Royal York bellhop talks about famous guests on hotel's 85th birthday
Fan-Yee Suen, CTV Toronto
Published Wednesday, June 11, 2014 10:10PM EDT
The hotel's walls may not be able to talk, but its bellhop definitely can.
Michael Calnan is one of Toronto's Fairmont Royal York hotel's longest-serving employees. On Wednesday, the landmark building celebrated its 85th birthday. And while Calnan has only worked there for the past 30 years, he has served an impressive roster of guests, from celebrities, to heads of states, and even royalty.
"The things I've seen," Calnan told CTV Toronto on Wednesday. "Oh, it could turn your toes green."
Some of the hotel's more famous guests include clothing designers Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen and Queen Elizabeth, who stayed at the Royal York in 1981.
Calnan's favourite guest, however, was former U.S. president Ronald Reagan, who came with a large entourage of staff members. Calnan said he was charged with polishing their shoes, and that there were so many of them, there was a snafu.
"There were so many shoes at the end of the day that when I put them out (by) their doors, the president got one of his, and one of his chauffeur's (shoes)."
Over the years, Calnan has watched the historic hotel evolve. He says he remembers when the Imperial Room -- one of the Royal York's venue halls -- had a strict dress code.
"When I started here in the Imperial Room, you couldn’t go in unless you had a jacket and tie on," Calnan said. "They’d make you wear a waiter’s jacket if you didn’t have one."
Considered one of the hotel's most popular entertainment spaces, the 465-square-metre room has played host to a number of well-known musicians, including James Brown and Tony Bennett.
From the Imperial Room to the hotel's hundreds of guest rooms, Calnan has walked practically every single square metre of the building, logging many hours at the Royal York in the process. But it wasn't always Calnan's plan to become a hotel worker.
Originally from Prince Edward County, south of Belleville, Ont., Calnan said he came to Toronto to get his undertaker's licence. But a brief stay at the hotel changed those plans.
"I was waiting in the lobby at the hotel to catch the train back to Prince Edward County where my family are from," he said. "The bell captain of the day came up to me and says, 'Young man, are you looking for a job? We’re looking for elevator boys.'"
The next day, Calnan said he started working at the Royal York. The dedicated bellhop, however, has never spent a night in one of the hotel’s rooms.
"I have never stayed in a fancy room in this hotel at all."
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Scott Lightfoot