Rio de Janeiro - Perched on the edge of the glamorous beach of the same name, Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Palace is one of the most exclusive hotels in the world.
Beloved of the rich, famous and powerful, it has played host to everyone from Prince Charles to Marilyn Monroe during its 90 years in existence.
The hotel recently opened its doors to a team of documentary makers and the results are eye-opening.
From the guest who has “moved in” to the hotel, along with his pet Bichon Frisé and a mountain of Louis Vuitton luggage, to the president demanding a room made up with entirely new bed linen, it seems there’s no limit when it comes to pleasing the people who stay there.
One regular is Marco Antônio di Biaggi, a Brazilian celebrity hairdresser who made his millions via his salon business and decamps to the Copacabana Palace each weekend.
“I was born very, very poor and I remember when I was a teenager, I saw Copacabana Palace from the front and thought: ‘One day, I’ll stay here’,” he remembers.
“And I work very, very hard for it. I’m a famous hairdresser and I work 12 to 14 hours a day. There is no secret, that’s how I can afford to come to Copacabana Palace every weekend.”
The coiffeur, who lives in Sao Paulo, says the secret of the hotel’s success is knowing what guests want and delivering it before they even think to ask.
“Copacabana Palace is unique,” he says. “I know everyone and they know what I like. For example, in Brazil, we don’t do the eggs, we don’t like omelettes.
“We like the fresh fruit and the pastries, and they always make the special ones I like for me.”
Di Biaggi is by no means alone in his appreciation. Joining him on the guest list is a veritable who’s who of real and Hollywood royalty, all of whom come with special requests. In charge of dealing with them is Anne Phillips, a glamorously coiffed and perfectly presented woman who has been working in hospitality for 60 years.
“Every hotel has a golden book, wherever they are in the world,” she explains. “These are guest books of very VIPs who have stayed with us.”
While most behave, not all are so considerate, among them, actor Orson Welles. “There’s a story that he threw a desk out the window during a ball because he thought his one love had been unfaithful or something like that.”
Much better behaved were Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers, who immortalised the hotel in their 1933 film Flying Down to Rio.
More recent guests have included Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and even the king of Sweden, although as Phillips points out, King Carl XVI Gustaf isn’t the first European royal to visit.
“Charles and Diana were here,” she says. “They stayed in the presidential suite. I’ve had Madonna here too for 10 days.
“Francis Ford Coppola, he was very nice. And Robert de Niro, I had him down here and he was here when Francis Coppola was here and it was difficult because we didn’t know he was coming, so we had to manoeuvre a lot and keep him happy until we could get him up to the sixth floor.”
Although no room at the Copacabana Palace comes cheap, the sixth floor is where the most luxurious suites are to be found.
So expensive are the rooms, the hotel won’t publish the prices, which means, glamorous though it might sound, keeping Hollywood’s finest happy is an exhausting job.
“You do wind up working through the night sometimes.” “Especially if, like Tom Cruise, they’re keeping to California times.”
With the majority of A-listers now eschewing hotels for the privacy of rented villas, what keeps them coming back to the Copacabana Palace?
Manager Andrea Natal thinks she has some answers. “Once you are inside this hotel, you feel peaceful.
“We have an open-air pool with a beautiful bar and I think, in this hotel, we have the most comfortable mattresses that I’ve ever seen in my life.
“That is something remarkable,” she continues. “Keith Richards’s wife bought two mattresses from us.
“We have people who love to serve, to pamper people. We have to make sure guests are happy because, ultimately, that is what they’re here for.” – Daily Mail