The most powerful men in Sydney

Heavyweight supporter: Bob Hawke holds forth at the Sheraton-Wentworth on April 23, 1987.

Heavyweight supporter: Bob Hawke holds forth at the Sheraton-Wentworth on April 23, 1987.Credit:Antonin Cermak

“Basically, I am here to be of service to our guests,” Faccioio says. “This means being able to relate to everyone from the short-stay tourist to the regular interstate or international businessman or woman.

“I like to think that I can meet any reasonable request, no matter what it is, at any time of the day. There is no real course you can take to do this and there is no way that you ever stop learning about your job. It is a continuous course in the school of life.

“To say that we just hail cabs and carry bags is something of a disservice to what we think is a great calling and a profession.”

Facciolo has some heavyweight supporters on this matter – like Bob Hawke. Although Facciolo was too modest to tell the story, in 1983, Hawke, the then Opposition Leader, entered the hotel on the eve of the Federal election. Hawke saw Facciolo and immediately threw an arm around him in greeting. Turning to the reporters and cameramen, Hawke confidently proclaimed the concierge the second-best man in Australia.

“So who is number one?” one reporter asked. “I’ll let you know in a couple of days,” replied the man who would be, and still is, PM.

Across town at the Sebel Town House, concierge Mel Fox, 50, has been opening doors for lesser mortals like Elton John and Dire Straits for 15 years. He, too, accepts the accolades of a score of international celebrities who appreciate anyone who can go just one step further in providing a service. He also shares something with his colleagues that seems to be a prerequisite for working as a concierge.

“Discretion. It is all-important in our job, ” Fox says. “Put simply, we are the keeper of the keys, and we always know who is in the hotel, who is out and who is likely to walk around the corner.

“We also see people coming and going with company that may surprise others. That is a matter for the guests, however, and never anything that we would dare repeat for the benefit of others.”

Mel used to be a matelot in the merchant navy and began work at the Sebel as a waiter before becoming cocktail barman and, finally, concierge. He likes the job.

“Who wouldn’t? You get to meet interesting people every day and with 60 per cent of our hotel business being regulars, you get to make some very warm, lasting friendships as part of the deal.”

Although the Hotel Inter-Continental is the newest hotel on the city block, it has not forsaken hotel tradition. It, too, has a master of the keys. Concierge Gerard Glover, a former Qantas steward, says he is proud to be a member of the sharp end of the ultimate service industry.

He claims to be able to get just about anything for anyone – “as long as it is legal and moral” – if he or she is prepared to be patient.

I like to think that I can meet any reasonable request, no matter what it is, at any time of the day.

Tony Facciolo

“Alan Bond is one of our regulars here, and one day he decided that he would like a piano player for the baby grand in his suite. Fortunately, I have an assistant concierge who is a very capable pianist, so it was his job to go to the room and provide the entertainment for as long as Mr Bond needed it. It’s all part of the same service.”

But hold on. Alan Bond is Alan Bond. Does everyone get the same service, no matter if they are rich, ragged or just passing through?

“Of course. All our guests are equally valued and entitled to the same service. A concierge is exactly the same with any guest, no matter how rich. That is the policy of all hotel staff, not just the concierge,” Glover says.

Now about those Wimbledon tickets. Tony Facciolo says he once provided them for a prominent Melbourne family about to fly out for a summer holiday in Britain. He says that the incident aptly sums up his job and that of his comrades.

“We are all one large family, you know. I just contacted my friend who is concierge at the Churchill Hotel, London, and he was only too happy to help provide the tickets. After all, I may be called upon to do the same for him one day.

“But don’t get me wrong. I would do the same thing for somebody wanting a restaurant seat at the best Sydney restaurant or a sought-after set of theatre tickets. If I can’t get them the tickets, I know it only takes a phone call across town to another hotel and it can be arranged.”

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The last word goes to Victor Baraya, of the Holiday Inn Menzies, and Tony James, of the Hilton. Both believe they are part of the “biggest civilian army in the world”.

“We also serve, but in a very quiet, unobtrusive way,” Baraya says. “Nothing is ever too much trouble for a good concierge. The guest is always the most important person in the world, and we are here simply to reinforce that. It is all a matter of common courtesy.”

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