Discrete hangouts for the stars

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

The opulent, five-diamond Sutton Place Hotel keeps Hollywood’s famous warm and cosy, while the Opus in Yaletown keeps the rock stars happy

Yvonne Zacharias

Sutton Place Hotel’s Penny Graham has learned how to cater to a celebrity clientele . Photograph by : Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun

Many stars are fiercely loyal to The Metropolitan Hotel. Photograph by : Mark van Manen, Vancouver Sun

Step into the Gerard lounge at the Sutton Place hotel and you might spota Hollywood favourite. Photograph by : Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun

Cher, Gwen Stefani and Christina Aguilera have all stayed at the Opus. Photograph by : Bill Keay, Vancouver Sun

Stride through the opulent lobby of the Sutton Place Hotel and there is no telling who you might see. Name a star, almost any star, who has shot a film in Vancouver and chances are they have stayed here.

Sometimes the celebrities aren’t so obvious. They tend to criss-cross public pathways disguised in scarfs, hats and sunglasses.

But even stars have to shine once in a while. Step into the dark cocoon of the Gerard Lounge at the Sutton and you might spot them. In this venerable precinct, with its English club atmosphere, leather chairs and cosy fireplace, you are apt to find actors, directors and up-and-comers taking in a relaxing drink at the end of the day. Many a deal gets hatched in the Gerard.

But like most Hollywood North hangouts, this is a place of absolute discretion. Vancouverites are known for keeping a polite distance even when the big and the famous are in their midst. No paparazzi here. Barging in would be unseemly. Our northern polite friendliness is one of the reasons we are such a popular place for shooting movies.

At the Sutton, celebrities fall into the gracious, professional hands of senior sales manager Penny Graham who has been with the hotel since the start.

Graham reminds you of a favourite aunt, the kind who can soothe and make everyone feel at home while handling the logistics of the big family buffet, calming a squalling child and keeping the household marching to a perfect beat.

Graham is shy about naming the celebrities who have stayed here, not because it is any deep dark secret but because she is concerned about leaving people out.

She merely points out that the Sutton is the first choice for hotel accommodation in Vancouver in the film and television industry. Its biggest competitor, she added, is private accommodation.

The Sutton has a variety of offerings from one- and two-bedroom apartments to suites with fully equipped kitchens. Still, sometimes the lodgings aren’t big enough for stars who are here for many months on a television shoot and who have family staying with them or coming and going.


Over at the Opus Hotel in Yaletown, which is more of a boutique-style hotel built to have a homelike neighbourhood feel, rock stars are sometimes spotted having breakfast in the Elixir bistro or in the bar. They like the Opus’ proximity to GM Place.

Consider the Opus, which opened five years ago, the brash upstart to the demure Sutton which has been around since Expo ’86.

The Sutton Place might be king of the block, but Katrina Carroll-Foster, vice-president of marketing and sales at the Opus, points out that there are plenty of celebrities to go around. The new kid is getting its fair share.

Cher, Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera, Ashley Judd, Anne Heche and Eric McCormack have all stayed at the Opus. Moby launched his CD here, sending the chef on a search for gourmet macro-biotic recipes. On a recent Thursday, Ashton Kutcher did some impromptu spinning with the hotel’s DJ.

The Opus is as colourful and quirky as the Sutton is sedate. With its bold colours and basic lines, the Yaletown hotel has both a modern yet nostalgic, retro 1950s look to it. If the Flintstones had been millionaires, this is the type of place they would have lived in.

The hotel’s penthouse, which everyone calls the diva suite, has a revolving door of big names who come and go.

And what a suite it is, with rich chocolate brown walls, a fireplace and a plush, red, sectional couch. It’s posh, yet feels like home.

Occasionally, passersby do a double take when they spot members of their favourite rock band hanging out at the hotel, said Carroll-Foster.

Mostly, they are left alone, she said, although she could recall an instance where fans on the street saw members of a really famous band inside the hotel. They had been practising in Vancouver for some time before their concert. The musicians were kind enough to go outside and give their autographs.


Stars are drawn to this hotel or that sometimes because it matches their personality or out of a fierce loyalty. The Metropolitan Hotel has attracted the likes of Harrison Ford, Halle Berry, Bryan Adams, Janet Jackson, Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Goldie Hawn who filmed Bird on a Wire in the penthouse suite.

The hotel bar makes sure to have plenty of Ford’s favourite brand of Scotch on hand, the kitchen whips up vegan specialities for the vegan Adams, and Berry‘s bar gets stocked with Fiji water, says Kate Rogers, who handles public relations for the hotel.

Berry, the star of Catwoman and the X-Men films, has had a long association with the hotel. She has stayed in the penthouse, called the Taipan suite, for months on end. It commands $3,500 a night, although such long stays warrant a special rate. Berry calls it her home away from home.

Sometimes, the hotel witnesses some comical conflicts between handlers and guests.

For example, when American hip hop artist and actor LL Cool J came to stay, he was accompanied by a trainer, a big congenial fellow who hovered in the restaurant kitchen, insisting on no fat and no salt in Cool J’s diet.

Then, about 11 p.m., Cool J would sneak down and ask for chocolate chip cookies, which the kitchen would whip up for him.

What a guest wants, a guest gets, said Rogers. Even when the handlers don’t agree.

© The Vancouver Sun 2008

Comments are closed.