Secrets Of The Ritz Hotel

By Londonist Staff Last edited 25 months ago
Secrets Of The Ritz Hotel

The Ritz: the very name of this world-famous Piccadilly hotel is the final word in glitz and glamour. Here are some things you might not know about it.

Photo by @fotochap in the Londonist Flickr pool

1. It's inspired words, songs, movies and biscuits (sort of)

César Ritz was the Swiss hotellier who gave his name to London's Ritz when it opened in 1906 (the Hôtel Ritz Paris existed eight years earlier).

In the early 1900s, that surname would become a word in its own right, with 'ritz' 'ritzy' and 'ritzier' entering common parlance, meaning 'high quality, superiority'.

The phrase 'puttin(g) on the Ritz' is recorded from 1911, and was later used by Irving Berlin in his 1927 song, and for the 1930 musical of the same name:

As for those moreish cheese biscuits — they were first introduced to Philadelphia and Baltimore in November 1934, although as they're American, they probably allude to the Ritz-Carlton in NYC.  

Photo by Sabine Thöle in the Londonist Flickr pool

2. The man behind Woolworths died here

The most famous person to die in The Ritz was former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

She passed away, apparently reading in bed, in a private suite in April 2013.

Lesser known Ritz deaths of note include another Conservative, Lord Steinberg, as well as Fred Moore Woolworth — founding MD of the Woolworth's stores in the UK, and by association, the bloke who got you hooked on those peanut pick 'n' mix sweets.

The Ritz: where Thatcher and the man responsible for your pick 'n' mix addiction died. Photo by D Cool in the Londonist Flickr pool

3. Self-published

The Ritz has its own dedicated magazine. You can read it here. Although if you want a physical copy, you might have to be a guest, or at least buy a cocktail. Speaking of which...

4. The cocktail-from-a-slipper incident

In 1951, the star Tallulah Bankhead rocked up at The Ritz for a press conference.

Apparently in 'high spirits', a Time article reports how Bankhead called for a champagne cocktail, summarily poured it into her size four black suede shoe, cried out "Winston Churchill is my god! I'm just mad about England. I mean Britain..." then took a good slurp.

In 2014, The Ritz commemorated the publicity stunt with another; The Tallulah is a champagne cocktail you quaff from a glass slipper:

From The Ritz website

5. Charlie Chaplin and the hat bill

Bankhead is just one of the countless famous names who have dined, drunk and slept at The Ritz.

Perhaps the most memorable celebrity guest came in September 1921, when Charlie Chaplin visited from America. He was mobbed by fans outside the hotel, and had to be escorted inside by around 40 policemen.

From the balcony of his room, Chaplin began to throw carnations, which prompted this note from one incensed mother:

My boy tried to get one of your carnations and his hat was smashed. I enclose you a bill of 7s. 6d for a new one.

6. You can't please everyone

As Chaplin found out, you can't please all the people all the time.

It might still be considered one of London's, and the world's, finest hotels, but some people just refuse to be charmed by The Ritz.

Last Updated 09 December 2016