Patricia “Trish” Warner was elated when the call came. She knew her references were good, but the Roosevelt was decidedly middle class. The interview was for the Plaza—Central Park South and 5th Avenue, across the street from Central Park, Grand Army Plaza, and a block from Bergdorf Goodman. The interview itself was disillusioning. Though Trish wanted F. Scott Fitzgerald, she knew a prince in India owned the hotel. Still, Passage to India would suffice. Mr. Patek, the assistant manager who conducted the interview was Indian, with a British accent, but the staff was mostly black or Puerto Rican.
The interview was successful. Trish was hired with a nice raise and more responsibility. One thing that was mentioned in the interview was the possibility of helping women dress. Trish loved that. She could see herself as a Victorian lady’s maid. After a month, it had come up twice. Both occasions involved “drunken” performers. Trish was glad the police never asked about what she had seen. Cocaine was the simplest of it.
Still, a job was a job. She liked working under Mr. Rodger’s. Mr. R knew what he wanted and would not accept anything less. Trish was hired to be his gofer and problem solver, and she was good at it. Months passed. Trish became used to the long commute and the longer hours. At first, she was excited when she saw a famous person or a news crew. Eventually, they all blurred together. Trish worked, saved money, and wished for something better. Someone better. Any sort of love life at all.
Mr. R was gay, period. Nothing there. Trish would love to fill time with Mr. Patek, or Mrs. Ortiz, her boss’ boss. Both had the firm manner and demanding bearing Trish craved. Both were also conspicuously married. That left people close to her own level in the hotel.
The men, and boys, made too many advances. Trish quickly developed a reputation by shooting them down. Their mistake was sliding up sideways. A frontal assault could have born fruit. Trish was not averse to women in this role. The hotel definitely had a sisterhood. Others swung both ways. Still, no one made the first move. That was a deal breaker. When it came to sex, Trish wanted to be pushed. That meant someone unafraid to make the first move.
Months passed, then seasons. Spring was turning to summer when Trish received a call to work yet another Sunday reception. On the subway, Trish thought about the overtime and hoped for a decent tip. Her hopes were not high. Fully formal dances were usually too stodgy for good tipping. Things started to look up when she saw the orchestra’s van at the service entrance. Russell Donovan had an excellent reputation.
Mr. R gave her the background. A Congresswoman married a businessman; the actual nuptials took place in New Jersey. The dance was one of the couple’s receptions. As she had noticed, music was by Donovan’s orchestra. His services were provided by powerful theatrical producer Pedro de la Garza. Even more interesting, Francine Martel would MC. Martel was a familiar name at the Plaza. She was a Broadway diva, which only scratched the surface of her connections. That was a lot, but Mr. R saved the big news for last.
The bride had organized the merry-go-round wedding. Wedding receptions had long been a staple of the Plaza, as witnessed by a list of movies. Mr. R subscribed to all the main bridal magazines and kept back issues. The wedding took place on an estate in north-central New Jersey, yet coverage was picked up by AP wire and the New York Times. Unique Bride used the bride on their June cover and again on the year-end expanded edition.
The reasons were obvious. It was the most unusual wedding anyone had done in years. In addition to a full sized carousel, the entire event was themed in the early 20th century, including corsets and horse-drawn buggies. Francine Martel was a bridesmaid. Standing with the groom was his sister, Dr. Siobhan Richards PhD, Congressman from New Hampshire. She was the current bride.
Mr. R pulled out the old issues of Unique Bride. In the June edition, there was a full page article on Dr. Richards. The article contained side by side photos of her in an English-style men’s semi-formal suit and in a flowing lavender gown. Despite being actively unattractive, Dr. Richards made both of them work. Her towering height and military-straight carriage drew attention from the over-strong features. At this point, Mr. R brought out a garment bag. Inside was the same lavender gown. Something low in Trish’s anatomy clenched in recognition.
Mr. R smiled at the reaction because more was coming. Next was a note from Sheila Schwartz-Richards. She was the bride on the cover of the magazine. To say the picture was famous understated things. It was also the cover shot of the New York Times Sunday magazine and reprinted worldwide. She seemed impossibly thin, famously due to a corset, in a simple green sleeveless gown overlaid with handmade Irish lace.
Unique Bride’s year-end edition featured a cover shot of the newlywed couple in the swan chair of the merry-go-round. Mr. R pointed out Dr. Richards on a pony near the couple, then the tall blonde man next to her. This would be the new groom, Hans Gunter. Next came a framed enlargement of the same scene, centered on Richards and Gunter. Her mouth was open in shock and she was visibly blushing. His sideways glance was almost evil.
Trish was blushing in sympathy. Mr. R had to say her name twice before Trish could tear her eyes from the picture. Contrary to usual, Mr. R indulged Trish a moment before bringing a note to her attention. Trish read and re-read the note. When her eyes came back to Mr. R, he pulled out another, much shorter garment bag. This was a daringly short dance formal in sparkly midnight blue.
Finally, Trish understood Mr. R’s good humor. The note indicated that the bride would have a choice of gowns. The lavender full-length gown was famous. Mrs. Gunter-Richards could wear it as a gesture to her past. It would play well enough with the sort of ladies that attended formal balls at the Plaza. The short dress was a challenge. Dr. Richards’ carriage spoke of discipline and power. The photo spoke of vulnerability, even shyness.
Even so, Trish had no doubt which dress the bride would choose. That thought brought Trish back into the present. No wonder Mr. R was being patient and amused. The bride was going to need a dresser. This sort of possibility was why Trish had applied to the Plaza. It was as close to a lady’s maid as she was likely to come.
Trish tried to thank Mr. R but she had reached the limit of his tolerance. Work waited for no one, least of all her. Trish was almost physically evicted from the office. She missed the knowing grin on Johnathan Rodger’s face. This was not the first time Dr. Richards had come to Manhattan. Two previous occasions had both been notable in certain circles. Though Dr. Richards was in a supporting role for both, her presence had spread ripples.
The first had been the night before the first wedding. In something of a bachelorette party, Francine Martel invited all of New York’s dance and theater people to meet Sheila Schwartz. The list of attendees read like Who’s Who—Angela Molinari and Edith Dryden, Susan Farwell and the staff of City Ballet, Giesla Kirtland, Lisl Rhinehardt, Rudolph Nerovski, George Blanchard. Lincoln Center must have emptied for an hour. Soon after came the Broadway crowd and the press. Siobhan Richards had organized the lot and done so with distinction.
The second occasion was just three weeks past. Dr. Richards was on break from her first term in Congress. Her fiancé, Lars Gunter, was newly transferred to Siemens’ New York offices. Donald Trump, then still hosting The Apprentice, took the couple to India House. He wanted to show them New York’s upper crust. It happened that Dr. Richards was meeting many of them for the second time. Rather than the Donald playing host to a rookie Congressman, Dr. Richards was introducing her fiancé to the movers and shakers around town.
It told stories to those who paid attention. Johnathan Rodgers had become an important events manager by keeping his finger on the pulse of social life and business in the city. His contacts told him that the Honorable Siobhan Gunter-Richards, PhD was not one to trifle or be trifled. Accordingly, Mr. R was using his best young asset, in the hopes that she would thrive in the situation. It did not hurt that Trish was clearly a closet submissive. If things worked well, there would be expanded opportunities in her future.
Trish knew little of this. Instead, she immersed herself in the familiar routine of a formal dance event. The call came while Trish was directing guests to their designated tables. As Mr. R expected, and Trish had hoped, the bride wished assistance with the gown. A small room had been set aside for their use. Trish knocked, then entered. Mrs. Gunter-Richards was reading the note. Lying on a table was the framed picture and both garment bags, open.
In person, the bride was imposing. Already nearly six feet tall, she wore three-inch dance heels. That put her eight inches above Trish’s five foot six. It seemed like more. Mrs. GR radiated strength and control. After reading the note, possibly for the second or third time, she nodded her head and picked up the photo. This she gave to her husband who was standing in the hall outside the room. To Trish she gave the note, requesting the indicated package.
Trish hurried to Mr. R’s office and delivered the message. Mr. R indicated he had anticipated the request. The package was in the hotel safe and would be down in five to ten minutes. Trish hurried back to the changing room, knocking before she entered. It did no good. Mrs. GR had already removed her dress and was in the process of removing her bra. She indicated that Trish should take the short blue dress from the bag.