned into over a hundred people and a good time was had by all.

After the show, Norah and I finished a bottle of red while I received advice from her on fatherhood. Whatever...Great girl.

The Grand Hyatt was much more than “five star party town Hong Kong” where people like Michel Adam hatched his FashionTV dream in the Penthouse of the hotel, and many went to maybe pay homage to the big man, but mainly to indulge in whatever was on offer.

At least for me, the hotel, especially when Gordon Fuller was General Manager, often offered shelter from the storm of excess.

It was good to get away from it all and sit by myself at what was then the Coffee Shop and enjoy the Hainan Chicken Rice and wonder where everything was leading.

Of course, no one could have predicted that those golden years would turn into fool’s gold and the one dimensional foghorn of gloom and doom that Hong Kong has become today.

Even during these groundhog days and nights where everything screeches to a full stop before 10pm, there’s still the Hainan Chicken Rice, the lunches at the Grand Cafe, the Tiffin Lounge and the Chinese restaurant that’s the excellent 1 Harbour Road.

There are the cameo appearances by General Manager Richard Greaves, Food and Beverage Executive Director Gerhard Passrugger, who, yesterday was dressed to resembled a Swiss yodeller, Connie, Grace, Sneha, Chef Hon and the rest of the team.

Chef Singh’s now much more “condensed” Indian Corner is still there, I am still next door at Convention Plaza, and still not next door to Alice whereas Hong Kong plods along with opportunists, wannabes, refried beens and never-beens looking for answers in all the wrong places and where many have been stuck for decades.

Me? I haven’t seen just both sides now, I have gone down that rabbit hole quite a few times and seen what’s there and have given plenty back to Hong Kong- and vice versa.

I’ll quietly go about my personal business away from the glare and suffocating smoke and mirrors and see where things lead.

The Mad Hatter somehow makes sure that things usually lead somewhere meaningful...

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