Just after 8:00 on the evening of October 1st, with a large group of dapperly dressed guests gathered in Grand Army Plaza below, a 12-foot cake shining in the spotlight amidst them, and a small cast of hosts counting down from ten on stage, the first sparks of light erupted from the rooftop of The Plaza hotel. They flared into the air and then were followed by others of their kind, exploding from different roof levels in the building. Some shot out of windows, others stayed along the surface of the facade creating spiraling sparkles of light against the hotel. At the finale, the building appeared to explode, as small fireworks shot out of every window and rooftop with a burst of light.
Mayor Bloomberg, through his stand-in Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, had proclaimed October 1st the Plaza's 100th birthday, and the hotel, known for its history of offering a locale for celebration, went all out.
There was the 50-member orchestra, the cake, introductions by city resident Matthew Broderick, and the largest pyrotechnic display ever launched from atop a building–let alone a million square foot building in Midtown. And then there were the guests. Members of the Central Park Conservancy, city officials, and socialites. Women in evening gowns, held close by their male escorts to avoid the chill of this first night in October. A small girl in a matching tan petticoat and headband with perfectly straightened brown hair ran wild for a moment before her mother caught her, a modern day Eloise.
Martha Stewart came to enjoy the festivities. She stood on the platform designated for press photographers and snapped shots of friends with the quintessential New York background: The Plaza hotel.
"It's just a really wonderful landmark and I've been going there my whole life," she told The Observer.
Ms. Stewart left just after the fireworks display, as Paul Anka took the stage to serenade Isaac Tshuva, the Israeli developer whose El-Ad Properties purchased The Plaza for $675 million and now is paying for the $400 million renovation. Mr. Tshuva sat in a chair just below the standing Mr. Anka, who had reworked the lyrics to his hit "My Way" to be about The Plaza hotel.
"What Donald paid, you call it chump change," Mr. Anka sang, referring to an earlier purchase of the building by Mr. Trump. But then in a strange performance choice, Mr. Anka handed the lyrics sheet and the microphone to Mr. Tshuva, whose success as a real estate developer does not include any singing abilities. It wasn't just that he sang off key, but rather that he lingered on lyrics too long, distressing both the piano accompanist and most of the audience, who clapped awkwardly as Mr. Tshuva belted out, "Myyyyyyyyyyy waaaaaaaaaaay!"
Don't quit your day job.
The festivities went on as Mr. Anka and the orchestra of St. Luke's performed Happy Birthday and waiters in white tuxedo jackets served individual slices of cake to the guests. The 12-foot Plaza replica cake sat undisturbed throughout the entire party.
The Plaza hotel will be in operation in December. As part of the renovations the building will retain 282 suites, 130 rooms, and 152 Pieds-a-terre for purchasers who can stay for up to 120 days annually. The building will also hold 182 private condo residences, some of which are already occupied, with a separate entrance, and public spaces such as a restored grand ballroom, Edwardian room, Palm Court, Oak Bar, and Oak Room.
Gal Nauer, the interior architect for the renovations told The Observer about the process of restoring the old while bringing something new to this New York institution. "It has been a fascinating journey to capture all of those great memories of so many people for the past 100 years," she said.
Next up: Plaza Vegas?
"We saw how successful the plaza is and we decided to bring the legend and the dream around the world," Ms. Nauer said.
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