Linda B. Dumaine submitted the following article and photographs about her father, who worked at The Roosevelt New Orleans nearly his whole life.
“In answer to your request as seen on the internet for interesting stories about the wonderful Roosevelt Hotel as it is now renamed, I would like to submit the following very interesting information. It details the career and employment of my father, Anthony (Tony) Biscotto, who worked for the Hotel Gruenwald and also the Fairmont Roosevelt (as it was later renamed) from 1919 to 1972 – almost his entire life. Many of these interesting stories were relayed to me by my father during his career at your hotel.”
Movie Stars and Other Influential People in the Life of Tony Biscotto
Although his full name was Anthony Joseph Biscotto, he became known throughout his hotel career as Tony.
Tony, a native of New Orleans, began his career as a bellboy at a Vieux Carre hotel. After one and a half years, he saved enough money for tuition at Soule College where he graduated and went to work for the Railway and Light Company as a bookkeeper. For two years during the First World War, he kept records of all the coal that came in. Realizing that he preferred the hotel business, after a short time, Tony quit, and in 1919 Tony began his employment of hopping bells at the age of 19 when he began working for what was Hotel Grunewald. Tony said that Mr. Grunewald sold the Hotel Grunewald (because of health reasons) to Joseph and Lucca Vaccaro. The new owners demolished the old five story building on Baronne Street which joined the Grunewald and constructed the annex which stands today. The larger hotel was named the Roosevelt in the 1920’s after Felix Vaccaro’s friend, Teddy Roosevelt. In later years it became known as the Fairmont Roosevelt.
Soon after the larger hotel was doing business, a fire began in a salesman’s room due to a burning cigarette, which caused the bed to catch fire. Bellboy Tony, being nearby smelled the smoke, forced his way into the room and put out the flames, preventing the hotel from further damage. He also saved the salesman hundreds of dollars in dresses, but burned his hand in the process and was out of work for a week.
Tony once told a story that in the Hotel Grunewald days, the whole staff had to follow rules set up in a “Manual of Conduct.” Each day an inspection was held, and the bellhops had to carry a tray, pad and pencil, finger nails needed to be cut and clean and shoes needed to shine at all times. Tony said concerning his hat-checking days, he met and checked the hats of Marshal Ferdinand Foch, commander of Allied Forces in World War I and General Armando Diaz, the Italian in charge of general staff in World War I. Tony’s other job duties including bringing laundry to Sanitary Troy on Conti Street. Then he delivered the clean clothes to each of the guests of the hotel. Then in the late 1930’s, Tony recalled that the hotel constructed its own housing of laundry in the basement. So Tony no longer had laundry duties. Tony assisted such people as the Lombardo brothers, the Andrew Sisters, Martha Raye and Sophie Tucker, who each year came to N.O. on her birthday. Also Jimmy Durante asked him to bring his laundry backstage at the Blue Room before his act.
Tony also took care of all the uniforms for the Cleveland Indians when they came for spring training to New Orleans. He waited on Wallace Beery, but claimed that his favorite guest of all was William S. Hart.
An interesting story about Tony: At the time of prohibition a movie star named Jack Mulhall wanted some whiskey. He said to Tony, “Do you know who I am?” Tony seriously replied, “Yeah, but I ain’t gonna get you no whiskey.” Tony was as honest as the day is long. In fact, he was so trustworthy that Tony was chosen to go to an attorney’s home by cab to get a million dollars in bonds for Theodore Grunewald who was purchasing the Bienville Hotel.
Tony would take the Dolly Sisters (all six of them) to the horse race track. When he picked up two winners for them, they came to the conclusion that he knew all there was to know about the races. Tony played the horses for many years and then stopped. Why? Well, it was because he wanted to get married.
Tony recalled another incident about a diamond salesman named Agate for whom he assisted many times, and Agate offered to sell Tony an engagement ring for his bride-to-be. Agate went out for dinner one evening and left the diamonds in his room. Two thieves had followed Agate from Chicago and stole all the valuables out of his hotel room. These robbers were later caught in New York. When the trial came up in New Orleans, Tony went to court as a witness. Tony said, “The defense lawyer tried to cross me.” He said, “How do you know these men are the ones you roomed with when you room dozens of people everyday?” Tony relayed, “Because they came in with heavy bags, and they gave me a DIME tip. I don’t forget THOSE kind of faces.” The robbers were convicted, and Tony bought his diamond ring.
Tony remembered Eleanor Roosevelt in March, 1932, when she came to New Orleans. He and another bellboy served her. It was reported that she had 29 pieces of luggage. Tony, who carried her bags, knew there were only 7 pieces of luggage. Mrs. Roosevelt gave Tony a tip, and he kept that tip for the rest of his life. Tony’s daughter, Linda, still has that tip today. Other tippers that Tony remembered were Huey Long and Martha Raye. Tony would take Ms. Raye’s dogs for walks. Everyone in the hotel business and all the guests respected and liked Tony.
Another great relationship that Tony had which he always spoke of with great loyalty and pride was his long relationship with Mr. And Mrs. Manuel Dinkelspiel, who permanently lived in a beautiful suite in the hotel for a great many years. This couple did not have any children and Tony spent a great deal of time with them as they aged, going to baseball and football games in City Park, running errands and the like. Tony’s assisting of the Dinkelspiel’s was approved by The Roosevelt. The Dinkelspiel’s trusted Tony who was like their son, you might say. Mr. Dinkelspiel passed away in 1957 and his wife in 1969.
During Tony’s days of service at The Roosevelt Hotel, he met many fine guests, but being so good natured he would laugh at the “stiffs,” which was the word bellboys called guests who do not tip.
Tony worked for The Roosevelt Hotel for 53 years in jobs such as: bellboy, bell captain, a valet, a runner for valet, a room and a key clerk and delivering laundry for the hotel guests. Then seven years before he retired, due to doctor’s orders, Tony stopped carrying bags of luggage and was one of the leading reservations employees in the Fairmont Roosevelt’s front office until he retired in 1972 at the age of 72. Tony Biscotto was so loved, respected and admired by all his family, plus everyone at the Fairmont Roosevelt. Tony always told his daughter, Linda, that he wanted to live to be 100 years old. Well, he almost made it as on December 20, 1989 Tony Biscotto passed away at the age of 89.
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