By: Ed Niles
There was a time in our lives when we were traveling to Europe every two or three years, and made many friends in the Ferrari world. It became commonplace for us to stay with friends in Europe, and vice-versa. One of our friends even had a plaque made for us announcing "Hotel Niles".
It became known, in our circle of Ferrari friends, that Ed and Phoebe could supply a clean room with private bath, with (dare I say it?) gourmet cooking and potable wine. Thus, we frequently had a guest or two in our guest room.
One day I received a telephone call from a total stranger, obviously British, who announced, "Hullo, Im so and so, from London, and Godfrey Eaton suggested I give you a call. Im looking for a place to stay, as I just got into Los Angeles for a short vacation." I didnt get it. Innocently, I asked him, "What part of town would you like to stay in?" "Oh, no, old chap, Godfrey suggested that I might stay with you!"
I suppose the fact that it took me at least four beats to say anything might have been a give-away, but I finally mumbled that our guest room was already occupied!
That great French Ferrari enthusiast Didier Moreau even sent his 16 year-old son to us for an entire summer one year. What a cultural eye-opener that was for all concerned!
You havent lived until youve watched a 16-year old insist on eating a Carls Jr. hamburger with a knife and fork! Or watched him squirm as the stripper we hired for his sixteenth birthday did her act!
One day another of our French pals (Ill call him Joe as that is as un-gallic a name as I can conjure up) let us know that he would be visiting us, and bringing with him Cherie. "You remember Cherie, you met her at Mas du Clos." Indeed we did remember her. She had made a grand entrance after everyone else was seated for dinner, bringing all conversation to an immediate halt with her stunning posture and sexy attire.
Well, Joe and Cherie, did, indeed, show up at our doorstep a week later. But by the time they got here, they were so deeply entrenched in a fight that they were not speaking to one another! This made interesting conversation. "Ed, would you please ask Joe to pass the salt?" "Phoebe, would you please ask Cherie to pass the wine?"
But the interesting thing was that although they didnt speak for days, we would hear the bed banging against the wall in that familiar rhythm at least once a night! It seems that Joe and Cherie were able to put their personal differences aside for what seemed to be the heart of their relationship!
After a week or two, Joe announced that he had to move on to New York for business, but Cherie wasnt ready to leave. She asked if she might stay on for a short while. Thus began our long, if intermittent, relationship with Cherie.
In many ways, Cherie was the perfect house guest. She ate almost nothing, and always pitched in with the dishes and the household chores. Her main expense seemed to be wine. She consumed at least a bottle per day. I guess thats why God made cheap wine.
Cherie was the owner of one of those magnificent French bodies. One could almost call it boyish, except for the curves and bumps in all the right places. And she was very fond of sun bathing in the near-nude. In the European fashion, she would exit the house for the swimming pool in nothing but a G-string, which she would then untie at the sides, lying on the float in the swimming pool with a little bit of string strategically placed, tanning her body without a single mark anywhere.
At the time, there were two teenage boys living next door on the swimming pool side of our property. While, from our side, it looked as though we had an 8-foot wall, their property was actually higher than ours by several feet, so that from their side, it was only 5-foot high. It became the habit of the teenage boys to water the lawn for endless hours.
One day, a helicopter started circling the property. It had all the appearance of our local police helicopter, so at first Phoebe thought perhaps there might be a criminal investigation in the neighborhood. She was quite concerned. After 10 minutes or so, however, it dawned on her that Cherie was the center of the helicopter pilots attention. She called the Van Nuys Airport control tower, and was told, "We dont show any helicopters in your neighborhood, perhaps it is the police." But they must have gotten the message through, as seconds later the helicopter pilot blew his horn, "beep-beep", and took off for other parts.
Actually, in a way, it was a blessing. We never felt so secure as we did that summer.
One year Cherie was "in residence" when we gave one of our famous garlic parties. Hank and Ellie Haga had just arrived in Southern California from Michigan, and, because we wanted to introduce them to some of the Ferrari people in town, they were among the invitees. As the party progressed, and Cherie had more and more wine, we were surprised to see her come out of the house carrying the candelabra from the dining room, place it next to the pool, where she calmly disrobed and went swimming au naturel. Ellie Haga turned to one of our other guests and asked, "Are all California parties like this?" The other guest soberly and quickly replied, "Why, of course."
Cherie was, to put it discretely, active. We got the impression that she never had enough different partners. At one of our parties, another friend in the Ferrari world, a local resident who I will call Bob, became enamored of Cherie. They struck up an acquaintanceship which grew stronger via correspondence. Finally, Bob could stand it no longer, and paid for a ticket so Cherie could fly from Paris to Los Angeles to stay with him. Cherie was happy too, knowing that, if things didnt work out with Bob, she could always bunk at Hotel Niles. Well, sure enough, the relationship lasted about a day and a half. Bob would invite friends over to meet his new girlfriend, and of course Cherie would immediately commence vamping them. Bob became quite jealous and unhappy with Cherie. Cherie, on the other hand, was having the time of her life. When Bob expressed his displeasure, she pouted and quickly responded with her delightful French accent, "Oo, Bob, you are so mean to me."
In any event, Cherie was soon back at Hotel Niles, leaving another broken heart. It took Bob years to get over it.
Cherie was definitely a user of people. I think one reason we were able to tolerate her as long as we did was that we were perceived by her as being "in on it". If she tried to use us beyond the room, food and wine, we would say something to her about it, and she would laugh, and indicate, yes, we had caught her. We all understood one another.
Sadly, we dont travel as much as we once did, and we dont see as much action in our guest room as we did in the 70s and the 80s. I wish we had been more fastidious about keeping a guest book; I know we had guests from England, France, Italy, Thailand, Germany, Holland, Scandinavia, and Lord knows where else. Not to mention guests from all corners of the US of A.
Hotel Niles still operates; our latest guest from Kentucky just left last week.
The names of some parties have been changed. Remember, this column is 100 percent FACT FREE!
About the author: Ed Niles, a lawyer who practices in the San Fernando Valley, has been involved and active in the world of Ferraris since Enzo's early childhood, for more than 35 years. During that time he has owned more than 100 of Maranellos products and has met some strange and wonderful characters. During occasional moments of lucidity, he will share remembrances of cars and people he has known and loved.