It all started at 4:30 AM, about thirty years ago, at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
My contracted 18 months as a Page for NBC had ended, and I began working weekends and periodic weekdays at the Biltmore as a Gold Room Butler for the then-exclusive 9th Floor Executive Suites. It was the type of work I performed as a Bellman for the Marriott Hotel back in Rochester, New York, years before I moved to L.A. and went to work for NBC.
While at the Biltmore, I was also cast as one of the waiters at Duke’s Restaurant on ABC’s General Hospital, and served as an extra or “atmosphere player” on other daytime soaps like CBS’s The Bold and the Beautiful.
Working as a “real” butler on the weekends at the Biltmore while working as a fake waiter at Duke’s on General Hospital was awesome, confusing and comical, all at the same time. Things really became complicated when I started a third job, this one, working as the front desk reception for Brentwood Publishing Company in Santa Monica.
“Good morning, and thank you for calling Brentwood Publishing. How may I help you?”
That’s how I answered the phone at the Brentwood company (which published various business periodicals).
“Good morning, Gold Room Butler service. I have the extra towels your requested.”
That’s what I sometimes said whenever I responded to any number of those hotel guests who stayed on the 9th Floor at the Biltmore. Or, “Good morning, Gold Room Butler service. I have your iron,” etc.
But one very strange week, I knocked on one of the 9th Floor guest doors at the Biltmore, and said, “Good morning, and thank you for calling Brentwood Publishing. How can I help you?”
And then – I’d the answer the phones at Brentwood Publishing with, “Good morning. Gold Room Butler service. I have your towels.”
THAT’S how crazy things were getting. So, clearly – one job had to go…and I actually opted to leave both Brentwood Publishing and the Biltmore, and remained as one of the fake waiters at Duke’s on General Hospital.
But it was the training that I had received at both the Biltmore and Brentwood Publishing (which was actually located in Santa Monica, where I lived at the time) that made an impression on me in more ways than one.
It was at Brentwood Publishing that I first considered life as a writer, and it was getting up at 4:30 AM to be there by 6:30 AM that indeed prepared me for the writer’s life.
Because the downtown L.A. Biltmore was a good 25 miles from my apartment in Santa Monica, I had to rise and shine at 4:30 AM to arrive to work for my 6:30 AM butler call. (On General Hospital, the fake Duke’s didn’t open until 3:00 PM!)
As a result, to this day, I rise and shine at 4:30 AM every morning, and write my best work.
Bewitched creator Sol Saks once told me that he could never write more than two hours a day; and he suggested that I’d do the same, as not to exhaust the creative flow.
Sometimes I write for three, maybe three-and-half-hours. But that’s it. My peak time in the morning is short; but my mind is clear and the words flow (as they are this moment while writing this post).
Who would have thought my “time” working at the Biltmore would have prepped me for my writing career? But it did. In fact, pretty much everything I do in life preps me for my writing career…which is one of the many wonderful things about being a writer.
Of course, there’s a great many challenging things about being a writer; but the good outweighs the bad (as it always should – in any aspect or facet of life!).
That said (or written!), there was another interesting thing that transpired when I worked at the Biltmore.
In order for me to reach the hotel by my 6:30 AM starting time, I had to arrive in downtown LA by at least 5:45, because I had a two-mile hike from the parking lot (which offered the cheapest rates) to the Biltmore.
During that two-mile trek you would have thought I was in a science fiction movie, or at least in an episode of The Twilight Zone (the one titled, “Where Have All The People Gone?”) or The Six Million Dollar Man (the one titled, “Population: Zero”).
On a Saturday and Sunday morning, at 5:45 AM in L.A., there wasn’t a soul in the street. I was walking all alone, feeling like some alien race had annihilated Earth’s entire population.
Of course that was all a foreshadow (e.g. writer’s phrase) of things to come (i.e. classic sci-fi film title reference).
Clearly, writing at 4:30 AM is in my blood, as it was injected there – some thirty years ago (and maybe even a little before).
Thank you, Brentwood Publishing and the Biltmore Hotel for your “callings” – and mine.