THE INNER ELOISE CLUB (Find Your Inner Child at The Plaza Hotel)

7 Aug

By Cheri Sundra 

NYC: The Plaza Hotel
Photo Credit:  Wally Gobetz

THE INNER ELOISE CLUBPhoto Credit:  Cheri Sundra

Described as the Holden Caulfield for kindergartners, or anyone willing to embrace their inner child, she is the enormously famous little girl who lives at the Plaza Hotel–“the only hotel in New York that will allow you to have a turtle”.    First published in 1955, Kay Thompson’s ELOISE, a children’s book “for precocious grownups”, is the creation and literal brain-child of author, Kay Thompson, who is known for being quite a character in and of herself. Thompson is also well-known for her appearance in the movie Funny Face (“Think Pink!”) with Audrey Hepburn.

THINK PINKPhoto Credit:  myhumblefash

The James Dean of children’s literature, ELOISE gave a generation of little girls permission to rebel.  She lived parents-free, crayoned walls and ordered up room service for herself and her dog, Weenie, and her turtle, Skipperdee, demanding that the staff “Charge it please. Thank you very much.”

Palm Court, the Plaza, New York Photo Credit:  Tom Barnes

ELOISE understood the power of connections and networking, even at the tender age of six—“The Bell Captain knows who I am.”   When told by The Manager that she is a nuisance in the lobby, ELOISE announces, “My mother knows The Owner”.  She skiddered about The Plaza, slomping her skates and making a terrible racket, not caring one bit about “the ladies” in the lobby with the revolving door and marble pillars, until she was good and ready to return to her “mostly companion”, her “rawther” British nanny.

Happy 66th Birthday LIZA MINNELLI! and Happy CABARET's 40th Anniversary.(Feb.12,1972)

Photo Credit:  Mikie Reyes

Liza Minnelli is often cited as the possible inspiration for ELOISE. Kay Thompson and Judy Garland were so close that Thompson was Minnelli’s godmother. Another theory is that ELOISE was Thompson’s alter-ego. Kay Thompson was definitely a real-life character, as well as being light years ahead of her time.

Thompson, who attended the same high school as Tennessee Williams, was a prodigy on the piano by the time she was sixteen.  Often described as a gifted and attention-seeking oddball, Thompson’s ambitions included becoming a musical star-but her act, high camp, was twenty years ahead of its time.  Despite inclusion in a few musical productions that were popular in their day, Thompson’s role has been mostly unreported in the history of popular music.  When all was said and done, despite wanting to be famous for being Kay Thompson, she became most well-known as the creator of ELOISE and the epic marketing machine that followed.

Despite being created during the 1950s, ELOISE is definitely a child of modern times. Today, we live in the age of the Toyetic, a phrase created by studio executives to describe any movie or TV show’s potential to support the sale of toys and similar merchandising methods. Kay Thompson was forward-thinking when she formed ELOISE, Ltd. after the success of the first ELOISE book. Headquartered appropriately at the Plaza Hotel (where Thompson was allowed to live rent-free), Thompson managed all of the merchandising and publicity pertaining to ELOISE. Thompson is credited with creating one of the first publishing saturation marketing gambits. ELOISE was not just a book, she was also a doll sold exclusively at Lord & Taylor, several toys, her own wardrobe for Neiman Marcus, and she even made her television debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1956.

Eloïse, mon premier contact avec New York?

Photo Credit:  Marine Armstrong

While modern sociology scholars like to credit He-Man as being the first children’s character created for the sole purpose of selling products, I would argue that during her heyday, the ELOISE marketing machine was like He-Man on crack, with the added appeal of selling big ticket items to adults thanks to her endorsements for products such as Kalistron Luggage  and Renault Automobiles    in addition to the numerous products marketed at younger fans.

Eloise goodies

Photo Credit:  Syd.EGore

In 1962, at the height of her celebrity and ELOISE-mania, Kay Thompson mysteriously picked up and left New York, with only a toothbrush, and moved to Rome.  Shortly after, she pulled the plug on the whole ELOISE franchise, refusing to even finish the final ELOISE book. After her death in 1998, Thompson’s estate put ELOISE back on the market again, much to the delight of children and adults everywhere.

EloisePhoto Credit:  Luvzdollz

 It has been reported that Thompson became jealous that her creation became more famous than she was herself.  Thompson was a woman known for being fastidious and precise about every aspect of her appearance and career.  When ELOISE was first published, Thompson insisted that her name be above the title, as if on a marquee.  During the height of the ELOISE craze, Thompson reportedly called book stores to ask “What is the title of the book in the window?”  When the clerk would inevitably answer “ELOISE”, she would shout “That is incorrect! The title of the book is Kay Thompson’s ELOISE!”

Even after becoming urber-successful, Kay Thompson was still an insecure, self-absorbed, restless six-year old.  And in the final analysis, aren’t we all?

UntitledPhoto Credit:  rodkimble

Fifty-six years later, you can still make plans to get in touch with your inner-ELOISE and skibble over to The Plaza.  Remember the ELOISE moto–“Getting bored is not allowed!”

3 Responses to “THE INNER ELOISE CLUB (Find Your Inner Child at The Plaza Hotel)”

  1. Helen August 8, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    Excellent post about Eloise…who was an is an inspiration to this day!

  2. Sydney August 11, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    Will skibble to The Plaza this fall to introduce my daughter to Eloise!

  3. Reilly August 15, 2012 at 6:06 am #

    Thank You for writing this. I am a member of the Inner Eloise Club! 🙂 I’ve always loved the Eloise books.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: