PCC’s Merjian wins oral history contest celebrating 90th anniversary of Waldorf-Astoria


When Gary Merjian started working at the famous Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York, he was excited to be an event planner and do the job he’d wanted since he was a child. He never expected to meet his longtime idol Frank Sinatra. Or presidents.

A lifelong lover of hotels and hospitality, Merjian grew up in the New York suburbs and spent his winter vacations in Las Vegas, admiring the hotels and listening to Sinatra. At age 21, he got the job at the Waldorf and met nearly every type of celebrity imaginable, including every president of the United States living during his 14 years at the hotel.

When he was asked to organize a party for Barbara Sinatra, Frank’s wife, Merjian was elated.

“I was so excited because this was going to be my opportunity to meet Frank Sinatra,” said Merjian, who is now the general manager and chief operating officer of the Pelham Country Club. He executed the event from beginning to the end and had the opportunity to meet the singing great. Merjian became close friends with Sinatra’s management and was selected to organize Sinatra’s 75th birthday party. He was asked to do his 80th birthday, too.

Merjian’s time at the Waldorf completely changed his life, and his telling of that story won an oral history contest celebrating the 90th anniversary of the hotel. He will receive a VIP “Weekend at the Waldorf” and be one of the first guests to stay at the hotel when it reopens in 2023.

However, for Merjian, even meeting his idol was not the best event that came out of working at the Waldorf. “The most important person I met at the Waldorf was my lovely wife Haiei of 32 years,” he said. “We worked together, and about two years later, we got married in the famous Starlight Roof on the 18th floor of the Waldorf. This was a room that Sinatra also performed in back in the day.”

They now live in New Caanan.

Anyone is invited to submit their own memories of the Waldorf-Astoria here.