TIFF 2015: Luxury hotels prepare decadent experiences for celebrities

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The Toronto International Film Festival is set to kick off this week, and some of the city’s luxury hotels gave CBC News an inside look at the decadence the stars can look forward to during their stay. “During TIFF we had Leonardo DiCaprio. We also had Matt Damon in. He’s a cognac fan as well,” said Brian Weston, the manager of the Fairmont Royal York’s library bar as he poured amber liquor into a hand-blown crystal decanter.

The three-ounce drink, a champagne cognac that blends a variety of cognac aged for 100 years, costs $600.

Really.

brian-weston-fairmount-bar-manager

Brian Weston, Fairmount Royal York Library Bar manager, shows off the Louis XIII Cognac celebrities like Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio have enjoyed. (Stephanie Matteis/CBC)

Weston described it as a “Louis XIII, Remy Martin’s finest product,” which he has on hand for TIFF’s elite.

Though some might be at a loss for words, Weston is practiced.

“You get a little bit of delicate flowers, rich fruit, intense spice — that’s how you know it’s starting to open up.”

The cut crystal bottle has a gold neckpiece.

“So the bottle empty is worth $400. If you’re lucky enough to get the last ounce you also get the bottle,” Weston explains.

‘Making moments into memories’

The Royal York hotel is at occupancy for TIFF and preparations for the festival begin as soon as it ends, said Sonya Singh, Fairmont’s director of marketing & communications.

But she admitted that a lot of the luxury experiences are not accessible for most people. What she called ‘VIP guests’ will find a bottle of Dom Perignon and chocolate-dipped strawberries in their rooms.

“If you’re a very important person, yes — all the celebrities will get this. And again this is all about making moments into memories,” Singh said.

Singh has become familiar with the special preferences celebrities have requested over the years. Jennifer Aniston loved chamomile tea, so her room is always stocked with it. Susan Sarandon asked for a tour of the rooftop garden and is a fan of the honey from its bees; now she goes home with a sample. And Jennifer Garner’s favourite dish is locally-sourced greens and prosciutto.

Employees are forbidden from carrying cell phones, tweeting or sharing information on social media about the guests.

“We have seven different food and beverage outlets. You can imagine at one time or other there’s going to be celebrity here staying or eating in our hotel. And we make sure everyone knows they can enjoy their privacy.”

TIFF founded by passion

The film festival started 40 years ago after an idea conceived at the Windsor Arms Hotel by Bill Marshall, Henk Van Der Kolk and Dusty Cohl.

“All three of them shared something really, really important in business. It doesn’t matter if it was TIFF or anything else, it was passion,” said George Friedman, president, Windsor Arms Hotel.

The hotel is the site of a number of high-profile parties, like the In Style/Hollywood Foreign Press Association party. Most of these events are off limits for most people.

Friedman said TIFF’s impact is putting Toronto on an international stage.

“It’s a great way to bring Toronto into the minds of the whole world. It’s important for a city to have that history and culture that you cannot replace.”

If culture to some means star gazing, then Friedman and Singh aren’t surprised to see the crowds outside luxury hotels during the festival.

“There’s five bachelors staying here and a bachelorette. But I can’t give you the bigger names because we’re all about privacy here,” Singh said about the Royal York’s guest list.

Weston had his own wish list.

“Hopefully we’ll see Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon again. It’s usually a surprise. Hopefully they’ll come back again for another Louis.”

By Stephanie Matteis Courtesy CBC News

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