Talent Show

Atkins? South Beach? Those regimens are a piece of cake (um, steak?) compared to the dietary requirements of Michael Belfiore's attendees. "One guy wanted his Evian water heated in the microwave for exactly one minute and twenty-seven seconds—not a second more or less," sighs the catering manager of the Regency Hotel in Manhattan. "Another brought his own 'juicer': an assistant to prepare fresh carrot-cucumber juice for him." Then there's the guest who insisted on sushi on Sunday morning—"Try finding that!"—or the one who demanded diet peach Snapple during a blizzard that had shut the city down.

As you've no doubt surmised, these aren't your run-of-the-mill attendees. They're actors, a.k.a. "talent," who appear at press junkets set up by Hollywood studios to promote their latest films. These media cattle calls—familiar to anyone who's seen Notting Hill—usually take place in L.A., but 12 years ago when Belfiore got hired at the Regency, he spied a lucrative niche.

"The hotel was doing a few of these and I saw it was good weekend business, so we started marketing ourselves directly to the studios," explains Belfiore, who just did the junket for the latest Harry Potter movie in May. To entice producers, the Regency even invested $250,000 to rewire three floors and install "control rooms" for studio staffers to monitor interviews—to make sure the talent gets that double soy latte he needs from Starbucks, and so the journalist doesn't ask, say, J.Lo about her latest marriage.


Special—OK, extraordinary—requests don't stop with food. Some actors insist their rooms be repainted or installed with gym equipment; others need a separate suite just for their outfits. But Belfiore's biggest challenge came the day the German Day Parade was marching up Fifth Avenue past the hotel.

"The microphones used are very sensitive and they picked up the parade noise," recalls Belfiore. "The studio people said I had to do something about the music or they couldn't do the interviews. When I ran outside, a policeman told me the parade was about to stop anyway because they didn't have a permit for our block. I went back upstairs—and they actually believed I'd stopped the parade! I thought, 'What's the next request gonna be?' "


Needless to say, Belfiore's no longer starstruck. "Starsick" is more like it. "We've had most of the A-list talent here, and sometimes it's disappointing to find out what actors you admire are really like," he groans. On the other hand, Belfiore can be pleasantly surprised: "I thought Tom Cruise would be a handful, but he was a real sweetheart," unlike the nameless diet-peach-Snapple dude. By the way, did Snapple Guy ever get his thirst quenched? Of course, says the man who paused a parade: "But it took four staffers two hours—and cost him $300!"