Arthur Hailey's 'Hotel' (publisher Doubleday, $5.95 in 1965, 376 pages, $6.95 in Canada) was set in the Deep South. Arthur elaborated, "'Hotel' is set in 1964 in New Orleans, which is where I began research and preliminary writing. The main focus of research, which I can name after all this time, was the Roosevelt Hotel, renamed the St. Gregory for the novel. I stayed at the Roosevelt, with the cooperation of its owner, Seymour Weiss, for nearly 2 months.
"I paid my bill like any other visitor, though I received special privileges. These were described in a memo Weiss sent to his department heads that said, in effect: 'Hailey will be coming to visit you. Answer his questions honestly and do not hold back. Also allow him to interview anyone else he wishes, and pass along my instructions that those same rules apply.'"
"A hotel is not a hotel, it's theater," Anne Baxter had said. "You look at any hotel in the world and there's theater going on behind every door. The same for hospitals." In 1967, Warner Bros. turned Arthur Hailey's novel into a motion picture. "It is over 2 years since I last looked at the book," Arthur confessed at the time. "But I feel they have done an admirable job of bring it to the screen. I am proud to see my name among the credits."
The 1967 film opened the doors of the richest suites and laid bare the round-the-clock drama of the elegant, old, luxury hotel. Between 1983 and 1988, Aaron Spelling and Douglas S. Cramer brought Arthur Hailey's best-seller to television as a weekly series which was shown on the American Broadcasting Company. The St. Gregory Hotel was moved from New Orleans to San Francisco.
Whereas Melvin Douglas played the hotel owner, Warren Trent in the 1967 movie, Bette Davis played the owner Laura Trent in the TV pilot movie. Rod Taylor in the film and James Brolin in the TV series played the hotel manager, Peter McDermott; and Carmen MacRae in the film and Connie Sellecca in the TV series played Peter's assistance Christine.
"The St. Gregory, packed with stars checking in and out everywhere you looked," the preview trumpeted. "The St. Gregory is not just another way to go, it's a way to live. For some people, it's a fairy tale. They collected enough memories to last a lifetime. For some, it's a place filled with secrets." Filmed on location in the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill in San Francisco, James Brolin told Connie Passalacqua, "One of the best parts of working for Aaron Spelling is that he spares no expense in his productions. Even the cloth for my suits on the show cost something like $175 a yard! … A Spelling-Cramer show is always so luxuriously done. There are so many nice touches put in."
A replica of the lobby in the Fairmont Hotel was built on the sound stage at Warner Bros. Burbank Studios for filming of the regular series. It was said to have costed more than $1 million to construct, making it the largest set ever created for television at the time. James Brolin told Peter Meade, "There's a large enough cast for variety. The situations are endless. It's going to be a Top 20 show. That's what I felt when I read the pilot."
Head writer Bill LaMond told 'Newhouse News Service', "We don’t think of it ('Hotel') as 'Love Boat' at all. It has a much more dramatic storyline." Shari Belafonte-Harper remarked, "I think many of us in the show are used as filler. We have a lot of big guest stars, and you can't have them come on and do small roles." Head writer Jo LaMond added, "We'll deal with social issues; we'll deal very heavily with relationships. That's what the audience wants, and that's the kind of feeling you get from life in any big city, whether at a hotel or a train station."
'Hotel' was the 7th TV series James Brolin auditioned, "Two weeks after all the pilot deals were closed, 'Hotel' straggled in. I had decided I'd do TV. Aaron Spelling asked me to read it. This was the last pilot I'd read. I read it and told my agent this was going to be a hit. I said it's sad I don’t fit this role. I have no affinity for it. As much as I thought we had a hit here, I didn’t feel totally a part of it and I didn’t feel like a hotel manager. It's not a job I personally would take. I'm just not good at serving people. I'm not really a good host. It's not my kind of thing. Then Spelling called and we were on the phone for 15 minutes. He's quite a salesman. What I did was start to read the book the day we started shooting (the pilot)."
Shari Balafonte-Harper believed, "I'd say our show is really a slice-of-the-life drama. It's a cross between 'Hill Street Blues' and 'Dynasty'. What it’s really all about is people's lives and their problems." James Brolin made known, "We did some comedy plot lines in the first few episodes, but we found straight heavy drama worked the best and that's all we've done since the 4th episode on.
"By leaving the stories open-ended, people can't wait to get back to it. We have to develop some approach to get people to watch and make it hard for them to reach out and change the channel. People are looking for what's best at that hour. But we've lost the best people first, the most intelligent viewers, who are looking for something to stretch their minds. I think by the time we're canceled (some 5 more years into the future) our only viewers will be those channel flippers who are not too choosy."
On reflection, "I love what I do and I can't think of many other things I could do – except maybe a fishing guide."