The year was 1978, and the place was Salem. Oregon, and I was Front Desk Manager at the hotel I previously introduced you to. Once again it was State Fair time, and we were expecting our usual overflow crowd of tourists and celebrities. Only, this year was a little different because the General Manager decided to take his vacation during Fair time, and as second in command, I was left in charge of all operations until his return. I was both excited and a little frightened because this was the first time I was left alone in charge. Oh well, had to get my feet wet sometime.
This years' list of celebrities included someone I had watched on television in the sixties, Fred Mickey Finn. Some of you may remember him, and to some he might not be recognized, but Fred Mickey Finn was a pianist who played honky-tonk, ragtime, and jazz, and was accompanied by his wife on the banjo. He also had the longest running show in the history of the Union Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas. His style was unique, and I greatly admired his musical skills.
As with all celebrity bookings, great preparation was used to ensure everything was in perfect order for their arrival. Fred' bookings were for six rooms, two double beds per room, and a King Suite for Mr. Finn. We did the usual prep work, and I felt very comfortable in dealing with his arrival.
In order to facilitate a smoother operation during that weekend, I opted to stay at the hotel for the weekend, a decision I soon came to realize was a good choice. Yes, I was run ragged, and the demands never stopped between assisting my desk staff, running errands, and doing my own work, but I was excited about making sure my time in charge would be a roaring success. You see, I had my eye on becoming General Manager of that hotel in the future, and sure enough that did happen later, and I wanted to powers that be to know that I was the right man for the job.
It was midnight, Friday, and Mr. Finn and his band had not yet arrived at the hotel to check in. I was absolutely drained after the day's hectic rat race, so I decided to retire for the night to my room on the third floor. Chet was working that night, and I felt a bit uncomfortable leaving him alone. Chet was a good man, around sixty-five years old, and had worked around and in hotels for years and years. As a matter of fact, I had worked with Chet several years earlier at another property, long before I went into management. Sound good, right? Wrong. Chet was shall we say, logically challenged. Yes, he could do things by the proverbial book, but when it came to a judgment call, well, let's just say his reasoning capacity was a brick short of a load.
I told Chet I was going to bed, and if he needed me to ring my room. I turned off the light and tumbled into bed for a must needed sleep. Then, the phone rang, and Chet's voice informed me that we had a major problem. I looked over at the clock, and it was 2:00 A.M. Chet went on to say that Mr. Finn's band was here, and there were not enough rooms for his reservation.'What?", I shouted into the phone. When I had left at midnight everything was in order, what could possibly have gone wrong? It seems we only had two rooms with two beds in each room to accommodate thirteen people in the band! even Mr. Finn's King Suite was gone!ha
Chet went on to inform me that Mr. Finn was very angry. Well, no kidding, I thought to myself.
I asked Chet what could possibly have happened to the rooms set aside for the band, and is answer reinforced my opinion of Chet's reasoning powers. He had sold them to tourists because he didn't see a guarantee on them. Now, as you are probably aware, hotels require a credit card guarantee to hold rooms, especially during the peak season. Mr. Finn's rooms were guaranteed to his corporate address in Vegas, and was listed on one of the folders, but not on all of then, so Chet had felt that he should sell the rest of the rooms.
I quickly jumped out of bed, dressed and hurried to the lobby. Man oh man, here I was about to meet one of my idols, and he was probably going to ring my neck. Oh well, so this was what being in charged entailed , I thought to myself as I waited for the elevator to arrive to take me to my now diminishing changed to someday be the Big Boss of that hotel. I would be lucky to get a job as a desk clerk at Motel 6 when this was over.
Arriving in the lobby, I was met by Chet and there standing by him was a very red faced Fred Mickey Finn. So much for good first impressions. Mr. Finn then proceeded to tear me a new you know what. He and his band had driven from Vegas to Salem in their bus, had broken down along the way, and they were very tired and in no mood to find that their rooms had been sold.
And just what was I going to do about it, he demanded.
Ah yes, my quick thinking mind had learned years ago that there is always a solution to every problem. I asked him to wait there a minute. Ah, the conference rooms on the third floor! Thank you, God, I thought to myself. I might just pull this off yet. Quickly, now checking the housekeeping closets for extra roll-aways, and bedding, I did a quick calculation. I could fit three beds in each conference room, and one more in the rooms that Chet had not sold.
I called the front desk and told Chet to ask Mr. Finn to meet me on the third floor, and I would show him my newly hatched idea. Mr. Finn, came up, examined the conference rooms, and agreed, with one final tearing of a new one, to accept the plan with my new offer that I would not charge them for the conference rooms, and their previously assigned rooms would be there tomorrow with no if and's and buts. I would personally guarantee it.
I set up the beds, ran towels, and other amenities for about an hour, and finally bid them a good night , and crawled back into bed. I didn't see Mr. Finn the next morning, and I thought that was just fine, thank you very much. I was too chagrined to see him again.
I was scheduled to work the 4-midnight shift on Saturday at the desk. Settling into my work, the night passed quickly, and before I knew it was about eleven PM. About that time, the lobby doors opened, and Mr. Finn was walking to the desk. He was dressed up in his sparkly suit from his show that night. Wanting to hide, but knowing there was no place to run, I braced for another verbal assault. Instead, a smiling Mr. Finn stood before me with a record in his hands, which he signed his name to, wrote a personal message, and said it was for me. He then apologized for over reacting the night before and complimented me for taking care of a bad situation. Shaking hands, he again smiled and said to have a good night. Wow, did I ever fell better!
Fast forward to August 1979, and it was Fair time again. One thing had really changed this past year, I had reached my goal, and I was now the General Manager of this fine hotel. I was excited because Fred Mickey Finn was once again coming to town, and staying at my hotel. I would personally take charge of his arrangement this time, and I would make sure I was there to check them in myself. Mr. Finn arrived early that day, and to astonishment came in smiling, walked up the front desk, shook hands, and said" how are you doing, and called me by name. Was I ever impressed! He remembered my name!
I never saw Mr. Finn again, and over the years wondered what happened to him. Recently, I came across his website, and left a personal message for him, reminding him of Salem, and who I was. I never heard back, but that is okay. After all is has been thirty years since that happened. I was just glad to see he was still performing all over the country. Maybe someday, we will meet again.
PS His style is not for everyone, but here is a sample from YouTube.