Money. Power. Sex. Scandal. All this and more has been dramatized in the British TV series, Hotel Babylon, but for a real-life look at what really goes on behind closed doors at some of the swankiest hotels in the world, there is the Brit travel program, Hotel Secrets with Richard E Grant.
Unlike other travel shows that air on local PBS stations, Hotel Secrets with Richard E Grant has the award-winning Gosford Park actor Grant (who will be guest-starring in Series 5 of Downton Abbey) serving as host and traveling the globe to bring viewers the secrets and other juicy stories behind the glamorous facades of iconic — and often infamous — hotels.
From outrageous behavior and sex scandals, to warring hotel dynasties and extravagances of rich and famous guests, Hotel Secrets with Richard E Grant offers a portrait of a mostly-hidden world that can be naughty and notorious.
As a former hotel employee himself (during his days at uni in Swaziland), Grant explores hotels including the George V in Paris, the Four Seasons in New York, the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and the Savoy in London, and discovers what makes a select number of hotels so unique. He also interviews some of the biggest names in the luxury hotel industry, getting insights from billionaire businessman Donald Trump, renowned hotelier Ian Schrager, and André Balazs, whose portfolio of hugely successful hotels includes the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles.
In addition to episodes that focus on individual hotels, the series features two location-centered specials on grand hotels in Ireland and on the French Riviera.
Episode 1: Power and Money
Grant examines the roles power and money play in the luxury hotel business, checking into Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, California’s Barkley Pet Hotel, and the $44,000-a-night Ty Warner Penthouse at the Four Seasons in New York.
Episode 2: Living and Dying
In touring the rooms, restaurants and bars where the rich and famous have lived, died and fallen in love, Grant checks in to L’Hotel on the Left Bank in Paris, where Oscar Wilde spent his last days. He then travels to the Chelsea Hotel in New York City, where long-term residents included American author Mark Twain, French chanteuse Edith Piaf, and Sid Vicious of the British punk band the Sex Pistols. He also heads to the Dorchester in the Mayfair district of London, where Britt Ekland shares her memories of meeting and falling for Peter Sellers there in 1964.
Episode 3: Scandal
This episode finds Grant uncovering the gossip, intrigue and scandal that lurks behind the closed doors of some of the world’s most famous rooms and suites, including the Chateau Marmont on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard, where Howard Hughes famously holed up in the penthouse and Jean Harlow and Clark Gable carried out a torrid affair. In New York, he talks to former mobster Louis Ferrante about a robbery at the Pierre Hotel in 1972, in which cash and jewelry worth $10 million were stolen.
Episode 4: VIP
A VIP himself, Grant learns what it really means to be treated like one at some of the world’s finest hotels, including London’s Dorchester, where Elizabeth Taylor had a pink marbled bathroom installed in the Harlequin Suite. He also visits Le Meurice in Paris, which Salvador Dali returned to every year for 30 years. He meets Dali’s muse Amanda Lear, who talks about the surrealist artist’s antics and how his legacy is celebrated in the hotel today. And in America, Richard gets a true taste of the lifestyle of the megarich when he orders the $5,000 fleurburger at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas.
Episode 5: The Extra Factor
Here Grant discovers some of the hidden extras offered by the world’s most expensive hotels. He goes underground at the George V in Paris for a tasting session in its fine wine cellars, and catches up with the managing director of London’s Goring, who reveals why the hotel has become the unofficial royal choice. At the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, Richard chats with a wedding planner who has organized nuptials for celebrities including Gwen Stefani, Nicole Richie and Katy Perry, as well as with Kiss bassist Gene Simmons and Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Joanna Coles.
Episode 6: Sex
For juicy insight into the lives of the rich and famous, Grant explores some of the sexiest hotels and hideaways in the world. Visiting the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles, he discovers a secret stairway used by one of Tinseltown’s most infamous Lotharios, and in Paris he travels to L’Hotel, which counts French sex symbol and notorious womanizer Serge Gainsbourg amongst its past guests.
Episode 7: Ireland
In exploring some of Ireland’s best hotels, Grant visits the beautiful Ashford Castle in County Mayo, which provided the setting for the 1952 film The Quiet Man. Together with former ITN reporter John Suchet, Grant checks in at the Belfast Europa, known as the most-bombed hotel in Europe after being attacked 28 times during Ireland’s Troubles, before touring the Clarence Hotel in Dublin, which is owned by U2 frontman Bono. Finally, he visits the exclusive six-star Ballyfin in County Laois, where guests can be lord and lady of the manor during their stay.
Episode 8: French Riviera
The conclusion of the series has Richard E Grant exploring the world’s most luxurious hotels on the Côte d’Azur, or French Riviera. Beginning at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, he is shown the art of perfect fine dining before meeting ex-Formula One driver David Coulthard, who explains why he chooses to call Monaco home. Grant then visits the Hotel Byblos in St Tropez, where Mick Jagger and Bianca De Macias tied the knot in 1971, and finishes the series at the Belles Rives Hotel in Antibes.
The first series of Hotel Secrets with Richard E Grant proved to a hit in the UK, and BSkyB has since commissioned a second series for its Sky Atlantic channel, which goes into production this year with Grant traveling to more swanky hotels in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Venice, Berlin, New Orleans, and Miami.
The first series of Hotel Secrets with Richard E Grant begins screening in the US starting the 31st of March on the following local PBS stations. Check your local listings or contact the viewer services department of the station that serves your area, as the premiere date varies from market to market.