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Fulfilling Requests Large
and Small For 20 Years

It's the week after Thanksgiving, and John Neary, C'71, is very, very tired. This is the busiest time of the year for him, he explains, as head concierge at The Carlyle hotel on Manhattan's Upper East Side. "Everybody wants to go to New York to buy Christmas stuff." And at the elegant Carlyle, where rooms start at $355 a night, guests expect -- and receive -- top-notch concierge service.
Illustration by Hal Mayforth

   A sociology major from Penn who was drawn to the theater, Neary worked at the hotel's front desk between acting jobs; in 1978 he joined its fledgling concierge service. "We were on the ground floor of something," he says. "There were only a handful of us in the U.S. at the time."
   Aside from fulfilling the usual theater, restaurant, and shopping requests -- these days, it's tickets to The Lion King, reservations at Jean Georges -- he and his staff go the extra mile, sometimes literally, for guests who need more extraordinary assistance. Once, for instance, a hotel resident called him at 2 P.M. from Texas and said she needed an expensive gown she had left in the hotel by that afternoon. Impossible? Of course not. The dress was rushed to the airport, where, "We have a good relationship with American Airlines, so we got one of the stewardesses to take it on the plane as a personal item." A director once offered $500 for someone to deliver a script to Paris via the Concorde, but after Neary got "200 volunteers, including myself, he decided to go himself." It helps to have connections. Neary, a past president of the Golden Keys -- an international network of concierges -- frequently calls upon colleagues around the globe, and vice versa.
   Although he is discreet about tips, he says, "People do appreciate [this service]. Once you get to know people, they might say, 'Come visit me when you're in Switzerland.'" Unusual perks aside, "It's very high pressure. You have to be sort of a stress junkie to do this job."

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