TravelPsst, There’s a Secret Gossip Girl Tour in New York

21:45  26 july  2019
21:45  26 july  2019 Source:   nytimes.com

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For the last 21 years, Maurice Legere has been a security officer at the Lotte New York Palace, a hotel in Midtown Manhattan. And for the last decade, in addition to keeping the building safe, Mr. Legere has given a tour of the hotel to loyal fans of the “Gossip Girl” television show, showing them the spaces where the series was filmed.

Psst, There’s a Secret Gossip Girl Tour in New York© Katherine Marks for The New York Times

The tour isn’t advertised online or at check-in for hotel guests. The only way to find out about it is through word-of-mouth.

The hotel was the home of Serena van der Woodsen and Chuck Bass, some of the teen cult drama’s main characters. Throughout the show’s six seasons, the hotel became a character of its own with much of the scheming, fighting and other drama in “the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite” taking place there and its characters referring to it as just “the palace.”

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I started doing it because people come into the courtyard, they look and I notice them right away because they start giggling and laughing,” Mr. Legere said. “They say, Oh my God this is the ‘Gossip Girl’ hotel.”

So he started offering to show them the most “Gossip Girl”-linked spots inside the hotel.

With the show’s reboot on HBO Max, announced earlier this month, Mr. Legere may get even more takers for the tour, for which he does not charge. It typically begins in the lobby where Mr. Legere points to a gold balcony, gives its history and recalls a memorable scene from the show’s 2007 pilot.

“Serena stood up there looking down at Dan when they went on their first date she had the gold dress on,” he said.

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From the lobby, Mr. Legere takes guests up the hotel’s grand staircase and into the ballroom where Blair and Serena’s cotillion took place in the first season. Then Mr. Legere goes to the Gold Room, where Serena and Blair decided not to be friends in the pilot. The bar’s décor has changed since the show was filmed, but the show’s most loyal fans can imagine the scenes.

“It was cool to walk around and visualize scenes from the show like where Serena and Nate had drinks in the hotel bar,” said Jessie Sporn, who went on Mr. Legere’s tour in April. “When Maurice described certain things happening in a specific room, I could remember the scenes perfectly.”

Mr. Legere then takes guests into the Villard restaurant, where Chuck regularly ate breakfast, and Villard’s kitchen, where Chuck made Serena a truffle grilled cheese.

The next stop on the tour is a marble staircase where Nate watched his father buy drugs. Thanks to the natural light streaming through a window near the bottom of the staircase, tourists always want a photo of themselves standing on the stairs.

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“I’ve become a freelance photographer,” Mr. Legere said recently. “I take so many photos of people here. They want all the angles.”

Mr. Legere’s tour is not included with the “Gossip Girl” Getaway offered by the Lotte Palace, which includes a small box of macarons and prosecco gummy bears, two “Gossip Girl” Champagne cocktails at the hotel’s bar, Trouble’s Trust, or in the Gold Room, a 25 percent discount on tickets to the “Gossip Girl” sites tour from On Location, a group that offers TV and movie themed tours of New York and Boston, and postcards with images of the show’s most famous locations at the hotel (rates start at about $400 a night).

Ms. Sporn, 22, said that she also went on a separate tour of other locations in the city that are in the show, but not affiliated with the hotel.

“We also went to the Met steps and the rooftop bar of the Empire Hotel, which are in the show,” she said. “The hotel had ‘Gossip Girl’ drinks and at The Met there were other people who were there because they had seen it on the show, so it was interesting to see the cultural impact of the show.” Ms. Sporn added that a group of people she spoke with mentioned that they had come to the museum because of the show. In the series, Blair often had lunch on the Met steps.

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Mr. Legere began giving the tour about a decade ago and said that it has become more popular in the last four or so years, likely because the show is available on Netflix and more people have access to it. He said that he has given at least a thousand tours to groups big and small and with guests from all over the world.

David Shenman, director of sales and marketing for the hotel, anticipates that the reboot will bring even more people to the hotel and to Mr. Legere’s tour.

“I feel like any time there’s a resurgence, like when the show became available on Netflix, there is additional interest that brings people here,” Mr. Shenman said. “We just started talking about this last week, but obviously being the Palace we will find something to do celebrating the return.”

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