The Plaza

The Secret Life of America's Most Famous Hotel
Narrated by: Jefferson Mays
Length: 11 hrs and 13 mins
4.3 out of 5 stars (172 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Journalist Julie Satow's thrilling, unforgettable history of how one illustrious hotel has defined our understanding of money and glamour, from the Gilded Age to the Go-Go Eighties to today's Billionaire Row.

From the moment in 1907 when New York millionaire Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt strode through the Plaza Hotel's revolving doors to become its first guest, to the afternoon in 2007 when a mysterious Russian oligarch paid a record price for the hotel's largest penthouse, the 18-story white marble edifice at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 59th Street has radiated wealth and luxury.

For some, the hotel evokes images of F. Scott Fitzgerald frolicking in the Pulitzer Fountain, or Eloise, the impish young guest who pours water down the mail chute. But the true stories captured in The Plaza also include dark, hidden secrets: the cold-blooded murder perpetrated by the construction workers in charge of building the hotel, how Donald J. Trump came to be the only owner to ever bankrupt the Plaza, and the tale of the disgraced Indian tycoon who ran the hotel from a maximum-security prison cell, 7,000 miles away in Delhi.  

In this definitive history, award-winning journalist Julie Satow not only pulls back the curtain on Truman Capote's Black and White Ball and The Beatles' first stateside visit - she also follows the money trail. The Plaza reveals how a handful of rich, dowager widows were the financial lifeline that saved the hotel during the Great Depression, and how, today, foreign money and anonymous shell companies have transformed iconic guest rooms into condominiums that shield ill-gotten gains - hollowing out parts of the hotel as well as the city around it. 

The Plaza is the account of one vaunted New York City address that has become synonymous with wealth and scandal, opportunity and tragedy. With glamour on the surface and strife behind the scenes, it is the story of how one hotel became a mirror reflecting New York's place at the center of the country's cultural narrative for over a century. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 Julie Satow (P)2019 Twelve

Critic Reviews

"Julie Satow's biography of America's most famous hotel is a fascinating tale of spies and sugar daddies, murder and madness, the real Eloise and Donald Trump, rich cheapskates who left 4 percent tips and Ragtime-era servants fighting for a half day off each week. Satow's story, as elegant as the exterior of this architectural dowager, digs deep into the century of secrets hidden deep inside the Plaza." (David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning and New York Times best-selling author of The Making of Donald Trump and It's Even Worse Than You Think)

"Covering billionaires to laundresses, charlatans to lovers, Capote to The Beatles, The Plaza captures the pulse and fortunes of 20th century New York. Millionaires such as Vanderbilt, Bloomberg, Trump, and Macklowe enjoyed themselves amidst Scotch whiskey and damask. Eloise's haunt comes to life through Julie Satow's lively writing and meticulous reporting, providing an enticing window into one of America's great institutions." (Lisa Keller, professor of history (Purchase College SUNY) and executive editor of The Encyclopedia of New York City, Second Edition)

"Throughout this sumptuous, busy history, [Satow] enlightens and entertains with stories and anecdotes that recount the hotel's many famous and colorful guests...An infectiously fun read." (Kirkus Reviews)

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What listeners say about The Plaza

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Great book about the history of The Plaza

Interesting history about NYC’s most famous hotel and all of it’s infamous owners. It’s a fun listen.

1 person found this helpful

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Well researched and Interesting

Having grown up going to the Plaza, I was excited to read this history of the hotel. There is so much interesting information about the Plaza from start to finish. There are some points in the book where there is a bit too much extraneous info, but overall this is a well constructed timeline of a landmark. I found it very entertaining.

1 person found this helpful

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Plaza Deserves Much Better

The Plaza Hotel is the epitome of glamour, luxury, style and beauty in hotels. When traveling to New York the past 30 years, I have enjoyed Tea, evening ice cream and lunch often all delicious with superb service. It is a hotel of Excellence as those of you interested in this book well know. The Plaza book is not a book of excellence. The narrator Mr. Mays spits out the words so quickly one thinks he was given a certain amount of time to read the book. Or maybe he doesn’t enjoy what he’s reading either and wants to finish fast. For whatever reason, the quickness doesn’t lend itself to easy listening. I’m concerned Ms. Satow dislocated her shoulder in patting herself on the back for all the time, travel, interviews, reading and research she did to write this book. She gives great detail at the beginning of the book as if she thought readers were not going to believe what she wrote. I believe I was wise to save my time and stop when I did on this lifeless book and I know I will be requesting a credit back. Just my opinion.

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Too much Trump

There was a great deal of repetition throughout but the biggest objection to this book was the over emphasis of Donald J. Trump when he owned it for such a short time.

5 people found this helpful

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  • 09-15-20

Interesting

It was good to get more information on one of the most famous hotels in the world, but I wish the story had focused more on the early days of the Plaza, rather than its more recent and less glamorous times.

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enlightening in re trump's business dealings

the history of the hotel is amazing, and very interesting to learn of the abysma and questionably legall business practices behind some of its owners.

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Don't need your politics, Julie

The book was interesting for the most part - dry in some places, but moved along until the chapter describing Donald Trump's purchase of The Plaza. At that point, all objectivity disappears and the author's personal dislike becomes evident - to the extent that the narrator emphasized trivial, unimportant criticisms (Donald meeting Ivana at a popular bar he frequented, but failed to mention he has never had a drink, and oh my...Ivana's DYED blonde hair! ) not important at all to the story. Sorry Julie, all credibility as an objective historian vanished right then.

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good story. terrible narrator

The books was a nice read but the narrator was really irritating. He had a half faux accent the whole time and I had to keep stopping the book & coming back to it because of his voice. I'd day get the print version.

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Meticulously researched

A real pleasure to listen to. Wonderful narration of a terrific story! And it is an incredible story.

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The Rest of the Story

I loved this interesting, rich book. As a child in the 1950s, I stayed in The Plaza with my parents. I remember the aura of THE PLAZA but when visiting as an adult over the decades, I was curious about all the changes...& disappointed; Now My questions have been answered!