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At NYC's Avalon, Sleeping Alone With Company

By Craig Stoltz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 16, 1998; Page E04

What: Avalon Signature Body Pillow

Where: Any guest room in the Avalon, a newish Manhattan boutique hotel on 32nd between Fifth and Madison (1-888-442-8256,

Why: Because, in spite of everything you may think, it works.

Price: From $195 per night; room and continental breakfast included.

Background: The trend in "boutique" hotels in major cities like New York is booming, leaving marketers of these allegedly distinctive properties scrambling to offer some allegedly distinctive amenities that make their hotels stand out. The amenity list of the Avalon, located a block away from the Empire State Building, is a big yawn for anyone whose company or circumstances permit $200 per night tariffs: executive work desk, in-room safe, in-room umbrella, marble bathroom, continental breakfast, HBO, modem hookup, yada yada.

Except for the Avalon Signature Body Pillow, that is--an amenity I found sufficiently unusual to justify booking the place for a night not long ago. I'd seen those human-body-size bed pillows advertised in yuppie catalogues for years and had wondered what they were about. The picture always showed a silken woman hugging it gently, smiling slightly in her feigned slumber. I figured the things were like teddy bears for grown-ups, something that could keep a single person company when a bedmate was unavailable.

Fact-finding: The Avalon, I later learned, decided to offer body pillows because the hotel's general manager, Daniel Melendez, had received one as a gift and loved it. He said sleeping with one creates a feeling of "comfort and security"--precisely the feeling he wanted his hotel to carry. He ordered pillows for every room. The Avalon's Signature pillows are manufactured by H&A Clarke Inc.; they may be purchased by guests for $40.

Getting Acquainted: When I arrived in my expectedly tiny but well-trimmed-out room, I found the pillow stuffed on the top shelf of the closet, like Jimmy Hoffa's body. I pulled it out and stood it up. It was nearly as tall and round as I was, but very light. I tossed it on the bed and looked at it. I suddenly felt like a guy who'd bought one of those blow-up dolls from the back of a dirty magazine. I pulled the drapes closed.

Punch line: I had my best-night's-sleep-ever (solo competition). A body pillow turns out to be less a surrogate partner than a surrogate ergonomist. I turned on my side, snuggled the thing between my arms and (stop that giggling!) legs--and fell asleep almost instantly. No tossing around to find a sweet spot, no hand falling asleep. I was able to place my arms precisely where they wanted to rest, my legs right where my maker intended them to be, my back aligned in a way any osteopath would admire. I awoke about nine hours later in a position remarkably similar to the one I fell asleep in. I can't say for sure, but I'll bet I had a look on my face like those models in the catalogues.

Bottom line: I want a body pillow of my own. But if I got one, my wife would want one too. And I suspect there would not be room in our matrimonial bed for all four of us. The Avalon may have to be my vice.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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