CAPITAL HILTON: 65 YEARS YOUNG
Brian Kelleher is proud of the staff of the Capital Hilton, the Washington, DC landmark he manages. He counts on 90 team members, each with more than 20 years of experience. That adds up to more than 2,300 years of service at the hotel, an icon celebrating its 65th anniversary. All that time spells authority and loyalty to Kelleher, who has been running the hotel for four years.
Just being in the neighborhood thrills him, too.
“If you walk out the front door and turn left, you're looking at the White House two-and-a-half blocks away,” says Kelleher, who cut his hospitality teeth in the 1970s under Mike Tristano, the hotel's first director of catering. “When I'm driving out of the hotel and the White House fills my rear view mirror, I still get goose bumps.”
Like Kelleher, Joseph Goverman feels deep affection for a hotel that opened as a Statler when Harry Truman was president. Goverman, a bellman, came to work at the hotel in 1949. He's thinking of cutting back to three days a week and hopes management cuts him the necessary slack. But the hotel needs him, he says.
“I talk to people and they like me,” says Goverman, who recalls delivering ice to Richard Nixon when Nixon was vice president. “I have a lot of people come see me. I'm an antique, that's what it is.”
After delivering ice to Nixon's room three times a day for a few days, Nixon told Goverman that when he became president, he'd give him something. One day, years later, a limousine from the White House pulled up “with an autographed pen for me,” Goverman says.
Goverman also has opened the door when he shouldn't have, but he won't go into that. He does recall squiring Del Webb, his wife and their 15 bags to their quarters, noting that even though Webb, a developer who then owned the New York Yankees, was a multimillionaire, “he didn't tip like one.”
After Webb dropped a dollar on Goverman, he asked him whether he'd like to go to the ball game that night; Webb would arrange to leave tickets at the box office. Goverman said sure. When he got to Griffith Stadium, the old home of the Washington Senators, there were no tickets. “I paid my way in.”
The good memories outweigh the bad, however, and Goverman certainly has met his share of celebrities, including Frank Sinatra and Rocky Marciano. “It's been a great experience to be here all these years, to meet nice people, to talk to nice people,” he says.
To celebrate its 65th anniversary, Capital Hilton has published “Zeon Tubes & Politics,” a book about the hotel's innovations, historic moments and significant visitors, along with a video.
“The president of South Korea was with us two weeks ago,” says GM Kelleher. “We have the foreign minister of Jordan in tomorrow. Condoleezza Rice is in tonight.
“The history continues.”
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