The last time I’d stayed at the Paramount was in February of 1994, when I was working as a music publicist. It was about 3 am when I arrived, as part of an entourage that included a legendary rock musician, a couple of roadies, and some friends. One of the contract terms of the gig that night was rooms at the Paramount. Located in the throbbing heart of the Theatre District, on the cusp of Hell’s Kitchen, the hotel was a favorite of musicians and artists who considered it just the right edgy mix of chic, grit, even borderline kitsch.
As we sat in the limo on that steely cold night, snagging a few extra minutes of warmth before bolting through the icy air into the hotel, I noticed a young man standing by the entrance, holding what appeared to be a bottle of wine. “Oh,” I muttered. “I can’t believe he’s here.” Michael, the cute guy at the door, was, though we’d only dated twice, getting serious. I was going to have to break the news that I wasn’t interested in a relationship. In the meantime, “just tell him we’re having a band meeting,” the musician advised. So, I got out of the car, ran over to Michael and, in the shadow of the adjacent Church of Scientology headquarters, I told him, through chattering teeth and frozen breath, “I’m really sorry, but I can’t see you tonight. We’re having a band meeting.” In the world that I inhabited back then, a 3 am band meeting didn’t seem so unusual. Still, as he turned and walked away, dejected, I was immediately filled with regret.
Nineteen years later, I had the opportunity to finally right that wrong, when Michael and I visited the newly renovated (to the tune of $40 million), chicer, grittier, grander, 597-room Paramount for an overnight stay on our 18th wedding anniversary.
When we arrived at the West 46th Street entrance on Friday night, I chuckled as I caught a glimpse of the Scientology building, prompting my husband to tease, in a bad, high-voiced imitation of me, “I can’t see you tonight! We’re having a band meeting!”
Once inside the hotel, I could see that the $40 mil had been well spent. The Chelsea-Hotel-meets-Marriott-Marquis vibe of the ’90s has given way to a more luxe, more modern New York glamor, with rich colors and textures, dark woods and dramatic ambient lighting, and a gorgeous grand fireplace to reflect all the sumptuousness. There are tufted sofas; cushy pillows; perfectly placed, clean-lined tables and chairs; and artfully arranged accents that evoke a mid-century-modern aesthetic with a 21st-century feel. As music spilled from a DJ booth above, I had no problem imagining Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol basking in the high-end, streetwise hipness of the lobby. Most guests will “get it.”
But some won’t. It kills me when I read reviews of Manhattan hotels complaining about “small rooms.” People, where do you think you are? The Great Plains? We expected a room the size of a phone booth, and that’s what we got—a sleek, stylish, beautifully appointed phone booth, but a phone booth nonetheless.
A convex wall mirror gave the illusion of space, though the door, when opened, nearly skimmed the edge of the bed. A splash of red on the sardine-can-tight bathroom’s white tiles is meant to impart style, as is the conical stainless-steel sink—a throwback to the one I’d admired here 20 years earlier—but we could have used a shoehorn to get in and out. Still, having our own 3-am “band meeting”—enjoying Champagne and strawberries in the comfy pillow-top bed while watching the large flat-screen TV—was the bomb.
Explore: Listen, you’re a heartbeat away from the Crossroads of the World. You seriously don’t need any tips. Just start at Times Square and go north, south, east, or west.
Dine: With Restaurant Row a half-block away, I can’t, in good conscience, recommend that you dine in the hotel, though both the Paramount Bar & Grill and Corso Coffee, a coffee bar, are good back-ups in case of a hurricane or something. We opted to walk around the block to Carmine’s (where we had our first date), for a late-night Italian dinner, but fabulous choices abound.
Insider’s Tip: With so much to see and do, it’s good to have a plan. Break up your time by area or by theme (Greenwich Village one day, SoHo the next; museums in the morning, theaters at night).
235 W 46th St, New York, NY (212) 764-5500; www.nycparamount.com
Distance from White Plains: 40-45 minutes Details: Room rates vary, depending on room type, season, and availability. High-season (mid-September to mid-December) rates range from $209 to $399 and up. Off-season (January through March) rates are $179 to $299 and up.