TORONTO - There’s not an autograph seeker in sight when I reach the entrance of the chic Hazelton Hotel, where there’s usually an army of them camped out, pen at the ready, hoping to capture a celebrity signer as they leave, or enter, the posh property located in this city’s tony “urban village” called Yorkville. The Hazelton, you see, is the hotel of choice for most of the big name Hollywood stars who come to Canada’s largest city each September to see, or be seen, at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), now regarded as one of the most influential of its kind on the planet.
This being a cool November day, though, most of the Hollywood heavyweights are back in warmer climes and the autograph seekers have left their post.
It’s just the doorman and me standing at the entrance and he’s treating me like I’m Bradley Cooper. Well, there is a slight resemblance. Okay, very slight.
I shuffle past the smiling young man holding the door and enter the “boutique” property that’s also home to one of Canada’s most revered restaurants, One, owned and operated by superstar Chef Mark McEwan.
Once inside, staff snaps to attention and make me feel like I’ve just arrived from Hollywood; General Manager Nancy Munzar-Kelly wouldn’t have it any other way.
While the hotel specializes in welcoming the likes of Cooper, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts — to name just a few of the Hollywood stars who have been seen wandering the Hazelton’s glittering halls — staff here are equally attentive to every guest, even one who drops by for a quick afternoon cocktail at the hotel’s trendy lounge, where I meet the enchanting general manager.
Munzar-Kelly’s youthful appearance belies the fact she’s a veteran of the hospitality industry; she started her career at Toronto’s legendary Four Seasons’ Inn on the Park Hotel. After years of working her way through the ranks, Munzar-Kelly now finds herself in one of the most enviable, yet demanding, positions in the Canadian hotel business, thanks mainly to the Hazelton’s star-studded clientele.
However, Munzar-Kelly relishes the challenges that come with such a high-profile position.
Left: Stars like Brad Pitt hang out at the Hazelton Hotel during the Toronto Film Festival. Right: The chic Hazelton sits in the trendiest section of Toronto.
There are many reasons why stars of the big screen like to stay at this Leading Hotels of the World member. Near the top of that list is the Hazelton’s amazing screening room, designed by Christopher Hansen and his Beverly Hills’ Simply Home Entertainment company. The 25-seat theatre is perfect for hotel guests to host some private screenings during TIFF. It affords stars lots of privacy and features a 16-foot-high ceiling and mohair-wrapped walls for extra soundproofing. The theatre comes with lots of other high-tech toys, like a cutting-edge digital projection system and super sound devices that make the stars think they’re sitting in the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, where the Oscars are handed out.
The Hazelton also boasts a world-class Valmont Spa, featuring out of this world treatments and therapists — something pampered Hollywood stars cannot live without — and palatial guest rooms that offer all the comforts demanded by high-profile film stars.
While obviously guarded about the movie stars who stay at the luxurious 77-room property, Munzar-Kelly does share some “inside” stories about the demands placed on the hotel by Hollywood’s elite.
“We’ve had some unusual requests, that’s for sure,” says Munzar-Kelly. “Like the time a star demanded we buy a $128,000 (U.S.) Hästens bed for their use during their stay.
“Of course, we acquired the bed and still have it, thanks to an agreement we came to with the manufacturer.”
Some guests arrive with an entourage in tow and book an entire floor — 25 rooms at about $1,000 a night during TIFF week. Others bring along their own chef because they’re on strict organic diets and others have been known to arrive with oxygen tanks.
Above: The Hazelton screening room is Hollywood worthy.
No request seems to phase Munzar-Kelly, however. In fact, the Hazelton GM seems to relish the challenges and says regular travellers can learn from the stars in regards to how best use a hotel’s services. Munzar-Kelly offers up these six tips on how to travel like a Hollywood star:
1. Book direct: You wouldn’t expect a Golden Globe winner to book on Trivago, so why should you? Hotels have dedicated sales people to ensure VIPs get exactly what they ask for when travelling. You can take advantage of this, too. Call the hotel and let them know what kind of room you’re looking for (balcony, view of city, espresso maker, his and her sinks, etc.) and your budget.
2. Plan ahead: While you may not have a personal assistant or publicist on the payroll a la Kim Kardashian, a simple call the front desk before you arrive can get you a list of the city hot spots — restaurants, clubs, shopping, etc. Once you know where you’d like to go, let the concierge work their magic. With a pre-call from a recognized Les Clefs D’Or Concierge, the restaurant will know to give you the star treatment.
3. Write a hospitality rider: Stars always travel with a rider — a personal request list sent to the hotel before arrival. Would you like a bottle of champagne chilled and waiting for you with two glasses upon check-in? What about lavender-scented candles surrounding your soaker tub? By sending a rider to the hotel prior to check-in, everything you want (champagne, candles, etc., etc.) will be waiting just the way you like it. Best of all, many requests are free.
4: Take full advantage of the concierge: The concierge (The Hazelton, by the way, has one of the best in the business in the person of Ronaldo Breton) is there to assist guests (celebrity or not) with their needs and can plan every detail with the highest degree of service. They have insider information on the best shows, dining, shopping and more. The concierge services at The Hazelton can even help with errands like pet-walking and grooming, vehicle detailing, floral pickups and dry cleaning.
5: Prim and prep before a night out: Ever wonder why the stars look so great on the red carpet? Let the hotel spa know your concerns and needs and they will suggest treatments to mend both body and soul. If you’re planning on going to a film screening where the cameras will be flashing and your favourite celebrity may make an appearance, The Spa at The Hazelton suggests their Body Glow Treatment, a 60-minute revitalizing exfoliation followed by a self-tan treatment for that South Beach glow.
6: Recharge with the perfect pillow: The Hazelton offers an extensive pillow menu to best suit your sleep needs. Whether you’re looking for memory foam, anti-snore or hypoallergenic, a pillow menu is definitely something VIPs and A-listers take full advantage of to get the most revitalizing rest.”
Lastly, Munzar-Kelly says never assume you can’t get can’t get a reservation at the hotel eatery. Just because the patio at One Restaurant looks full doesn’t mean you can’t get a table.
Above: The trendy lobby is cutting edge beautiful.
“If George Clooney doesn’t need a reso, neither do you,” says the GM.
In all probablity, the person sitting next to you at One will be a Hollywood A-lister. Try not to stare.
The Hazelton Hotel is located at 118 Yorkville Ave. Rates start around $400 a night. For information, go to www.thehazeltonhotel.com/ To book a table at Mark McEwen’s One restaurant, go to one.mcewangroup.ca/