Gale Feinstein can still vividly remember her first date with husband Miles Radoff. It was a blind date, and they sat in the window at the Omni Hotel Lounge sipping champagne and watching traffic on Chestnut Street go by.
She had no inkling that four years later, she would be seated at a desk in the hotel lobby as its concierge, or that 13 years later, she would be sitting in the same lounge, four tables away, being interviewed by a reporter.
Feinstein recently was named "Concierge of the Year" -- an honor sponsored by Where magazine and Lagos Jewelry.
"When they announced my name as this year's recipient, I was dumbfounded and overwhelmed because I was in competition with top-of-the-line people, and I did not feel quite qualified to be among such a prestigious group," she said of making the finals with three others "nominated by a selection committee of business and restaurant owners, people in the hospitality field and high-profile people who have interactions with concierges in the city."
The award was presented at Panorama, a restaurant in Old City, following a dinner. In addition to a plaque for winning the award, Feinstein received a bouquet of flowers, and "an outstanding and beautiful" piece of jewelry from Lagos in the shape of the key to the city.
Feinstein was hired by the Omni in 1996 with no experience in the hotel industry after leaving John Wanamaker's department store, where she'd worked for 25 years.
She saw an ad for an Omni job fair. At the time, she was living at the Benjamin Franklin, several blocks from the hotel, and she thought that hotel work might be interesting.
"I came to the job fair with my résumé and briefcase, trying to look as professional as possible, was hired on the spot -- and the rest is history," said Feinstein.
"I love this job because every day is different," she said. "I get to meet people from all over the world -- from every profession and from all walks of life."
Feinstein said that she receives immediate gratification from pleasing the guests with whom she is working.
"If I send them to a particular restaurant and they give me positive feedback from my recommendation, it makes me feel good," she said. "And I always try to tailor my recommendations to the guests' needs."
Life's a Circus
She recalled advising a couple staying at the Omni who were so appreciative that they provided her with two tickets to a Cirque de Soleil show.
Although she doesn't get to spend a lot of time with each of the guests she greets, Feinstein has found that most of them are pretty friendly.
"As for the ones who are not so nice, I work even harder to try getting them out of their shells and being more responsive," she said. "It usually works pretty well. I realize people have different things on their minds, and carry with them a lot of burdens and problems, so I try to take all of that into account."
Over the course of 13 years at the Omni, she said that has met a bevy of celebrities from the entertainment and sports fields: "Tina Louise from 'Gilligan's Island' was not so nice," she recalled, while "Adam Sandler was a doll. I remember telling him how much I loved his 'Hanukkah Song,' and he was quite appreciative."
Actor David Morse, who now lives locally in Chestnut Hill, was one of her favorites.
"He was here when they were making the television show 'Hack,' which he starred in," she remembered.
Others have included actors Alan Alda and Christopher Plummer, singer Christina Aguilera, tennis star Martina Navratilova, boxer Sugar Ray Leonard and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner.
One of her more unusual requests came from an Armenian guest, who requested that Feinstein find a fortune teller for her -- someone who used a Greek method of fortune-telling using coffee grinds.
"However, she needed a fortune teller who spoke Armenian," she explained. "I called some Greek restaurants for advice, and they told me to have her come to one of the restaurants, and they would help her."
And, of course, in the past there have been certain requests that Feinstein has been unable to fulfill, such as the insomniac who asked her to go to the pharmacy to refill his sleeping medication.
"I took the prescription bottle to the nearest pharmacy, who called his doctor," she explained. "They would not fill it because apparently, he was overusing the medication, so I came back to the hotel and had go to his room to tell him what the pharmacy said.
"He looked like he had not slept in six months, and when I told him, he slammed the door of his room in my face."