In my “Glasgow’s Global Visitors” posts to date I’ve focused pretty much exclusively on stars of my lifetime but rest assured I have every intention of going further into history and looking at visits from some of the older generations of silver screen stars.
It is with pleasure that I dip briefly into this past era in writing about a 2012 book I recently picked up – Glasgow’s Grand Central Hotel. The Grand Central Hotel, formerly simply the Central Hotel, is joined to Glasgow Central Station and has been a city landmark since 1883. By the early 2000s the hotel was falling into some disrepair (I personally recall staying in a room there after a 2001 work Christmas night out and a leg falling off the bed!) and what should have been a vibrant part of one of the city’s main gateways was in a sorry state. However hotel chain Principal Hayley acquired the hotel, gave it a dramatic makeover and re-opened it in early 2011 as the Grand Central Hotel. I have since visited the hotel for meetings, charity dinners and a pint in the impressive Champagne Central bar and it certainly now appears like a fitting welcome to Glasgow – glamorous and friendly in equal measures.
It was following the re-launch of the hotel that Principal Hayley commissioned Bill Hicks (obviously not the late American comedian, but a journalist with over 40 years experience at The Sunday Post) and Jill Scott, also a newspaper journalist and formerly a librarian at the University of Glasgow to write a book about its past and present.
Of particular interest to Glasgow on Film is the chapter “Hollywood on Hope Street”. Spanning 40 pages this chapter features some of the highlights of the Central Hotel’s impressive list of musical, sporting and acting guests over the years. It is well illustrated too with some fantastic pictures from the archives. Among the film stars recorded in the book as having stayed at or visited the Central Hotel are Jimmy Durante, Nat King Cole, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Danny Kaye, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Guy Mitchell, Sammy Davis Junior, Roy Rogers, Paul Douglas, Billy Daniels, Broderick Crawford, Frankie Laine, Dale Evans, Mae West, Howard Keel, Gene Kelly, Douglas Fairbanks Junior, Dorothy Lamour, Larry Parks, Betty Garrett, Lena Horne, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Chico Marx, Margaret O’Brien, Ella Fitzgerald… and that’s just the Americans (and Stan Laurel)… all 30 of them!
I’ve only listed the names above, but the book adds another dimension with some genuinely interesting anecdotes including charming recollections from former staff and autograph hunters. What I love about this book, and in particular this chapter, is that it is further evidence of the strong and historic ties between Glasgow and Hollywood – the city was clearly an important place for film stars to be in the mid 20th century and while not always accompanied by the same degree of ceremony as yesteryear we are continuing to see this to some extent today through film-making, festivals, promotional visits and even straightforward holidays to Glasgow by the current stars.
Glasgow’s Grand Central Hotel is available at various outlets in Glasgow, including Waterstones and Papyrus.