1. Jimi Hendrix
The upside-down-guitar god was a frequent resident at the Cumberland Hotel, which provided a playground for many of his legendary excesses. It was here that the doomed star gave his final interview before being found dead at another hotel, the Samarkand in Notting Hill. Today, guests can book into the Cumberland’s Hendrix Suite, complete with psychedelic decoration, a replica of Jimi’s guitar and recordings of that legendary interview. Groovy.
2. Prince Fahmy Bey
In 1923 extravagant Egyptian Prince Fahmy Bey and his French bride Marguerite checked into The Savoy. The couple were prone to volatile public arguments and during their stay both were seen with black eyes and bloody faces. Marguerite claimed her husband was a sadistic closet homosexual; he responded by threatening to bottle her. In an incident somewhat more serious than the usual tired bickering of a couple’s holiday, their trip came to a conclusion at the hotel when Marguerite shot her beloved in the head.
Before dubstep, grime or witch house, everyone’s favourite music genre was Britpop, and Oasis were the scene’s lairy overlords. The mad-fer-it Mancs’ track ‘Columbia’ (on debut album ‘Definitely Maybe’) was named after the Columbia Hotel, a noted Lancaster Gate haunt of the wild living band (probably due to its 24-hour bar). Initially happy to endure the caterpillar browed brothers, the Columbia’s management finally snapped, declaring their antics ‘more than a tolerant hotel can cope with’. Noel Gallagher’s excuse: ‘Those plate-glass windows were just saying, “Throw a chair through me!” ”
4. Guy Burgess
Part of the Cambridge Five spy ring in the 1950s, Burgess lost all sense of discretion when, having misplaced his key at The Langham, he picked up a fire extinguisher and set about attempting to break down the door to his room. Unsuccessful, the Soviet double agent screamed at staff, discharged the extinguisher and addressed the night porter ‘like a dog’ before a spare was found. James Bond would never have behaved in such an ungentlemanly way.
5. Richard Harris
With a lifetime of boozing, brawling and birds behind him, actor Richard Harris enjoyed a sedate existence at The Savoy during his later years, taking a £6,000-a-week suite at the age of 70. In 2002, hotel staff found him seriously ill. As he was stretchered out through the famous foyer, Harris managed one last act of rebellion: ‘It was the food,’ he shouted to the gawping onlookers. ‘Don’t touch the food!’
6. Emperor Louis Napoleon III, deceased
The ghost of the fourth-most-famous Napoleon (after Bonaparte, Dynamite and Solo) stalks the basement of The Langham, terrifying guests by moaning eerily in French. Other apparitional hazards include a traycarrying butler, a Victorian suicide and a German officer who leapt from a window to his death before WWII. Happily, the only spirits rational residents are likely to experience are those behind the hotel’s splendid bar.
7. Margaret Thatcher
After a residential life that took in modest lodgings above a grocer’s in Lincolnshire, a Pimlico flat, a mock – Tudor mansion in Kent and 11 years at the most famous address in England, the Iron Lady spent the autumn of her years in a£3,600-a-night room at The Ritz, with the cost of the four-month stay generously covered by its owners(and Daily Telegraph proprietors)the Barclay brothers. ‘Good Conservatives always pay their bills,’Thatcher once reportedly said. ‘And on time. Not like the socialists who run up other people’s bills.’ A noble thought, but it’s a bit late for that.
8. Jozef Stalin
In a markedly different overnight experience to the(markedly different)political leader above, a young Joe spent two weeks in a sixpence-anight Whitechapel doss-house while attending the Fifth Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. Tower House also once counted a slumming-it George Orwell among its famous guests, but has since been converted into apartments. Russia is run by a man who uses topless horseriding pics as a vote-winning ploy, and our capital has the most expensive hotel rooms in Europe. Communism truly is dead.
9. Alice Cooper’s snake
You’d imagine the greasepainted shock-rocker would have a few lurid hotel-room tales from his years on the road, but the most eccentric involves his snake. His real snake. Cooper rarely steps on stage without one, and in a 1979 trip to London he let his boa constrictor sleep in the bath of his room at the Portobello Hotel while next door in his bespoke circular bed he got up to whatever rock stars get up to in bespoke circular beds.
10. Dwight D Eisenhower
In need of a London base during WWII, the supreme commander of the allied forces decided that only a superluxury hotel would fit the bill and took up residence at The Dorchester. General Eisenhower occupied a firstfloor suite from which he planned the Normandy Landings. You can’t really blame him for his choice of military HQ. As well-equipped as Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms were, it’s doubtful one could call room service there at three in the morning to request a club sandwich and a dry gin martini.
Want more hotels? For our coverage of Wes Anderson’s ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’, go to timeout.com/film