The name Ritz has become so well known that it is in Webster’s dictionary: “ritzy, ritzier, ritziest 1. snobbish 2. ostentatiously smart 3. fashionable, posh; ritziness.” The word comes up in countless songs and novels. Sitting at his favorite table in the Ritz bar, Cole Porter wrote these lyrics: “The world admits, bears in pits do it, / Even Pekingeses at the Ritz do it, / Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.”
From the opening night, in 1898, the Ritz was an instantaneous success, luring royalty, heads of state, industrial giants, society leaders. “They came!,” Madame Ritz exalted. “Calouste Gulbenkian, Marcel Proust, the Comtesse de Pourtalès, Grand Duke Michael with Comtesse Torby, with whom he lived in exile from the Russian court.”
One of the few to be negative about the place was Oscar Wilde, who found the elevators too fast and all the electrification unnecessary. “A harsh and ugly light, enough to ruin your eyes, and not a candle or lamp for bedside reading. And who wants an immovable washing basin in one’s room? I do not. Hide the thing. I prefer to ring for water when I need it.”
—Stories about the MOST EXPENSIVE HAMBURGER and the MOST EXPENSIVE HOTEL and THE MOST EXPENSIVE ICE CREAM SUNDAE are such link bait and I loathe them, but this Vanity Fair story about the Paris Ritz is disgusting and lovely all at once. (Why does old money always seem so much nicer than new money, even to someone who has no money?) The piece is a reflection on the hotel’s history and prominence as it undergoes a two-year shuttering and renovation, and it really a delight. And if you must know: The Imperial Suite, the crown of the place, costs $17,770 per night, and is usually booked.