Dorothy Parker and the Marriott circle [updated]
The Algonquin Hotel, famed as the 1920s martini-swilling location of choice for some of the era's great literary figures -- Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and "The New Yorker" founder Harold Ross -- has entered a partnership with the Marriott hotel chain.
Although the New York Daily News reported Tuesday that Marriott International Inc. is taking over the iconic New York hotel, the relationship is less direct; the two have formed a partnership. The Algonquin will retain the its identity. It has already been added to the Marriott Autograph Collection; reservations can be made for the Algonquin through the Marriott Autograph Collection website. The 12 boutique Marriott Autograph Collection hotels are scattered around the country -- in New Mexico, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan and Georgia; the Algonquin is the only one in New York City.
[Updated at 2:40 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said that the Algonquin had "passed into the corporate hands of Marriott" and that there would be "corporate ownership." The Daily News report referred and linked to in the original post was incorrect in its assertion that Marriott is taking over the Algonquin; the relationship is a partnership.]
The Algonquin, which was built in 1902, has a reputation for fostering an artistic environment. Guests may have complained about the racket made by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, but the hotel encouraged their musical work -- which resulted in the musical "My Fair Lady."
Years earlier, Harold Ross and his literary, witty friends began gathering for lunch at the Algonquin. That was 1919, and the group, which started out small, grew until it wound up in a larger room with, of course, a round table. Critic Alexander Woollcott, writer Edna Ferber, playwright George S. Kaufman and comedian Harpo Marx were among the regular attendees. Known for quips like Dorothy Parker's "That woman speaks 18 languages and can’t say ‘no’ in any of them," the group came to be called the Vicious Circle.
Since the 1930s -- around the time the circle was breaking apart for good -- the Algonquin has been home to a cat named Matilda. Well, actually, many cats, all called Matilda, one after the other. Corporate partnership, the New York Observer confirmed today, will have no affect on the kitty tradition: Matilda will stay.
As will the martinis in the lobby, thankfully.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: The Algonquin Hotel lobby in 2008. Credit: The Algonquin Hotel