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Have you heard the people on the radio who say in effect: if you go online you can get a four-star hotel in mid-town Manhattan for fifty bucks a night?
It’s not just one guy, there are dozens of them talking about how many luxury hotel rooms there are out there going begging and all you have to do is go online and snap them up.
I never paid much attention to the ads until the other day when a wandering late-winter tourist stopped and asked me to recommend a good local hotel. After I named what I thought was a likely candidate for the designation ‘good hotel’ the tourist then asked: How many stars?
How many what? I asked. Stars? Movie stars? Whada’ya mean stars?
No. The stranger said – slowly so I could understand. He explained that he wanted to know how well the hotel did in its rating and that was determined by how many stars it had – one to five.
I have no clue, I responded. I told him that, as far as I knew, all the rooms had electricity, clean bathrooms a TV and free breakfast - but I knew nothing about its stars.
In Maine in summer you expect questions like: Where’s a good place to eat? Any good fishing places around here? A good place to put in a canoe, get a lobster, buy some smelts.
But we now have people visiting Maine, driving past some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet, wasting their precious vacation time worrying about how many stars their hotel might have? The place they’ll be laying their weary head has to have so many stars in its rating before they’ll put on their jammies and go to sleep?
Time was when we were more concerned about how many stains there were on the carpet and never bothered to count the stars on the marquis out front.
How do things like this happen? I might as well say right here, I don’t like the way Maine’s heading, if it’s attracting this type of star-struck tourist. It doesn't sound healthy. Our roads are clogged enough already.
Time was Maine attracted car loads of happy, contented people who liked to come north to escape the heat and high prices of big cities. Those tourists wanted to rough it; go camping, cruise the coast in a sailboat, or rent a neat but not too untidy cabin in the piney woods.
There have always been fine hotels here in Maine and many of them have put up with big "stars" of the Hollywood variety from time-to-time. And Maine scenery is often used as a backdrop for movies. But I’ve never – until recently - heard anyone ask how many stars a hotel had in its rating.
Back home years ago the movie star Robert Montgomery and a bunch of other Hollywood-types came into our little harbor in a big fancy yacht and everyone in town was talking about it.
"Been down to port to to see the yacht Robert Montgomery’s on?" or "Did you know that Robert Montgomery was in the harbor last night?"
"Who the (bleep) is Robert Montgomery?" I hear some of you ask. O.K. we’re talking about a movie star and director who was around a few years ago. At the time, I had never heard of him either but the older folks in town - including my parents - sure knew who he was.
Robert Montgomery made his movie debut in 1929 in a blockbuster called "So this is College." O.K., so maybe it isn't available from Netflix anymore. How soon we forget, but he was also nominated for two Academy Awards in the 1930s and 40s.
Anyway, this famous movie star went into Hall’s Market in town to get some groceries and a lot of the locals, mostly summer complaints, followed him in to see what he’d buy.
When this big movie star came to the counter Mr. Hall was not impressed. Montgomery asked to pay for the items with a check drawn on a bank in Beverly Hills and Mr. Hall asked to see an ID, just like he would have done with anyone else. Those standing around watching were shocked. How could he ask a celebrity like Robert Montgomery for an ID? Well, he did.
And I bet Mr. Hall never cared how many stars a hotel had, either.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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