Butler provides the perfect pampering
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Robin Rombach, Post-Gazette photos
Tommy Dewitt, lead butler at Falling Rock at Nemocolin, unpacks a guest's bag in a room at the hotel.
FARMINGTON, Pa. -- The butler has drawn my bath.
How often does a working stiff like myself get to say that?
I repeat that thought to myself as warm bubbles ooze over me and the candles and imported orchids wrap me in a warm glow.
Falling Rock's Tommy Dewitt -- White gloves and perfect manners.
Click photo for larger image.
The polite way to knock on a guest's door
The proper way to lay out robes for guests taking a bath
"May I adjust your head pillow, Ms. Rouvalis?" my butler -- yes, MY butler, for a few hours anyway -- asks me.
I have to be honest here.
I had not realized until now that the five-diamond opulence of Falling Rock hotel comes with an offer from a discreet uniformed stranger to adjust the towel under my neck as I soak in bubbles.
It's a little weird.
But Tommy Dewitt, the lead butler at this boutique hotel at Nemacolin Woodlands in Fayette County, has such a reassuring manner that I figure, what the heck. How many opportunities in my life will I get to experience how the ultra-rich get squeaky-clean?
Yes, that neck pillow is a tad too low, now that you mention it, Tommy.
The fine art of doting
A coal miner's son from West Virginia, he is simply called Tommy, despite the formal job title and the white gloves and the perfect manners. The 31-year-old with kind blue eyes has mastered the fine art of doting on people without being intrusive. He is one of the reasons people will pay $795 for a weekend night and $650 for a weeknight for this sumptuous suite overlooking a golf course.
While some high-end resorts have a butler on staff, hotel manager Dan Gorajczyk says Falling Rock is one of only a handful with 24-hour butler service. A staff of 10 butlers waits on 42 rooms, usually in eight-hour shifts, but they have been known to work longer hours to cater to certain clients.
So if you have some crazy craving at any hour and Tommy answers the phone, he would likely answer jauntily with his favorite word -- "Absolutely."
It would take a lot to put Tommy out.
After all, this is a man who once arranged for a private jet to take a couple to Las Vegas to be married on the spot. (The man declined after he found out it would cost $40,000, but Tommy figured out the logistics that would have made it happen). He has hidden engagement rings inside desserts and learned from the chef how to make guacamole table-side so a man could impress his girlfriend. He has played video games with young guests. He will do almost anything, provided it is legal and fits the hotel's family-friendly ethics.
"There is no such thing as a high-maintenance guest," he tells me.
That's nice to know as I soak in the tub, admiring the orange James Story orchids flown in from Hawaii on the tub's edge. I ask him to move the tray up a little so I can read my magazine. He moves it just so and dims the lights.
"Would you like a glass of champagne or wine?" he asks, flashing a hint of a smile that seems to be saying, "Go ahead. You deserve it."
It is very tempting. But I am afraid if I start drinking in the middle of the afternoon inside a warm tub at a five-diamond hotel, it will make it all the harder to return to my stiff chair in my dingy no-diamond newsroom.
Tommy stands ramrod straight in the next room with his gray and black striped pants and a black jacket with black and brass buttons, tailored to his slightly stocky 5-foot-6-inch body. He asks me if I want to change into a towel or robe. I opt for the plush white robe. He does not enter the bathroom until I tell him it is OK. (There are female butlers for female guests who might feel awkward around a male butler, something I would consider. But he says he draws baths for many women, too.)
Tommy Dewitt places orchids, imported from Hawaii, around a bathtub as he prepares a bath for a guest.
Click photo for larger image.
The bed with the 1,200-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets beckons me next. I put my head on a perfectly comfortable pillow. But is it really the right pillow? -- a question I had never really pondered before.
Tommy hands me a pillow menu, the rage in high-end hotels, filled with enough flowery feather language to satisfy the most finicky head.
Should I rest my weary head atop the Tri-Core Pillow, with Dupont Dacron Hollofill, or the Buckwheat Hull Pillow, or an inflatable Aire-Core Pillow? The pillow menu is like a foreign language, so I tell Tommy to bring in all nine pillows before settling on the delightfully squishy Buckwheat Hull Pillow.
Because I am not spending the night, he does a mock wake-up call. He knocks on the door -- three gentle knocks -- and, soothingly rouses me out of bed with "Good morning, Ms. Rouvalis," then draws the shades. He would next hand me coffee in bed or on a tray and serve breakfast in bed or on the deck.
As someone who finds all mornings a jarring jolt -- and who is pampered by a sweet husband who gives me coffee in bed -- this is my idea of heaven. Yes, this ritual would take the edge off of morning.
Tommy lays out my clothes, folding them so carefully as though they were fine silk instead of rumpled cotton. Then he serves me a lunch of mixed greens and cr??me brulee -- on the balcony, his recommendation. All of the stresses of daily life have left my body.
The trick of the good butler is to know when to dote on someone and when to leave him or her alone.
The No. 1 no-no of a butler is gossip, because they unpack suitcases and lay out personal items. So Tommy will not name-drop any of his famous clients.
The lack of loose lips applies to himself.
I try to interview Tommy, but he is politely vague. He allows that after working odd jobs in Morgantown, W.Va., he became a valet at Nemacolin in 1997 and worked his way up to butler, a coveted job.
"I found my calling," he says. Someone tells me they once saw him get a $400 tip. He will not discuss his hourly wage or tips.
I walk out of Falling Rock relaxed and pampered, thanks to Tommy. Story? Deadline? Who cares?
As I drive back to Pittsburgh and the stress of the real world creeps back, I look at my cup holder and see two bottles of Nemacolin spring water that my butler somehow put in my car.
I take a swig and savor the memory of Tommy.
First Published May 3, 2007 4:37 pm