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Your Wish Is Their Command


Thomas Warrick has strewn beds with rose petals, helped a young man propose to his fiancee while sky diving, located baby shoes for a young mother and sent countless people on tours of Universal Studios.

Warrick is the head concierge at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, where a guest's wish is his command as long as it's legal.

He's in demand from the minute he steps behind the expansive wood-topped concierge desk in the lobby. Standing with a phone at each ear and supplicants around the desk, he's simultaneously telling a couple where to find an Italian newspaper, advising a man to leave his wife's jewelry in the hotel vault while they're out and tracking down a guest's vitamins. After he's soothed the frantic and counseled the confused he exhales, smoothes his unwrinkled jacket and says, "It's a little bit of a performance here every day."

A hotel concierge is the guest's link with the outside world, and better hotels have about a half-dozen on staff. While they've been the backbone of most European hotels for decades, they've only been on U.S. hotel staffs since the 1970s. The demand for concierges has even spread to larger office buildings, apartment and condo complexes and shopping malls.

Concierges' heads are stuffed with up-to-the-minute factoids from the location of the hot nightclubs to which freeways to avoid at what times. Newspapers, magazines and entertainment industry trade papers help them keep abreast of the latest wheelings and ealings of more celebrated clients.


A 30-ish man approaches the desk, asking Warrick for a restaurant suitable for a cozy dinner a deux . Warrick recommends Locanda Veneta or Cicada and assures the man that a reservation for two on a Friday night at the peak time of 8 o'clock will be no problem.

It helps to have contacts. Good concierges do--with maitre d's, travel agents and ticket brokers. Warrick was able to arrange a last-minute lunch for two women at the nearby Bistro with a phone call and a little schmoozing.

What else has he done in the line of duty? One regular client grew tired of renting cars while in L. A., and bought a Jaguar he kept at the hotel. He asked Warrick to drive it around the block twice a week.

"I was much too scared to do that," Warrick says. "I'm sure that if I drove it I'd drive into a tree or something. So I'd just go down and rev it up."

Pros like Warrick also know that discretion is the better part of being a concierge.

So no tattling on famous guests. Warrick considers himself a "confidante, so they're not embarrassed to ask for whatever."

"If someone says, 'Who's at your hotel?' you can't come out and say, 'We had this star or this head of state,' " says Karron Hinson, head concierge at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. "We do say we have an upscale clientele, they're high profile and they want their privacy respected."

Without naming names, she and her staff have been called upon to buy a volleyball for a woman who uses it for pool exercises, track down homeopathic medicines and charter a helicopter at the last minute on Super Bowl sunday.

"You keep thinking, 'Nothing is going to surprise me because I've seen it all,' " Hinson says with a sigh, "but then something comes along and does."

Besides fielding requests from guests in the hotel, she also gets them from outside.

"There's one woman who stays here a lot who, when she gets to another city, calls us. She'll say, 'I'm in Texas and I need a good restaurant.' If we happen to know one we'll tell her, or else we'll call a fellow concierge in that city--networking is a tremendous help."


For repeat clients, concierges keep an updated list of favorite restaurants, whether they prefer a stretch limo or sedan and what amenities they like in their rooms.

Sean D. Jasso, head concierge at the Ritz-Carlton, Huntington in Pasadena says, "There are never any really ridiculous requests, but there are very, very involved things like booking flights overseas or someone who wants to get on a first-class flight to Paris in an hour.

"The other day I did receive a request for a breast pump. And I've since learned that there is an international breast pump network that helps nursing mothers. You learn all kinds of things."

Sandra Abrantes, chef concierge at the Biltmore, found ocean depth-measuring instruments for some Greek students, chartered a helicopter to Las Vegas and helped plan a bachelor party.

Then there was the time a guest asked her to track down a popular radio lecturer on metaphysics. About 50 phone calls later, Abrantes had almost given up. Then she discovered the lecturer had been dead for five years, and the guest had been listening to recorded tapes.

Even the best concierges can't work some miracles. Warrick says he had a guest ask for private jet to go to San Francisco pronto . "Things have to be set up in advance," he explains. "There's just not going to be a jet sitting on the runway right at 3:30 when they say, 'We need to do this right now.' "

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