Friday, October 25, 2013

Glory days at the Maksoud- São Paulo

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See that painted lady in the middle of the photo? That's the Maksoud Plaza Hotel, the site of the South Africa trade event I attended on Tuesday. I have subtitled it: crazy 70s hotel in search of a novela (soap opera). 

So I think I may have said earlier this week that it was a 1960s throwback. Turns out it was inaugurated in 1979, and that paint job is intentional though a more recent addition. I think someone famous did it. Or not. It's hard to know. It seems like make Romero Brito could re-do it and get some more attention for this puppy. Although it might not need more attention--it is rated as a 5-star hotel after a recent renovation (rating by a Brazilian rating agency). But man, that place is troubled.

Henry Maksoud, in happier days. Photo:

Henry Maksoud is the founder of the hotel--he is still alive and nearing 90 years old. His son Roberto was running the place for quite some time, until at least 1996, when a major family fight made him check out. Certainly Henry has some business and familial issues--the hotel has twice been auctioned off to pay debts to workers from the holding company. 

And here's where things get a little crazy. Before the last auction of the hotel in 2008, Henry put a "stay" on the result, claiming he had settled the debts. That means that though JSL Holdings won the auction with the minimum bid of $70 million reais, they are not the owners. Yet. An article from July 2012 said that the courts said the auction was valid, but of course Henry has appealed the decision. He is listed on the website as the Hotel President. Meanwhile the hotel carries on.

Yes, it has all the makings of a novela. Complete with an ex-wife who sued Henry at least twice for non-payment of spousal support. Last lawsuit was when they were both around 75 years old and Henry was sentenced to 60 days of house arrest. He chose to spend his house arrest at the hotel rather than in his 17,000 square meter house in Chacara Flora. You know, he'd feel a little squished there. Henry also has an ongoing fight with a son, but his grandson is a director there at the hotel. I am way too confused to even know where to research all of this.

Meanwhile the Maksoud charges upwards of US$250 a night. It's doing just fine. Not sure its workers are, but it is hard to get that out of the newspaper. I personally found the interior a little dated, but frankly you could put most hotels in New York City in that category. They just smell dated.  Yes, suspended gardens, open atriums, reflecting pools, check, check check. It's pretty--I'm sure that at the time of its inauguration (the first of the open atrium type hotel here in Brazil), it must have been just breathtaking. I didn't see the inside of a room but the conference room was the same as any other hotel one I've ever been in. As in, fine.

Source: hotel website

So, perhaps not the Maksoud's finest hour? Hard to judge (and I mean that literally). The greatest moment in Maksoud Plaza history: Frank Sinatra himself sang there in 1981 for a four day, 700 person per night intimate audience.  Catherine Deneuve has stayed there, as did Margaret Thatcher. I think One Direction might skip it though...not much their style.

Reminds me of some of the lyrics of a Bruce Springsteen song, Glory Days:

Now I think I'm going down to the well tonight
and I'm going to drink till I get my fill
And I hope when I get old I don't sit around thinking about it
but I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
a little of the glory of, well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days

Glory days well they'll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days, glory days

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