The Savoy London's Most Famous Guest is a Cat
London's iconic Hotel Savoy may be under renovation until May 2009, but that doesn't mean the stories of its legendary past must be put on hold. Since the hotel's opening in 1889, it has served as more than just a temporary home, but as inspiration, to many luminaries including Monet, Oscar Wilde, Bob Dylan, Marilyn Monroe and Frank McCourt.
It was in the 1920s, however, that the hotel's most famous resident checked in and never left. Kaspar the Cat, a 3-foot-high wood sculpture of a regal feline, was expressly created to ward off any superstitions of guests dining at the hotel's Savoy Grill. Apparently, to dine with only thirteen guests is ominous, and the first to rise from the table will soon meet with tragedy. Kaspar's role is to be the official fourteenth guest, served with every course as normal, should anyone unknowingly hit upon the unlucky number of diners.
The statue itself has enjoyed a tumultuous life, serving as the center of an RAF prank in which Winston Churchill intervened to assure its safe return. Elevating the statue's story into mini-epic form is a new children's book, Kaspar Prince of Cats by Michael Morpurgo, a former writer-in-residence at The Savoy. From the cat's arrival at the hotel from a Russian countess to a fictional harrowing escape from the sinking Titanic, Kaspar earns his worth as a dinner guest.
We're dying to get our hands on the book if only because it's filled with illustrations of the Savoy during its hey-day. At the very least, we may just have to hit up the Savoy Grill after the hotel's re-opening and say "cheers" to Kaspar himself.
[Photo: Getty Images]