Back in 1980, Belgrade had several luxury hotels, but the infamous American billionaire, David Rockefeller chose the Bristol Hotel to stay in, just like his grandfather who stayed at the hotel between the two world wars.
For the Bristol staff, Rockefeller was a guest just like any other. The former receptionist, Milenko Micunovic, lift boy Radivoje Jevtic, and waiter Vidoje reminisce about Rockefeller and his stay. They say that they never expected a tip from him, and, true to their expectations, never got one. Instead of tips, Rockefeller gave each of them a plastic pen with the Chase Manhattan Bank logo on it.
“Because of the IMF’s conference, the entire city was on alert. Bankers from all over the world gathered at Sava Centre for a three-day-conference to decide on the world’s financial destiny. The star of the conference was certainly David Rockefeller. Just like any other wealthy man, he did not only rent one room, but an entire floor so he wouldn’t be bothered. He had a huge entourage – secretaries, advisors, bodyguards and a TV crew”, Milenko Micunovic remembers.
Although, back then, Bristol was owned by the Yugoslav National Army (JNA), the staff was entirely civilian. According to Radivoje Jevtic, nobody was given special instructions regarding Rockefeller’s stay. He had three layers of security – military, police and his own.
“We all knew the protocol to the last detail. The streets, through which a convoy of cars with the world bankers passed, were closed off. Rockefeller used to get up early and he had his first meeting at 7am. I think that he was about 165cm tall, and he always wore trousers that were too short for him. Also, he always had a smile on his face. He never talked to the staff”, Jevtic says.
Waiter Vidoje was the only one of the three who had a direct contact with Rockefeller.
“Rockefeller stayed in the so-called White Apartment no. 329. The hotel was freshly renovated before the conference and everything was in top shape. We had to make sure that the apartment fridges were always full and that there were always fresh flowers in the rooms. The bankers usually had just breakfast at the hotel, and they loved sandwiches with the Dalmatian prosciutto. Sandwiches with kajmak were also popular”, he remembers.
“Rockefeller drunk only whiskey and soda, and was served only by his butler”, Vidoje explains.
Nobody, apart from his bodyguard, was allowed to press the buttons in the hotel lift. “The buttons were such that you had to keep them pressed a little bit longer in order for the lift door to open and close. His bodyguard did not know this and pressed the button lightly. The door did not move. I raised my hand to show him how it was done, only to be slapped on it. I somehow managed to explain to him that I was only going to show him how to get the lift moving”, Radivoj Jevtic remembers.
(Vecernje Novosti, 26.03.2017)
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