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Hilton Tales #3
by Jilliana Ranicar-Breese

All the reception staff at the Hilton were talking excitedly about the famous comedian Charlie Callas who was appearing on British TV as a guest of the Welsh singer Tom Jones. He would be staying, of course, at the Park Lane Hilton hotel. I had never heard of the Greek American comedian but apparently he was a good friend of Tom Jones.

Eventually during the day he wandered over to my desk to 'chat me up' and invited me for dinner in the upstairs restaurant. He was a charmer and I had no special plans after I finished at 20.00 so I gladly accepted.

I recall I was wearing a sexy maxi purple dress with a little slit up the front so that my black lacy tights showed. I had never seen his American TV shows nor his famous 'telephone call' comedy routine.

Over dinner he spoke about how he was discovered as a drummer which somehow got him on TV after a wild performance one night. He spoke about his Greek heritage having the same name as Maria Callas the world famous opera singer. He asked about my life and my background. Charlie, with his prominent Greek nose and irregular features, was a very seductive man and I fell for his charms. He told me he had f.... hundreds and hundreds of women and loved sex!

Bedtime came quite early around 22.00 and we got into the lift which accidentally went down to the ground floor to let people out. When the doors opened there was the bitchy General Manager who saw Charlie with me and knew we were heading to his bedroom.

About an hour later while we were making love, the manager pounded on the bedroom door shouting that he knew I was inside and that I had to go. No discrete phone call just traumatic knocking on the door! I was so scared I fled into the bathroom. Charlie was furious, opened the door and told him to go to hell and that he would be checking out in the morning. I was crying with shame. The atmosphere had been broken. He dressed and accompanied me downstairs and bundled me into a waiting taxi at the back entrance of the hotel.  I was distraught and crying. The 70s was a time of sexual freedom and experimentation. I was somewhat of a libertine in those days long ago and far away.

The next day Charlie rang to say he had checked into the Inn on the Park next door to the Hiltonand could I come over that evening. I told him I had lost my job and didn't want another repeat performance and suggested he came to my room at Warwick Mansions in Hampstead. It was a cozy intimate room with a large single bed. I recall I wanted to take his photo but he refused. How was I to know he was famous? To me he was lovely Charlie and I had fallen for him in a big way. He was so relaxed and open unlike the English. In fact I find the comedians I have subsequently met are very serious people.

The next morning the horrible General Manager sent for me hen I got in to work at 14.00. I had had very little contact with him: just glares. He would see me sometimes sitting outside my circular desk by the bar in the comfy chairs or sofas in the centre of the lobby and would reprimand me for sitting there. Of course the seats were for clients not Trader Travel staff. Now decades later I fully understand but thought him at the time a young fuddy duddy. He formally informed me  I could no longer work at the Hilton. The rules were that staff could not enter guests' bedrooms. I pointed out I was not Hilton staff and that I was an employee of Trader Travel not the Hilton.  He would not accept that and demanded I left by the end of the week making any excuse to my boss.

I was so upset because first the shame of being 'fired' and also I loved meeting prominent Americans and Internationals some of whom asked me to dine with them. I had booked a holiday in Tunisia the following week. I lied to my manager that I had to leave London to go to Liverpool as my father was seriously ill and I had to help and console my mother. Trader Travel never paid me for my week's holiday to Sousse. The week's holiday was in lieu of my notice so they got out of paying me.

I recall calling Charlie from London airport. He had had all his calls screened but I got through. Through my tears I told him how much I missed his company and how I longed to be with him again. He was very sweet and understanding on the phone knowing that I had lost my job because of my evening with him.

Was he worth it? Yes! I never saw him again but when my friend Anna Mae went to Vegas some years later, she saw his show and went back stage to meet him having heard about my fling with him. He remembered me amongst all his conquests. I forgot all about him of course until recently when I saw the King of American Comedy had died aged 83 and began to look at the You Tube references like Roasting Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.  I had no idea how wacky and formidable he was. Young Jilliana was so innocent in 1972 but she learned fast.   C'est la vie.

Written at Casa de los Bates, Motril, Spain 11/2/17.


High Anxiety - Mel Brooks 1977 - as a dog
You Tube - 'phone call' sketch
You Tube Charlie Callas roasts Frank Sinatra
You Tube Carson Tonight Show 1976
You Tube Charlie Callas stand up routine - The Hunters 1969
You Tube a touch of Callasness
You Tube spinning plates
You Tube  Charlie Callas (drumming) on Merv Griffin show 1978
You Tube Charlie Callas in performance 1978
Google - Charlie Callas photos and obituary