During the ‘60s the most famous guests of the Esplanade were: Silvana Pampanini, Yul Brynner, Jack Palance, Rosana Podesta, Belinda Lee, Liana Orfei, Orson Welles and many others. The unpredictable Orson Welles was famous for never bending when a banknote fell from his pocket, however big it was. When he had his suits cleaned, he would never take back the money he left in his pockets. The hotel staff also remembers him as a great gourmand and very jolly man.
In the middle ‘60s, Anita Ekberg, the sex symbol of that time was expected in the hotel. As the time of her arrival was uncertain, a small welcoming committee was waiting for her at the reception. Not one of them had seen her before, but they thought that such a sexy lady couldn’t pass unnoticed. When an attractive blonde appeared at the main entrance, the committee greeted her, a short speech was made, and she was presented with an armful of red roses and escorted to the most beautiful suite. The lady didn’t look surprised, she even smiled happily.
The welcoming committee, satisfied with the reception, was having a refreshing cup of coffee, when another blonde appeared. This one was the right lady, Anita Ekberg herself, and the one they had greeted was her secretary. Anita made a joke out of it, not believing there could possibly exist men who would mistake her for her secretary.
In those years the Esplanade accommodated the most famous actors and the most famous artists - Domenico Modugno, Charles Aznavour, Maria Callas, Maja Plisetszkaia, Arthur Miller, Dizzie Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Aran Hachaturian, Henryk Szeryng, Pablo Casals and David Ojstrach.
DIPLOMACY IN THE EMERALD BALLROOM
Many a diplomat and world statesman came to the Esplanade. What did the hotel offer them? Was the service to their satisfaction? During Nikita Hruschtchow’s visit - a duck in red cabbage was on the menu.
Leonid Brezhnev and his delegation were offered saddle of venison a‘la wild and crabs. Prince Sihanuk was so delighted with the dinner the Esplanade’s cooks prepared for him that he gave the Chef Martin Macek gold dessert cutlery as a reward.
The Esplanade’s cooks delighted President Nixon with their culinary art as well. The British Queen Elisabeth showed a special admiration for the Chef’s ability and presented him with a gold coin for an expertly prepared guilt-head bream Dalmatian style.
Italian politician Fanfani was served veal knuckle royal style, a well-known speciality of the hotel. Among the statesmen who liked the Esplanade and its excellent cuisine were: Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro, the President of Uganda Milton Obote, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the American senator Fulbright.
In later years the signatures of Andrej Gromiko, the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs, and later President, dr. Rudolf Kirschläger, the Italian Minister for Foreign Afairs Matteoti, Portugal’s Prime Minister Mario Soares, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs Maurice Couve de Murville and many others were in the hotel’s guest book.
Some statesmen and politicians passed through the hotel incognito. One of them was Panama’s president general Torrijos. Fortunately, a young man recognised the president and drew the hotel photographer’s attention to him. That young man later became the ambassador of Panama.
IN HIGH SOCIETY
1964 was a year of special importance for the Esplanade hotel. It was then that it joined the Inter-Continental Hotel Corporation, a corporation established by PAN AM, in order to accommodate their passengers in the best hotels in the world and at the same time offer them the best possible service and comfort. The golden years of the Esplanade start from this time: joining the corporation and entering the high society of the best hotels in the world.
In 1967, the Esplanade received the Zagreb city Assembly award for business performances. In 1968 it was nominated the best among 62 Inter-Continental hotels in Europe and the Middle East.
In 1975 by the acknowledgement of President Tito the Esplanade hotel received the Order of Labour with a golden wreath.
The long list of the worlds most famous celebrities becomes even longer: Pele, Kurd Jürgens, Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, Stuart Granger.
An interesting story is connected with Stuart Granger’s birthday. As he had already left the hotel on his way to Split, he couldn’t be given the usual birthday gift from the hotel, so a waiter, a cook, and the front office manager went after him to the railway station, greeted him and presented him with the huge birthday cake.
Elena Tessadri, a well-known Italian novelist, chose the Esplanade as the setting of one of her novels, and described it as a most beautiful and warm hotel. Writing about the hotel, she always emphasised its warmth, elegance and luxury. The Esplanade becomes the centre of social and cultural life of Zagreb, in which numerous events, symposiums, fashion shows, culinary competitions and gastronomic events are organised. World personalities, such as Errol Garner, Ike and Tina Turner, Cliff Richard, Gian Maria Volonte, Mikulski, Clay Regazzoni, Bob Guccione and others continue to visit the most famous hotel in Zagreb.
The year of the 50th jubilee of the Esplanade (1975) was of the greatest importance to it. The new Inter-Continental hotel was opened in Zagreb and the Esplanade was, in a way, its begetter and model.