Last week, the Plaza announced a pair of special packages in honor of their most famous fictional resident: Kay Thompson’s Eloise.
The Live Like Eloise Slumber Party Package accommodates six guests and includes a suite, a copy of The Eloise Guide to Life, Eloise DVDs, Eloise postcards, Eloise snacks, rollaway beds, and a trophy party for elementary schoolers, or, the hotel hopes, a “girls night” for adult women. It starts at $3,595.
The regular Live Like Eloise Package—no party—starts at $895 per night, and is intended for families. It includes the night in a Deluxe Rose Suite, with the promise of an upgrade; a copy of Eloise; a Super Duper Sundae with whipped cream and sprinkles; and Eloise postcards with complimentary postage.
“Overpriced and underexciting,” was one maternal verdict on the UrbanBaby message boards. “$3,600?” replied another. “If this takes off, I’m doing Harold and the Purple Crayon sleepovers at my apartment. Here’s your crayon, here’s your paper. That’ll be $3,000.”
Erica Lumière, an Upper West Side mother of two, wasn’t so dismissive: “I know folks who’ve lost their jobs or who are fearful of losing their jobs and still willing to spend what most of America would consider an obscene amount of money on a child’s birthday party,” she emailed, citing Kidville parties that cost a couple grand.
“I would never spend that kind of money for a child’s party,” she was quick to add. “Recession or no recession.”
Curtis Gathje, the hotel’s onetime official historian and author of At the Plaza, said he recently lunched with Eloise illustrator Hilary Knight at the Oak Room. Mr. Knight was at the hotel because some residents were interested in having an Eloise mural painted in their room. If someone’s little girl is infatuated with the super-franchised character, Mr. Gathje predicted, then $3,600 is no object.
As for the packages’ success in their first week, the Plaza reported that it had received bookings, but declined to give any numbers.
In the 1960s, when relations were good between Thompson and the Plaza, the hotel offered several long-running promotions. Mr Gathje describes an Eloise-themed room, complete with a Nanny, who would say that Eloise had just gone to pour water down the mail chute. When the Plaza stopped letting her live for free, Thompson left and took Eloise with her.
But merchandise has blossomed in the decade since the author’s death. There’s an Eloise zone in the Plaza’s new retail area, painted pink and nestled beside a pastry shop. One can buy a $74.95 Eloise doll; or ribbon headbands with a distinct whiff of Blair Waldorf; or, at a higher price point, $1,800 limited-edition prints.
The hotel has done its best to make its mascot as blandly ubiquitous as an Audrey Hepburn poster in a dorm room, which is fitting, because Eloise embodies a familiar fantasy of being female in New York—she’s a prepubescent Holly Golightly. It’s that same combination of glamour and scrappy lonesomeness, albeit with Weenie, the dog who looks like a cat, in place of Cat.
“What little girl wouldn’t love a ‘Live Like Eloise’ party?” said Ms. Lumière.
However! “What kid would really get that excited b/c it is at the Plaza?” wondered one UrbanBaby poster.
The Transom has to agree. “I am Eloise. I am six,” the book begins. We must have first read it—3,000 miles from Central Park—at age 4 or 5, because Eloise was older. Our copy was used, and had a ripped cover, and this was fitting: Eloise is recession-proof. The fantasy isn’t that you upgrade to the Edwardian Suite. It’s that you take the Edwardian Suite totally for granted and scuff up the moldings with your roller skates.