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Arno the Arnochist — Raising Hell at the Hotel Del

05 Sep

September 5, 1980 / May 1942

Errol Flynn’s Antic Stay at the Hotel Del Coronado

Excerpt from Esquire Magazine, May 1942. The Writings of Errol Flynn. “It Shouldn’t Happen to an Actor”

Friendship with Arno meant you were a cinch to lose most of your friends. There were times when the only answer seemed to be to change my name or leave the country. Like that time at the Coronado Hotel The Coronado Hotel is an austere establishment where rich old folks go to play until they die. The waitresses get off weekends to visit their grandchildren. You are kept awake nights by the dull thud of guests dropping dead.

Disaster, ever Arno’s sidekick, struck one day in the dining room of that hotel. Eating was always a problem because Arno insisted on eating with me. If you chased him out of the restaurant, he would just come in another door. When the door was shut he would wail for some customers and come in again camouflaged between their legs.

On this particular day I had (I thought) double-locked him in my room upstairs. One of the hotel’s younger set – a quaint little thing of about seventy – always complained that the dining room was cold, in spile of the temperature being a good eighty. She also maintained it was so dark she couldn’t see, though you could take snapshots in there at night and they would have been overexposed. So she announced she would provide her own lighting. Soon a tall stand-lamp arrived and was installed behind her chair. When lit the first night it was found to contain a 200-watt bulb of such brilliance that it temporarily blinded everyone who looked in her direction. The waitresses were the ones who suffered most They would serve her something and turn around to get something else, and everything would immediately go black. They would usually drop whatever they were holding. One of them partially solved the problem by wearing dark glasses. Of course nothing much could be done about the heating arrangements. From the heat generated by her lamp, people at adjoining tables already perspired freely throughout meals, but the frail little old lady sat serenely under her 200-watt umbrella and remarked how cold she was. She . finally achieved some measure of comfort by coming into meals wearing several silver fox furs. This was partly the cause of the trouble.

One night I was sitting in the dining room over a bottle of wine when a cat passed by the table. I knew this cat slightly. He was a prosperous executive-looking kind of cat and apparently had the exclusive use of the kitchen and dining room. Business was good with him. Suddenly there was a commotion at the dining room entrance. There was a scraping of chairs; the head waiters began moving around agitatedly. The hair on the back of the business cat shot up as though someone had got by the secretary he didn’t want to see.

It was Arno. How he got out of the room I don’t know. He had just started to give me a brief nod, a sort of double take, when he saw the cat. That was enough! They broke beautifully from the gate without a second’s difference in the start hugging the rail the cat skidded around several tables three lengths ahead of Arno. At the far turn, Arno had shortened and was coming up on the outside. Coming into the stretch it began to lode like a photo finish when the cat taking a desperate gamble, swerved sharply under the frail little old lady’s table. Arno, trailing by barely half a length now, saw dangling in front of him the fox fur and! It was horrible.

The screams of the waitresses, the hoarse shouts of the men, the smash of crockery, rose to a sudden deafening explosion as the 200-watt lamp crashed to the floor and broke shivering into a thousand pieces. Arno had the little old lady’s silver fox fur by the throat in a killer’s grip. On dark nights, the sounds still ring in my ears. All in all, the hotel was very nice about it After I had paid for the damage the management said I could come and stay there practically any time – alone.

Here’s Errol at the Hotel Del pool … sans Arno

— Gentleman Tim

 

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