WASHINGTON – Jimmy Elidrissi, a bellhop for the Waldorf Astoria for more than 50 years, died Sunday at his home in Middleburg, Va. He was 74.
Mr. Elidrissi and many other longtime guests of the hotel chain might be best remembered for providing personal greetings to President Jimmy Carter and his family each New Year’s Eve, and for politely greeting guests up to the hour of midnight.
But he and his peers were responsible for creating some of the hotel’s most memorable public relations moments. They posed for photos with motorcyclists along the Four Freedoms Trail along the Maryland and Virginia border, helped decorate President Ronald Reagan’s West Wing, sat on the dais next to former President Bill Clinton to speak about HIV/AIDS and accompanied Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on tour in Africa.
As President Carter’s eyes glazed over at a White House news conference, Mr. Elidrissi broke character, smiled and said, “Well, may I just say: Jimmy has form, I have form, and both of us have form,” according to Jim Conroy’s book “The Crystal Hour: The Monopoly Years.”
According to Conroy, the quotation appeared in five of the president’s press releases on Vietnam-related issues during the 1980s.
After Mr. Elidrissi retired from Waldorf Astoria in 1991, he held several job openings in his native Virginia. He worked for the Chinese newspaper Dafen, and when he asked his employers about a chance to see one of the busier world capitals, he was told that there was only room for an entry-level bellhop at one of the big hotel chains. He responded that he had been a bellhop for 50 years at least, which would mean he could learn a new skill, in real time. The recruiter gave him an interview at a Boston hotel, which did not hire him, but he decided to set out for New York anyway. He got a job opening at the Waldorf Astoria after acting as the hotel’s usher on many New Year’s Eve parties since 1970.
Mr. Elidrissi was born in Russia, the third of three sons of two ceramic tiles. His father was factory worker, and his mother was a garment designer. His family came to the United States after the Russian Revolution.
“I like to see everything, and that brings me everywhere,” he said in the days before retirement. “It gave me so much energy.”
Mr. Elidrissi is survived by his brother, Neman; a niece, Christina Chastain; and three nephews, Peter Chastain, Thomas Chastain and John Chastain.
Funeral services will be held Saturday in Virginia.