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Au revoir to the Ritz, spirit home to the fashionable and famous

The Ritz Paris hotel is closing for renovations at the end of the month. In case you’re wondering which piece of property we’re referring to — the name is used liberally these days — we defer to history. It’s the hotel located in Place Vendôme. The one Coco Chanel called “ma maison” for nearly 40 years. Her atelier was on Rue Cambon, the street behind the famous square. And the Rococo-style manor — one of the major icons for such a period of design — so ingratiated itself to her residency that a rear lift was designed for a seamless commute between work and play.

It’s the hotel that houses Bar Hemingway, named for the famous expat who, with a ragtag group of resistance fighters and a rifle over his shoulder, ordered champagne in the liberated venue before any Allied troops could. Other expats familiar with the hotel included F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wild-card wife, Zelda. You may have heard about their fête-full ways. Of course Marcel Proust considered it his spirit home. To him, it was heaven.

The Ritz also houses the Ritz Bar, a younger, more stylish venue where this writer was first introduced to the polished, and chic, new disco stylings of the Ed Banger DJ collective in the aughts. You are aware of Ed Banger, yes? If not… well, the Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin, The Who and The Beatles have all checked in at some point. Michael Jackson, too.

For generations, 15 Place Vendôme has been a staple in the jet-setters’ address book. Hollywood’s elite has graced the mirror-lined hallways, literally watching the world come and go. Charlie Chaplin, Warren Beatty, Steve McQueen, Chloe Sevigny and Sofia Coppola were all guests. Ditto Andy Warhol. Madonna was recently spotted leaving the hotel flanked by Lourdes and Rocco.

Of course the Ritz has seen its share of fabulous parties. For eight years Gianni Versace staged his haute couture shows there until his untimely demise. This year Donatella found the courage to walk in her brother’s footsteps, marking the return of the fashion house to the venue, and it was a smashing success. Should you care to foray into excellent cuisine, there is L’Espadon on the ground floor with its two-star Michelin rating. Anna Wintour was spotted having lunch with John Galliano there after the couture shows and the buzz took off. Bee Shaffer was in tow. At L’Espadon the variables of bold-faced names in the aforementioned equation are infinite.

The proposed overhaul is scheduled to take 27 months, and predictably this has the gilded creatures of the world at a loss. The storied hotel owned by billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed, father of Dodi Al-Fayed (the lover of Princess Diana, who was last spotted fleeing the hotel with her paramour before both were killed in a terrible car accident involving the paparazzi) has made the unprecedented decision in order to comply with France’s strict Palace codes. Part of the renovation will include an underground passageway between garage and l’hotel for added privacy and security of its guests. It appears the house that invented the term Ritzy has every intention of maintaining its reputation. Adieu jusqu’en 2014, mon petite gateaux.

Photo credit: The Leading Hotels of the World