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Hollywood is buzzing with the Oscars right around the corner. And there's probably no buzzier spot than the Loews Hollywood Hotel. Since the property is attached to the Dolby Theatre, it has played a big part in the annual show from being the host hotel for nominees and the crew to having a hidden passageway for all winners to freely celebrate with their family and friends before facing the cameras.
As you can imagine, anything can happen during this live event, and the hotel has had years to perfect this level of service needed for Hollywood's biggest night. In fact, they have a VIP Manager, James Howald, to cater to high-profile guests and their needs like escorting them discreetly in and out of the hotel through to completing all requests in their riders and going above and beyond with unique amenities to make them feel at home.
We were able to chat with Howald about his behind-the-scenes Oscars experience, including some of the craziest requests he's received.
Departures: What makes the Oscars special in terms of requests?
James Howald: "With an average team made up of 27 people for a "glam squad" per suite, the requests for lighting, steaming, and sewing are abundant. As you can imagine, tensions get high for this big night, and even with a big team, it seems as if there are not enough people to help. I've steamed, hair-sprayed, sewed, and powdered a nose throughout my years of working here. There are times I've even acted as a babysitter. Another big request, as you can imagine, is food. I'll get requests at all hours during any day for specific food requests. I once got a request for vegan Pinot Noir and Hot Buffalo Chicken Wings – it was an interesting combo!"
Speaking of that, what are some of the over the top requests you've received?
"I received a request for fresh royal jelly the week of and not only did I have to figure out where to get some, but I also had to Google what it was in the first place. If you don't know, fresh royal jelly is honey that is produced from the queen bee of a hive. Luckily, we're in LA, and I was able to find a health food store in Venice beach that had it in stock. Also, a month before the show, a VIP guest requested a 1955 Belmont Barber Chair. This wasn't easy to find, but I was able to find one off of Craigslist that I was able to get shipped in time and set up before the guest checked in."
Do you have any other wild requests you can remember?
"As a pet-friendly property, we welcome our guests' furry family members too and treat them no differently than our human guests. One year, we transformed one of our rooms to a serene space where one of our VIP pets had a space to relax and get away from all the buzz while they experienced a soothing massage from their pet handler. We also provide pets with a gourmet in-room dining menu that includes made to order dishes. And one year, we received a request for a rooftop massage the night before the Oscars. While we have never done that before, we pulled all of our resources together to create a special treatment that took place on our hotel's helipad, which has amazing views of the city."
What's your most memorable fashion emergency you've had to work with?
"While en route to the carpet (via a secret route), I hand-stitched a malfunctioning spaghetti strap"
How have you gone above and beyond for these VIP guests?
"Every interaction is a welcomed challenge and opportunity to exceed guests' expectations. There is never a request too big or too small, and just when I think I've done it all, I get to do something new."
How many hours do you work surrounding Oscar weekend?
"The better question is, how many hours do I sleep during Oscar weekend? Three."
What sets Loews Hollywood apart from other hotels when dealing with a high profile event like this with high profile guests?
"Loews Hollywood Hotel is fortunate by design and has various unseen routes to and from the stage of the Dolby Theatre, making it easy for us to escort these VIP guests discreetly before, throughout, and after the show. During commercial breaks and if there is time throughout the show, a lot of our guests will just go back to their room for a quick touch up without having to walk through public spaces. We also triple our VIP service during this time and expand our team, who are all available 24 hours a day to provide prompt and genuine service."