It Started at The Savoy – A memoir about family, celebrities and the highlights from a 52-year career in hotel management
It Started at The Savoy highlights many of the varied and interesting experiences offered by a 52-year career in the hotel management business. The book is intended to be both entertaining and educational for any person in, or considering a career in, the hospitality field.After graduating from hotel school and spending two years fulfilling his military service obligation, Bill Pullen cut his teeth at the famed Savoy and Berkeley hotels in London and the equally acclaimed Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris before gaining experience at the other end of the spectrum in management at two established historic country inns. He relates numerous interesting and comical episodes occurring during those years.
Taking advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he came to America in 1961 as Assistant Manager of the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach and began the next 44 years of his unique career. While managing a Shakespearean-themed restaurant in Connecticut, he met the love of his life, Anita. During their 50 years together, they and their two daughters would experience a number of fascinating and challenging assignments.Operating the most exclusive restaurant at the New York World's Fair in 1964 brought him in contact with a number of high-profile celebrities including Walt Disney and Princess Grace of Monaco. But it was his meeting Arizona Governor Sam Goddard and Phoenix Mayor Milt Graham that led to the family moving out west where he accepted a management position at the renowned Camelback Inn.
His most unusual and logistically difficult assignment was managing the only hotel in the country of Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana) in South America. This hotel, on the edge of the Amazon rain forest, brought him face to face with President Lyndon Johnson. It also tested his ability to adapt under pressure when the dockside VIP reception on a twin-hulled oil rig was suddenly relocated to the middle of the Suriname River. This assignment proved to be like no other, such as when Bill had to deal with one of their 'zoo' monkeys escaping and when local bush negroes went fishing from the hotel's decorative pool, and much, much more.
His return to Arizona for his next assignment brought him in contact with many more celebrities and provides more entertaining anecdotes which Bill shares with his gift for storytelling. In 1970, Bill was recruited to take over the 1300-acre Lake Geneva Playboy Resort in Wisconsin which included a Las Vegas-type showroom among its many resort amenities. His interaction with many of the headliners of the day, such as, Sonny and Cher, Phyllis Diller, Ann-Margret and hosting several golf course and convention events provides the reader with many amusing insights.In 1976, Bill and his family moved back to Florida. Managing resort operations on Florida's east coast provided the opportunity to host the Florida PGA Championship for many years.
He shares with the reader a failed attempt by the Teamsters to unionize his employees, the good fortune of sharing in a rollover Florida lottery jackpot, how he handled an anonymous bomb threat and saw his hotel through two major hurricanes. But Bill's story does not end with his retirement, far from it. The final chapter tells of his establishment of a charitable foundation in Sri Lanka. This highly successful endeavor, begin in 1990, continues to this date, providing support for some of the island's poorest children.
It Started at The Savoy is an easy-to-read memoir that moves along quickly, keeping the reader eager to see what happens next. It includes numerous photographs and other material supporting the narrative and the book has received many excellent reviews.
About Bill Pullen (Orlando, Florida Author)
British born Leonard William "Bill" Pullen, Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA), began his hospitality career at the Westminster Kingsway College Hotel School in London. Following his military service, where he served as the personal chef to the general officer commanding the North Midland District in the U.K., he held positions at The Savoy and Berkeley Hotels in London and the Plaza Athenee Hotel in Paris. A chance meeting with an American hotel owner while working in Paris led to his journey to America in 1961 where he gained experience in hotels, restaurants and resorts in Florida, New York, Connecticut, Arizona and Wisconsin. An exciting and rare opportunity took him to Suriname, South America, where he managed the only modern hotel in that exotic country surrounded by the tropical rain forest. He has managed hotels from a 14th century nine-room historical country inn in England to the 1300-acre, 650 employee, Four Star full service Playboy resort in Wisconsin.