Fit for an Asian prince: Billion-dollar Peninsula Paris hotel
opens up after four years of construction... complete with a fleet of cars, a $34,000-a-night suite and a Chinese restaurant
After four years of refurbishment work costing 430 million euros ($575.67 million dollars), the Peninsula Paris hotel opens its doors on Friday, promising prince-like treatment to well-heeled visitors to the French capital.
It is part of a battle to attract Asia's new class of super-rich that not only pits the world's top hotel groups against each other but also cities such as Paris, New York and London.
For the Peninsula team, it is a long-term investment, piggybacking on Paris's efforts to woo the Chinese in particular over the past decade - yet it comes as the luxury industry in France is feeling the pinch from a drop in traffic from Russian, Indonesian and Japanese tourists.
After four years of refurbishment work costing 430 million euros ($575.67 million) the Peninsula Paris hotel opens its doors on Friday, promising prince-like treatment to well-heeled visitors to the French capital
The lobby of The Peninsula Paris. The hotel has 200 rooms, including 34 suites, which start at 1000 euros - over $1500 - a night
The Paris location will be the luxury Hong Kong hotel group's first property in Europe
Fancy a dip? The underground, inside swimming pool has a 'zen' design and features a floor-to-ceiling waterfall cascade design
Even spending by the Chinese, the world's No. 1 shoppers, only rose 14 percent in France in the first six months of the year, after rising by more than 20 percent and higher in the past few years, according to VAT-refund company Global Blue.
Such projects are important for the government too.
France is seeking to exploit its position as the world's most visited country to boost the trade balance and stimulate the euro zone's flatlining second economy by convincing tourists to spend more.
Located in a 1908 building a stone's throw from the Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees, the hotel will offer rooms starting at just over 1,000 euros a night and rising to 25,000 euros for a penthouse suite with its own roof-top garden.
In addition to this cafe, the hotel has 600 staff members to look after guests' every need
Asian influence: It may be in Paris but the hotel has a Chinese restaurant called LiLi. The theme of the dramatic space is the marriage of Chinese and French opera The hotel will have to thrive for 25 years to get a return on investment - as it cost 750 million euros to buy and refurbish the property in total
View of a marble bathroom in a room. A penthouse suite costs 25,000 euros a night comes with a private roof garden. The hotel is in a 1908 building a stone's throw from the Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees
Each of the 200 rooms allows guests to make free phone calls anywhere in the world and is fitted with a printer, coffee machine, a nail polish-dryer and a tablet centralizing all functions from dimming lights to ordering breakfast.
A fleet of BMWs, Mini Coopers, two Rolls-Royces together with 600 staff, including masseuses and cigar connoisseurs, are on hand to cater to every whim of its guests.
The Peninsula will need to spare no effort to stand out against other newcomers such as the Mandarin Oriental, the Shangri-La and the Royal Monceau operated by the Singapore hotel group Raffles which opened their doors in recent years.
Once the refurbished Ritz and Crillon hotels re-open next year, Paris will have increased by over 50 percent its number of five-star beds to over 2,000 in little over a decade.
The hotel has five suites that come with private roof terraces - but even a regular room comes with a massive closet. Starting at just 100 euros a night - guests can also make free international phone calls
The gold leaf was painstakingly applied in the hotel - 20,000 pieces in total were used. The gilded bar was the scene of the signing in 1973 of the Paris Peace Accords
'There may be some over-capacity in the short term but for me it is not a problem as it will be absorbed and these new hotels will reinforce Paris' image as a luxury destination,' said Georges Panayotis of hotel and tourism consultancy MKG.
Indeed, analysts say it will take at least 25 years if not more to get a return on an investment the size of the Peninsula Paris, or an estimated 750 million euros (1 billion dollars), when including the cost of acquiring the building. The hotel itself is steeped with history, having housed the Nazi military command when Paris was occupied in World War Two and hosted 1973 peace talks aimed at ending the Vietnam War.
George Gershwin composed An American In Paris while staying at what was then The Hotel Majestic in 1928.
The space opened in 1908 as a hotel, and in 1937 became a government conference center
A seventy five percent size replica of the L'Oiseau Blanc biplane is on the terrace of the restaurant and bar LíOiseau Blanc located on the sixth floor of the hotel which has 360-degree views of Paris
The Hotel Majestic closed in 1937 and was sold to the government as a conference center.
The project is a joint venture, run and 20 percent owned by the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels group behind the Peninsula hotels in cities such as Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, New York, Chicago and Beverly Hills.
The rest belongs to Katara Hospitality, part of the Qatar Investment Authority.
'Our name is reassuring for a certain type of clientele,' hotel director Nicolas Beliard said of the Peninsula brand.
Last month, Hong Kong-listed investment firm Kai Yuan Holdings Ltd, which has interests from steel making to real estate, bought the Paris Marriott Hotel Champs-Elysees for 344.5 million euros for which it said it aimed to boost its Chinese clientele.
The Peninsula has one year to lure a devoted clientele before the Ritz and Crillon each reopen after their respective overhauls to lure the wealthy away
A familiar site: With 600 employees for just 200 rooms - there will no doubt be plenty of staff standing around just waiting to help. There is even an on-staff cigar concierge
Ten years ago, the Chinese tourist market barely existed in Paris, the domestic shop-window of luxury products ranging from Louis Vuitton bags to Cartier jewelry and Remy Martin cognac.
Since then, the government and Paris city hall have sought to attract more Chinese visitors by making it easier to obtain visas and by strengthening security, particularly in tourist hotspots, to prevent muggings.
A spate of attacks against Chinese tourists in recent years have blemished the city's reputation, prompting negative headlines in the local Chinese media.
'For me the battle lines are not between the hotels themselves but between London, Paris and New York as luxury destinations,' said Philippe Leboeuf, head of the rival Mandarin Oriental hotel.
But if the stakes are high, so could be the potential rewards.
Will it do the trick? The French government hopes this new offering will lure more Chinese travellers - as attacks in Paris against Chinese tourists in recent years have hurt the city's reputation
Revenue per room generated by five-star hotels is about seven times that of the hotel industry average, with annual occupancy rate throughout the year of about 75 percent, according to MKG.
The Peninsula's prospective clients are at the top end of a tourist sector which brings in 82 million visitors a year and contributes 12 billion euros to France's balance of payments - still not enough to wipe out an overall trade deficit which stood at 4.9 billion euros in May.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is spearheading efforts to persuade tourists to extend their stays in France, noting that Spain pulls in 30 percent fewer visitors than France but derives 10 percent more revenue from them.
Inside Studio 54:
Fascinating photographs reveal what stars REALLY got up to in world's most famous nightclub
These images capture the world's most famous nightclub Studio 54 during its 33-month existence, populated by celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Rod Stewart and Andy Warhol.
The wild success of the 70s New York club has forever been put down to owner Steve Rubell's first rule of partying: 'The key to a good party is filling a room with guests more interesting than you.'
By 1978, within a year of transforming it from a theatre to a nightclub, Studio 54 had made $7million and Rubell was quoted as saying 'only the Mafia made more money.'
Singer Rod Stewart with Studio 54 owner Steve Rubell (L) and Alana Hamilton (C) at Studio 54
Woody Allen and Michael Jackson partying together at Studio 54. The club ran a stric 'glamour only' dresscode although this was clearly overlooked when this pair tipped up
Singer Olivia Newton-John and producer Allan Carr attend the 'Grease' Premiere Party on June 13, 1978 at Studio 54
Dolly Parton with a white stallion at the nightclub on 254 W. 54th St. One of Steve Rubell's strategy to ensure the A-list celebrities would return time after time was to lavish them with treats and attention
A born and bred New Yorker, Rubell was said to guard the club's door like his life depended on it, letting in only those he considered glamourous enough.
It soon developed a reputation for being the world's most exclusive, hardest to get in to nightspot.
He forever sought the perfect combination of black and white, straight and gay, - something he called 'mixing the salad' and would tell people to go home and change or rather more bluntly 'you're ugly, you're not coming in.'
He started with his business partner Ian Shrager, a more introverted, business-minded type with a chain of steakhouses in the 1970s in the less salubrious parts of New York. The soon realised that by cutting back on the food and concentrating on the sale of alcohol, their profits would soar.
They bought a building at 254 W. 54th St. in New York and spent $400,000 on turning it into a nightclub that included a huge man-in-the-moon hanging over the dance floor. When a large hanging spoon came to rest under its nose, the man-in-the-moon lit up.
They named the club Studio 54, and the doors opened on April 16, 1977.
Bianca Jagger, ex-wife of Rolling Stone Mick Jagger, pictured with two white doves at party held in her honour on December 12, 1977. For her 30th birthday she famously rode out into the club atop of a white horse
Diane von Furstenberg (centre) attends the party for Egon Von Furstenberg's Book 'The Power Look' on September 25, 1978 at Studio 54
All a bit too much fun? Kate Harrington (left), talks to Gloria Swanson (right) over a snoozing Truman Capote (centre)
With the in crowd: Owner Steve Rubell (left) with Michael Jackson, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and Cherie Currie of The Runaways (right)
From left to right, Halston, Bianca Jagger, Jack Haley, Jr. and wife Liza Minnelli and Andy Warhol celebrate a New Year's Eve party at Studio 54
One strategy to ensure the A-list celebrities would return time after time was to lavish them with gifts and attention.
For Bianca Jagger's 30th birthday, a costumed show was performed by staff and professional dancers, and right at the end, Ms Jagger came riding out on the stage on a white horse.
For Andy Warhol's birthday Rubell was said to be so unsure as to what best to get him he ended up presenting the artist with a metal bin full of dollar bills.
Legend has it that Warhol said it was the best present he had ever had.
Rock star Mick Jagger and his future wife, model Jerri Hall, arrive at Studio 54 to attend an 'Oscar' party at the club
With former husband Robert Evans by her side, actress Ali MacGraw sees something of interest during a party to celebrate the June 6 premiere of her new movie 'Players'. In the film Ali plays an older woman who has an affair with a young tennis player. Evans produced the Paramount Pictures release
Actor Paul Bakers and actress Margaux Hemingway attend Coty Awards Party on September 28, 1978 at Studio 54
Curtis Mayfield of the Impressions posing inside the club in 1977. He is best known for composing the soundtrack to the film Super Fly
The music finally stopped on December 1979 when the club was raided by the Inland Revenue and bags full of money were found stashed throughout the building.
A final party and prison send-off was held in February 1980, and Diana Ross serenaded Rubell and Shrager in front of a packed crowd that included Richard Gere, Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stallone and Gia Carangi.
The pair were sentenced to three-and-a-half years for tax evasion of which they served 13 months atfer striking a deal with prosecutors.
After all this time, Shrager still finds the 33-month period difficult to talk about.
In a 2011 interview he said: 'I didn't handle the success well; there was nothing you could do at night in the 1970s you couldn't walk away from in the morning.
'I admire the accomplishment at a distance - we were a couple of guys from Brooklyn - but we created a Frankenstein monster that almost destroyed us.'
Steve Rubell died of hepatitis and septic shock in 1989. Ian Shrager went into the boutique hotel business and sold his company, Morgans Hotel Group, the most famous hotel group in the world at the time, for a reputed $400 million in 2005.
If you're not on the list..Outside the world's most famous nightclub, Studio 54, on 254 W. 54th St., New York. People were often turned away for being 'ugly'
What have you got to do to get a drink around here? A busy night at Studio 54
Owner Steve Rubell, Marina Schiano, Yves Saint Laurent and Loulou de la Falaise attend the party for Opium Perfume Launch on September 20, 1978 at Studio 54. A year later the club was raided by the IRS
Steve Rubell leaves Federal Court on November 2, 1979, after pleading guilty to two counts of income tax evasion. He spent a total of 13 months in prison and died nine years later died of hepatitis and septic shock
Story of Burlesque in America.
Author Leslie Zemeckis produced an earlier documentary on the subject and has adapted the story into 'Behind the Burly Q: The Story of Burlesque in America,' that will be released on June 1.
The book includes 80 black and white photographs that tell the story of the racy pastime that became one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the early part of the 20th century.
'Burlesque touched every corner of American life. The sexy shows often poked fun at the upper classes, at sex, and at what people were willing to do in the pursuit of sex,' the author said in a description of the book.
'Gaudy, bawdy and spectacular, the shows entertained thousands of paying customers every night of the week. And yet the legacy of burlesque is often vilified and misunderstood, and left out of the history books.'
With interviews with burlesque fans, musicians, strippers and historians, the author hopes to capture the intriguing history of this seductive stage performance.
Show me how you burlesque: A new book offers a behind the scene look at Burlesque in America
History: The book includes 80 black and white photographs that tell the story of the racy pastime that became one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the early part of the 20th century
Sultry: The book's author interviewed dancers, musicians and club owners who took part in staging burlesque shows in the past
Racy: Gaudy, bawdy and spectacular, the shows entertained thousands of paying customers every night of the week
Ta da: Burlesque was one of America's most popular forms of live entertainment in the first half of the 20th century
Seductive: The sexy shows often poked fun at the upper classes, at sex, and at what people were willing to do in the pursuit of sex
Behind the scenes: The author interviewed entertainers to hear about what performers were like behind the curtain
She is one of America's most recognisable showgirls after rising to fame on The Girls Next Door and starring in the burlesque revue Peep Show.
And Holly Madison has swiftly become an entrepreneur as her latest venture 1923 Bourbon & Burlesque, a Las Vegas speakeasy, had its grand opening on Thursday night.
For the party, the 34-year-old entertained audiences by starring in a racy burlesque show where she sang and danced in nothing but lingerie.
Entrepreneur: Holly Madison performed a burlesque show for the grand opening of her new speakeasy 1923 Bourbon And Burlesque in Las Vegas on Thursday
Taking the stage in thigh garters, sheer stockings, and stilettos the freshly red-headed entertainer could be seen strutting in a conga line with some gorgeous back up dancers.
Wearing a bodice and sequinned bra, the star crooned whilst lounging atop a piano as she gave the audience a demonstration of her vocal talents.
Looking pretty in bright lip paint she posed for a backstage photo where she reclined in a chair as she wore nearly arm-length gloves and diamond bracelets.
Big night: The former reality star made sure audiences got quite the show
She can do it all: The veteran performer did some lounge singing as she reclined on a piano
Her girls: The star posed backstage with her dancers
As she arrived to the bash, Holly opted for pure 1920s elegance as she wore her bright locks in flowing waves over her toned shoulders.
She made sure to put on an elegant and glamorous front with a shiny white gown with a silver band cinching her waist.
While adorned in the classic getup, she posed next to a vintage motor car as she smiled for her photo op.
Build up: Holly pictured at the arrivals photo shoot in an elegant white gown
Old timey feel: The freshly red headed star posed next to a classic motor car
In March the Las Vegas Sun published a statement from Holly regarding her big venture in Sin City.
She explained at the time: 'I’m very excited to be a part of this new project.'
Adding: 'We look forward to introducing Las Vegas to glamorous burlesque set inside an intimate 1920s-style speakeasy.'
Also in attendance: Bridget Marquardt arrived in a stunning blue dress
The venue is touted as an ideal spot for private parties where Madison can be expected to perform variously during the burlesque shows.
Following the celebrations, Holly tweeted on Friday: 'Thank you everyone who came out to the grand opening of @1923lv #BourbonBurlesque @mandalaybay!'
Holly, who previously starred in the burlesque Peep Show in Las Vegas, married filmmaker Pasquale Rotella in Disneyland last September, after the birth of one-year-old Rainbow Aurora. The couple began dating in 2011.