Watergate Bares All
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
The Watergate Hotel has long been more of a famous name than a five-star palace.
Oh, but what a name. What a mystique. What a history.
The hotel's owner hopes a bit of that luster draws shoppers to an "Everything Must Go!" sale of beds, couches, sinks and toilets from rooms graced by the likes of Liberace and Katharine Hepburn, not to mention four of the burglars who made Watergate famous.
President Richard Nixon's henchmen did not commit their crime at the hotel, which the owner has closed for a major face-lift that will result in $2,000-a-night suites.
The burglars only slept there, in rooms 214 and 314, and shoppers at the sale, which begins Thursday at the hotel, can stand where the bad guys stood and consider whether to buy a nice but perfectly ordinary wooden desk for $85, or a lingerie chest for $245, or an armoire for $625.
"Okay, it's not like [when] you walk into the Mayflower and say, 'Wow!' " said Don Hayes, the sale's manager, as he considered the offerings.
Still, Hayes said, thousands of people will show up for the sale, a certitude borne of his long experience managing similar extravaganzas at hotels across the country, from the Commodore in New York to the Sands in Atlantic City to -- earlier this year -- the Jefferson in the District.
If the bargains don't draw them, they'll come "because it's the Watergate," Hayes promised. He hopes, however, that a $10 admission fee for the first three days will deter those purely interested in sightseeing.
His customers will find more than 20,000 items -- forks and knives and wineglasses and Jacuzzis and 25-inch color TVs and cabinets and vanity mirrors and teacups and meat slicers, a baby grand piano, 13 Greek-style columns and a trove of books that includes "Kingdoms in Conflict," the musings of one-time Nixon aide and ex-con Charles W. Colson ($3).
What they will have a harder time finding is anything embossed with the name Watergate.
There is an ornate "W" gracing a glass door ($750), silver teapots with a "W" engraved on the side ($55), and a framed poster with the words, "View from Room 716, The Watergate Hotel" ($75). But that's about it, unless you want the square placard screwed to a wall in a dining area that reads "The Watergate Hotel: Maximum Capacity 150" ($10).
Michael Darby, a principal of Monument Realty, which bought the hotel in 2004, said an antique specialist he hired to examine the furnishings, artwork and dishes found "nothing that has any connection to the Watergate of that era, from the early 1970s."