Friday, August 7, 2009

Trump Tower In Chicago Is Nice. Who Knew?

We have a Trump Tower here in Chicago. It replaced the Sun-Times offices, which, as architecture goes, looked as sexy as a metal storage unit with windows -- the Susan Boyle of buildings, as it were. Gray and shaped like a box.

The Trump Tower on the other hand is, surprisingly, rather understated and elegant. Not pimped out with an outrageous, orange marble lobby and a two-story waterfall like its garish, showgirl sister in NYC. [Although when I first walked into the New York Tower, I confess to being completely awestruck by its excess.]

Like most Chicagoans, I was not particularly pleased to hear that Trump was coming to town. A little bit of New York goes a long way. And Trump has never done anything little in his life. Besides, I have issues with his New York-carpetbagger-combover-hair persona. So I made no plans to go to the latest Dump de Trump.

But, a couple of things happened. First, Trump's daughter, Ivanka, and his two sons were the point people on the project. She is all business. No glittery interior design spectacles for her. Perhaps having an MBA from Wharton added a layer of restraint to the flamboyant family genes. Chicago is a no B.S. town, a city that for all its pride, lacks pretense. I think the kids got the message.

Second, my work landed me inside the place. So I got an up close, personal, and totally unexpected view. 

The Tower is designed with muted, subdued tones, a relatively small lobby, and rooms with such unforgettable views of the city that you are stunned into silence. I once worked in the Equitable Building, across from the Wrigley Building. The Equitable has an extraordinary view, any time of day, looking west down the Chicago river, but the panorama from my office on the twelfth floor was particularly breathtaking at sunset. 

I also worked in the John Hancock building and we had spectacular views of the lake and the city to the north and west. With a one of a kind seat for the Air and Water Show from our offices on the 30th floor. 

Trump Tower has all those views and more. I was incredulous.

My job that day was to function as the producer to the on camera reporter for the movie website I write for. Basically, I carried all the stuff she needed for a movie junket interview -- her purse and a folder. It's a tough job but somebody's got to do it. It just so happened that the interview was at the new Trump Tower, the building I had promised myself I was never going to enter. But there I was at the front door.

The reporter was scheduled for five minutes apiece with the director and lead actor for District Nine, a pre-Armageddon action-adventure film, which is to gratuitous violence what The Proposal is to peri-menopausal women. While she went up to work under the hot lights and crowded spaces of the interview suite, I stayed to hobnob with the publicists and make up artists in the wait-until-we-call-you suite.

After a tour of the suite's bathroom, which has a television built into the mirror so you can watch America's Next Top Model from the bathtub, I was enjoying the jasmine tea when I noticed a tray with four water bottles on the granite counter of the kitchenette. A menu with descriptions of the "water library" described in detail the refreshing experience of drinking from each one of the shapely glass containers. I quickly filed this under Signs of the Apocalypse.

The "library" brought to mind a show that Penn and Teller once did. They put a "water sommelier" into a restaurant. He would bullshit about the various waters offered and make his informed recommendation to the table. After the customers made their choices, he would go out back and fill up their glasses from a hose and serve each guest with a flourish usually reserved for rare wine. Thinking their hose water was from the pure springs of Ireland or the glaciers of Iceland, the patrons extolled the refreshing taste, and described its glorious effect on their palettes, as if they were channeling Robert Parker.

One of the bottles on the Trump Tower tray had its name, "BLING" spelled out in crystals -- the kind of decorative accessory you usually see on dog collars of the rich and famous. This eyecatching detail was akin to having toilet paper with your initials embossed on each sheet. Or your poop bronzed. The shiny "BLING" completely captured my attention. So much so, that I have no memory of the other "waters." 

The description for Bling H2O was breathtaking : “Super-luxury is the only way to describe Bling H2O. Hand-decorated with Swarovski crystals, Bling H2O is more than just a pretty bottle. The water comes from Stone Clear Springs, a natural spring in the middle of 120 acres of virgin forest. It’s not for everyone, just those that bling.” $25.00. Twenty-freaking-five dollars. I remember complaining when a larger bottle of Evian hit $1.79.

Trump Tower also prides itself on serving real Mexican Coke. I didn't realize what I'd stumbled upon at first. All I saw was a tray of Coca Cola in six-ounce glass bottles, next to a container of ice. Never one to turn down free refreshments, I opened one, poured a glass and said to no one in particular, "Hmm, this really tastes good," thinking I must be thirsty or something. "Oh those are Mexican Cokes," someone said. "They're made with cane sugar, not high fructose corn syrup." I've been hooked ever since.   

The Trump Tower gift shop was also shockingly well-appointed. When I was in the lobby, waiting for the elevator to take me upstairs, I noticed what seemed to be a very expensive boutique. Beautiful leather purses filled several shelves in front of a backlit frosted glass wall. And elegant jewelry cases displayed pricey bracelets and pins, all lit with pinpoint spots, like they were in a museum.

At first I thought perhaps HERMES or CARTIER was selling their wares, until I saw a shiny brass plate with GIFT SHOP written on it. There wasn't
a pack of cigarettes or a rack of condoms in sight. As I entered the elevator, I remember thinking, "That's the gift shop? Where can you get Tums or Peanut M & M's when you need them?"

Hotel gift shops, in my experience, tend to be more utilitarian and less fancy. Like a backyard shed from Home Depot stuck in the middle of a bank. There's generally a young woman covered in tattoos and nose rings sitting by the cash register, filing her nails and watching the clock. Even at the Ritz. Okay, maybe not the Ritz.

And most of the time, the selection of gifts for sale tends toward Hummel and Lladro figurines with a separate shelf to accommodate one's basic candy needs, tampon emergencies, and replacement razors. I haven't seen racks of $8000 purses before. Or someone to wait on me, wearing a Chanel suit.
However, as the elevator doors closed, I did see a kid with a backpack come out of the gift shop, peeling the wrapper off a Rice Krispies treat. So maybe they just keep the YooHoos and Hostess Cream Filled Cupcakes behind the counter, like morning after pills.

So while I was ready to hate the place, as much as I have disdain for the man, Trump's new tower is pretty damn swank. In a very good way. 


Des's big daddy said...

It's a good looking building. When I was attending Roosevelt I used to sit on the fire escape off the sixth floor on nice days, and looking north up Wabash gave me a perfect view of the building going up. I should go back down there once to see the finished product from that vantage point.

But $25 for water? That's a 24 pk of Heineken, almost.

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Anne said...

PLEASE Mrs. L. tell me how much $$$ these gems cost. Anne