Rub Elbows with Jude Law and Selena Gomez on Your Next Stay at London’s Hospital Club

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It was Nick Jones’s opening of Soho House in London in 1995 that kicked off the seemingly unstoppable trend of private clubs/exclusive hotels. Next up: The Hospital Club – a current center with celebrity gravitational pull (think Natalie DormerJude LawSelena Gomez, and Emily Blunt) founded by Paul Allen and Dave Stewart — opens its very own hotel to members and non-members alike.

With just 15 rooms, it’s decidedly more urban bolthole than party palace. And where Russell Sage’s designs for the public spaces are sort of nod to Alice In Wonderland, the sleeping chambers are a curiously successful mashup of Southwestern and ’70s Scandinavian. The club’s art cred also extends to the rooms, with each featuring works by the likes of Rick Guest and Alyson Mowat.

Guests are given access to Hospital Club’s sundry offerings, like cinema screenings, chef master classes, and the privilege of perhaps sharing a knowing wink across the Bellini Bar with perhaps an Ewan or a Keira.

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Photos courtesy of Hospital Club

Baccarat Unveils Its Gorgeous First Hotel

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Apparently, someone at Baccarat looked hard at one of those extravagant chandeliers a couple of years ago, and saw a hotel. After a few delays, as well as the usual real estate dramas, that vision has now been realized in glass and steel on NYC’s E. 53rd St – and the first ever Baccarat Hotel is at last welcoming well-funded guests.

Drama, indeed. The property was already sold by Starwood Capital Group in February to China’s Sunshine Insurance Group. But this hardly need spoil a millisecond of the oh-so-glamorous experience.

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As you may have already imagined, this is not a competitor to The Ace and The NoMad. Rather, it will be unceasingly locked in battle with the nearby Four Seasons, Viceroy and Park Hyatt over all that financial bigwig dosh and all those free-flowing oligarch rubles. Parisian designers Gilles & Boissier (my, even their name sounds expensive) have crafted a veritable paragon of contemporary opulence, with knowing nods to the baroque-mod aesthetic sensibilities of the mothership. To wit, hand-pleated silk wall coverings, stainless ribbed ceilings (for those who occasionally look up from their smartphone screens), parquet floors, marble wall treatments, and (count them) seventeen custom designed Baccarat chandeliers, all of it designed to veritably drench guests in la vie luxe.

All this good taste extends, naturally, to the hotel’s gastronomic Chevalier restaurant, helmed by hot young Michelin starred chef Shea Gallante, and lorded over by Le Grenouille’s legendary Charles Masson. And should you possibly have occasion to forget where you are, the lobby is graced with a 20 x 25 wall of 2000 dramatically lit Baccarat Harcourt glasses.

As for the room rates, well…if you have to ask, this probably isn’t your hotel.

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Your Travel Guide to the Real Life Westeros

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Always looking for the next new playground, I’ve arrived at the fabulous Dalmatian Coast. Attracting everyone from the glitterati and jet setters to the elite intelligentsia, the gorgeous natural light, sun-drenched beaches, and glistening sea are astounding. Basking in the sheer beauty of the Dalmatian Coast, one can be found yachting about the blue Adriatic and lolling in luxurious seaside hotels and villas. 

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Adding to its cachet, this is also the ideal destination for Game of Thrones lovers. Picturesque Dubrovnik and nearby locales provide many of the evocative settings for the hit HBO series. Its producers and cinematographers found the famed seaside medieval city and dreamy landscapes of lush pine and palm trees pitch perfect for a mythical kingdom in the fantasy TV epic.

What’s more, iconic filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola jets in on his private plane for some R&R in Dubrovnik, you can find him holed up at the luxurious Villa Agave, seeking inspiration for his next film project.

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Part of the Adriatic Luxury Hotels group, this posh oasis offers the utmost creature comforts, including butler service and a terrace overlooking the Adriatic Sea and the island of Lokrum. On his first visit to Dubrovnik the director stayed at its sister property – the elegant Excelsior Hotel, just steps away, where he wrote the scenario for Rain Man, while romancing galpal Eleanor who later became his wife. No wonder he returns to this enchanting locale for creative rejuvenation. We hear Sofia is on her way. 

Who doesn’t love Consummate Concierge? Coppola’s favorite, Marija Zecevic, did not disappoint when I arrived. No sooner did I appear, than I was whisked away to my glamorous villa abode while the concierge arranged for me a host of activities.

A PRIVATE YACHT EXCURSION

Yachting about is the favorite pasttme here, and is really the only way to truly experience the Dalmatian coast in all its glory. Sail the shimmering Adriatic, exploring the Elephati Archipelago, hidden coves and secluded beaches. Join the yachties and stylish set at Villa Ruza on picturesque Kolocep Island for a lunch of Prosecco and truffle pasta. Then it’s back to your cruise through paradise.

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A PERSONAL TOUR OF DUBROVNIK GUIDED BY GOT MAKEUP ARTIST 

Since the second season, Dubrovnik has stood in for King’s Landing, home to the Iron Throne, with iconic landmarks like Pile Gate and Rector’s Palace featured in the show. While you meander the gleaming limestone pathways of this ancient walled city, the show’s make up artist will point out the very spots where the kinky action that keeps you coming back was filmed – while she spills some juicy dish. I asked, “Who is the meanest actor off set?” She told me all the characters are cast true to their personalities (wink wink), except for heartthrob Jamie, who unlike his character, is sweet as sugar and even better looking in person…Is that even possible?

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AFTER-HOURS ACCESS, STROLLING ATOP CITY WALLS.

I had exclusive access to walk atop the medieval walls after 8pm when the crowds have left, taking in stunning views of the red-roofed city and the sea below. At Minceta Tower, the highest point, you’ll be in the footsteps of Daenerys Targaryan as she tried to enter the House of the Undying to rescue her dragons in Game of Thrones

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BEST PLACE TO SPOT A STAR: EXCELSIOR HOTEL 

The stars of GOT and other celebs take up residence at the 5-Star Excelsior while on location in the city that George Bernard Shaw called Heaven on Earth. Luminaries such as Elizabeth Taylor, Queen Elizabeth and John Paul Sartre frequented this legendary hotel. With stylish suites whose spacious balconies overlook the blue Adriatic, a lovely pool and pampering spa, it’s the perfect refuge to luxuriate in even if you’re not on a shoot. I happened upon Ann Heche lunching at the hotel’s waterfront restaurant while here to film the new mini-series Dig.

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DON’T MISS

Fashionistas will be agog at voguish Maria Store Luxury Boutique where collections of the world’s top designers are housed in a space dating back to the early 16th century. Stop by the immensely popular War Gallery where hauntingly beautiful works by Croatian celebrity photog Zoran Marinovic and others adorn the walls. Tucked away in the ramparts and rocks facing the sea, cliffside bar Café Buza offers spectacular sundowners. While buzzy nightspots 360 and Culture Club Revelin are all the rage, the most fabulous party may well be aboard a super-yacht. Ask the Consummate Concierge.

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Aussie Electro Pop Sensation White Prism Does Ace Hotel Residency

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White Prism, née Johanna Cranitch, is an Aussie by birth, but her angular electro pop stylings and angular look seem to owe something to the post-Millennial Euro scenes that produced the likes of Ladytron and Miss Kittin. She started her journey with the support of her jazz pianist grandfather back in the homeland, but she now calls BKNY her home—having already done time as an engineer for Nola Recording Studios, as well as having toured with The Cranberries.

Now crystalized as White Prism, her recently released and cleverly titled debut album Open Heart Job lures with exceedingly infectious synth confections like “Shake You Off”, “Hungry Heart” and “Patience” (with its distinct echoes of Madonna’s “Into The Groove”).

This month, she’s bringing her delicious dreamscapes and celestial cadences to NYC’s Ace Hotel, with a regular Sunday residency throughout April.

Hot New Hotel Amenity: Putt Putt Golf!

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Crocheting, cupcakes, mac ‘n’ cheese, popsicles…it seemed as if every last shred of our childhoods had already been pillaged into a burning hipsteriffic trend. But NYC’s Hudson Hotel apparently dug a little deeper into those old family photo albums (Ed. historical note: that’s how people saved pictures before Instagram), and out popped what is sure to be the next great pop-up sensation: fashionable miniature golf.

Indeed, from April 3rd through the 30th, (2pm to 10pm daily) the Hudson’s always buzzy Private Park outdoor space will host the most stylish Putt Putt Park your nine-year-old self could never have possibly even imagined. It’s all there, from the windmill to those annoying loopy things that always used to trip up your game. Best of all? Booze. Knock back a couple of Damn Gopher cocktails (tequila, grapefruit, lime) and visit untold ruin upon your handicap. (Console yourself with a moon pie frozen custard sundae.)

It’s meant to coincide with the Masters Golf Tournament. But honestly, do you really care? You’re actually here to settle the score for all those mini-golf games you lost as an awkward adolescent. And, well, to get sloshed while doing it.

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The True Inside Story of the Creation of James Bond

Recent aerial view of The Fleming Villa at Goldeneye
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Above photo of the Fleming Villa at Goldeneye by Peter Brown

Bond. James Bond.

No other phrase has crossed the generational divide so suavely, delivered with equal aplomb by 007 on the pages of the Ian Fleming novels, as by Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, and now Daniel Craig (let’s never mind about David Niven and Timothy Dalton). It would perhaps require a battery of cultural studies profs to fully explicate the unduplicated phenomenon of the world’s greatest ever secret agent. But Matthew Parker’s riveting new book Goldeneye, Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming’s Jamaica, serves up perhaps the most intricate insights yet on how Bond became Bond.

And as we come to learn, James Herbert Bond was very much born of sweeping postwar geopolitical and social upheaval. In the wake of WWII, British naval officer Fleming retreated to Jamaica, still then a colony of the inexorably fading British Empire; and the exoticism and danger of the island combined with the escalation of Cold War anxieties to create in the author’s imagination the flawed but larger than larger than life hero/anti-hero (he was loyal, but coldly violent, and often recalcitrant) that still electrifies the screen and rakes it in at the box office today.

With Goldeneye hitting the shelves this month, we caught up for an illuminating chat with Parker about 007 and the place his creator called home—now an authentically preserved resort run by Chris Blackwell’s Island Outpost.

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What was it about the English and Jamaica? It seemed to be a place of particular allure and influence. 

It’s a hugely important part of British history. For a hundred years, Jamaica was by far the most valuable colony in the Empire; British families made vast fortunes from its sugar crop, money which directly stimulated Britain’s rise to industrial and commercial preeminence in the nineteenth century. When Fleming first went there, it was an imperial throwback, with the certainties of empire that had disappeared elsewhere still reassuringly intact.

Did Jamaica’s mix of exoticism and intrigue particularly inspire the development of the character of James Bond?

Fleming saw Jamaica as a mixture of British old-fashioned, imperial conservatism and the dangerous, sensual and exotic. Bond himself was at once very modern – with his self-indulgence, casual violence and brand-fetishism – but also old-fashioned in his dutiful patriotism and dislike of much of what modern Britain was becoming.

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Image courtesy of The Island Trading Archive

What was Fleming’s general attitude towards the Jamaican people? After all, it was still a colony until a few years before his death in 1964.

Fleming didn’t exactly hold back when it came to dishing out racist clichés: the Japanese, he wrote, were ‘cruel’, Chinese ‘hysterical’, Italians ‘bums’, Americans brash and materialistic, Germans had chips on their shoulders, and so on across every race Bond meets. But in Diamonds are Forever we learn ‘Bond had a natural affection for coloured people.’ Near the end of his life Fleming wrote that he had ‘learned about living amongst, and appreciating, coloured people – two very different lessons I would never have absorbed if my life had continued in its pre-Jamaican metropolitan rut.’ Jamaicans, he wrote, were ‘full of goodwill and cheerfulness and humour.’ Although Fleming is still remembered with affection in the village next to Goldeneye, I think we would now characterize his attitude to Jamaicans as affectionate condescension. His last novel, The Man with the Golden Gun, shows that he thought Jamaica’s independence was a bit of a farce.

Fleming’s intention seemed to be to create Bond as a sort of tabula rasa, onto which the anxieties and intrigues of the Cold War could be written. Could he have been created now?

Actually Fleming tired of using the Cold War, which he found a dispiriting business; hence in Thunderball he introduces us to Spectre, apolitical villains merely looking to make a lot of money. His best villains were always gothic grotesques like Mr Big, Blofeld or Dr No. Would that still work if Bond was launched now? A very tricky question.

Did the Bond books succeed because so many had returned from the prodigious grandiosity, danger and heroism of WWII to what were predictable little postwar lives? Was it perfectly timed and composed escapism? 

I think that’s a very interesting and valid point. In From Russia with Love, Bond sees some wrecked German trains and thinks ‘nostalgically’ of the ‘excitement and turmoil of the hot war.’ He reflects the general pride in Britain’s achievement in defeating Germany, and the regret that victory left the country bankrupt and unable to hold onto its empire. The timing on this is perfect as well: in the figure of Bond, Britain is still a major power, bestriding the world…a consoling fantasy when the reality was of rapid decline.

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Image courtesy of Island Trading Archive

Do you think Fleming’s depression bouts were partly due to the reality that he was writing and cavorting in his Jamaican paradise while he made Bond go out and do all the dirty work? Did he wish that he could be 007 in real life?

Ian grew up in the shadow of his brilliant and charismatic brother Peter; and certainly he regretted that while Peter’s war involved derring-do undercover work in the Balkans, he was behind a desk. And he felt guilt for his younger brother’s death at Dunkirk. Bond, of course, gets all the action that Ian didn’t. As far as his depression, and that of his wife, is concerned, well, we still don’t understand what causes it in some people. I’m pretty sure today they would both be diagnosed as depressive.

Do you have a sense that the sort of louche glamour that characterized life at Goldeneye led to Fleming’s crippling alcoholism? 

In the early years at Goldeneye, Fleming was part of the party set, cavorting at beach parties at the glamorous new North Coast hotels. But by the time of his marriage, child and first book – all in 1952 – he had tired of the scene, and preferred to spend time with guests from England or his neighbor Noël Coward. By this time his life in Jamaica was probably healthier and soberer than his life in England; but obviously not enough to save him.

What do you think of Goldeneye (pictured below) in its current incarnation?

The house has been very well looked after, and apart from the addition of outside bathrooms and a small swimming pool, is pretty much as Fleming built it. There are a number of chalets nearby that can be rented, and a very charming staff. The greatest disappointment is the reef, which from pollution and overfishing has none of the teeming life that Fleming so enjoyed. However, there are measures being taken today that, I hope, will return it one day to its former glory.

Goldeneye, Oracabessa, Jamaica

 Photo by Mark Painter

 

Hannah Cohen: Is She The Next Lana Del Rey?

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(All photos by Gabriel Barbaro)

If there was a problem with Lana Del Rey, it’s that, from the start, she was so much languidness, and not enough heat. The fire, apparently, did not walk with her. But there’s no question that she (and surely Bat For Lashes) sparked a wave of interest in the sort of gothic folk songstress that just begs a place on a David Lynch film soundtrack.

And last evening, as a part of the always brilliant Annie O. music series at the Standard East Village hotel, we were treated to a spine-tingling and haunting performance by she who is surely the next great mistress of chanson gothique, one Hannah Cohen. Set against a particularly majestic late winter sky, she held the assembled cultural cognoscenti in rapt awe, showing off a new, more electronic and histrionic style from that which characterized her 2012 debut album Child Bride.

We’re not the only ones that have noticed. Cohen has already played muse to the likes of Richard Prince, Terry Richardson and Ryan McGinley. More importantly, her new album Pleasure Boy, featuring the ethereal but fevered single “Keepsake”, will be released by Bella Union on March 30th. Discover her, before everyone else does.

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