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Monday, February 11, 2013

Gene Lambert 1935 - 2012

Gene was a great friend of mine, a genuine article and the personification of the much hackneyed phrase, a great guy.

When I first got to the US back in 1981 I ended up in Houston. Going to the US was very exciting for me even though I loved my job in Paris, the lure of faraway places and new challenges was always there. Houston, however, was not a good choice and my ignorance of life in the US became very obvious. I hated the city and never looked back at it for an instant when I left.

I was preparing to go somewhere in the Far East or even back to Paris with my old company. Anywhere but Houston.

During my last few months with the Hotel in Houston an ex-employee, a controller for the company, recommended me to the Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle, he knew I was unhappy with the management where I was and wanted to leave.  The Four Seasons was really interested. In me and I got ‘phone call after ‘phone call from them but kept saying no. I didn't want to leave a company I had been with for eleven years.  I didn't even know where Seattle was and but I was very disillusioned with the USA and just wanted to get out.  Better the devil you know than the devil you don,t.

I finally acquiesced and decided I had nothing to lose by going to see the place. Upon arrival in Seattle I immediately fell in love with the city and decided that the Northwest was where I wanted to make my home. Seattle was at this time a small town and nothing like the center of technology that it is today. I liked it then. People and things were simpler. This was the Promised Land to me and the payoff for years of very hard work.

I eventually accepted the job and  started in the Four Seasons Seattle. That is where I first met Gene. He made me feel welcome and we hit it off immediately. He and I worked very closely together for several years after that we remained friends until his passing. I still go to reach for the ‘phone to this day only to realize that he is no longer there.

Normally when you got to a hotel there are a lot of genuine changes to be made and an awful lot of politics, turf protection and general discontent go with these changes. I must say that most times they find the changes eventually make things better and easier and once accepted you have won a friend.

 Not with Gene, he was helpful and very informed right from the start. He was in fact one of the best purchasing agents I had ever worked with, the other was in Palm Springs, and our personalities meshed. There was never a cross word between us and his good humor and cutting wit made our jobs so enjoyable. He was a no nonsense and completely unpretentious colleague in an industry with  more than it's share of shysters, neophytes and ne'er do wells. He had as much time for them as I did. He was the genuine article.

His knowledge of jazz, music in general, literature and politics was vast. This is most unusual in our industry where conversations are very limited and constrained by lack of interest. It was such a pleasure to sit and chat with him and fob off the cares of the day. It is what is missing in the hotel industry these days.

He will however mostly be remembered by us all for his sharp wit and great sense of humor. He could deflate any situation with a few well-chosen words and well placed witticisms. I thought we would be able to stay there forever but alas, management changed and they brought in a new general manager who was completely devoid of humor and even humanity. To this fellow insults and firing people seemed to be a sport. He threw both of our departments into chaos for a whole year. It was the first time I saw Gene worried about his job.
It got so bad that I had to leave but wanting to stay in Seattle I took a position in a second rate hotel brimming over with bad food, absentee management and a general lack of interest in either the staff , the hotel or even the guest's satisfaction. It took me a year to clean it up and bring it up to any kind of standard. That is another story however. Gene and I kept in touch over the years and chatted on a weekly basis until he left us.
Goodbye dear friend, you have left behind a legacy of good will and fond memories and you have touched the lives of many in a very positive way as proven by the testimony of a lot of people in our industry. You were the consumate professional and you are greatly missed. .

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