A Hotel Boosted by a Bedtime Story

By Ylan Q. Mui
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 3, 2008

Sometimes, a little scandal can be good for business.

Ever since news of then-New York Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer's purported $4,300 tryst broke last month, the Mayflower Hotel -- where his assignation with a call girl supposedly took place -- has been awash with tourists, gawkers and assorted voyeurs all wanting their own piece of the action.

The center of the storm has been the hotel's tiny gift shop, tucked away on the first floor and stocked with merchandise bearing the Mayflower logo and the catchphrase coined by Harry S. Truman: "Washington's Second Best Address." Sales have increased sharply since the Spitzer scandal, resident manager Joseph Cardone said.

There has been a rush on the Mayflower's luxuriously soft white terry-cloth bathrobes, stocked in every guest room (yes, including the infamous 871) and available to take home for $69.99. Mayflower mints were also popular, with one person snatching up two cases. The coffee mugs sold out after another shopper bought several dozen.

Other people have been less scrupulous. A few weeks ago, the sign for Room 871 was stolen from the hotel. Cardone said he doesn't know who took it or even how it was removed. The only sure thing is that it was gone. The numbers have been replaced.

"It's a chance to remember the names in the paper," Cardone said. "The mystique and aura of the hotel have come through."

More middling players are offering Spitzer campaign buttons and copies of newspaper coverage on eBay. One person is hawking an official Spitzer inauguration invitation, but bid activity has been slow. The Web counter lists only 14 visits.

The Mayflower boasts cachet that few other hotels can match. It has long been a stop on the tour bus circuit, but Cardone said he has noticed more people hopping off to nose around. The concierge gives them free postcards, and there are plaques throughout the hotel commemorating notable moments in Mayflower history -- like the time Winston Churchill told a bawdy joke in one of the domed ballrooms that carried across to the women at the other end.

As for Spitzer, history will be left to the souvenir hunters. There are no plans for a plaque, Cardone said.

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