Sara Ashenafi has held the esteemed title of lobby ambassador at the iconic property for 38 years. (Let that sink in.) The immigrant from Ethiopia does everything — and has seen everything — as part of her tenure at the hotel. Naturally, she's rubbed elbows with countless famous faces... and took time out to share fun memories about six of them with Jet Set.
1. Mary Tyler Moore
The actress lived in the hotel. Back when Ashenafi worked in the mail room, she would sort her mail for her and Moore would come down herself to get it.
2. Frank Sinatra
When Frank Sinatra and his wife were residents of The Towers at Waldorf Astoria New York, they would come down and give the staff records to play in the mail room. Sometimes she would get to hear Frank’s songs before anyone else. Ashenafi would even take the records home and listen to them again and again.
3. Jean MacArthur
During the holidays, Towers’ resident Jean MacArthur, wife of General Douglas MacArthur, would gift homemade gingerbread houses. Talk about a holiday treat.
4. Red Buttons
When Ashenafi started at the safe room in the lobby, where guests store valuables, the actor-comedian came to open the his safe. When she asked him his name, she didn’t believe him. He started laughing. One of the security staff came and said, "Hello Mr. Buttons." The pair then became very good friends.
5. Elizabeth Taylor
The Hollywood icon came one day to the desk to get her mail with no makeup and in jeans. She asked the secretary for her mail. Ashenafi asked the secretary, "Do you know it is Mrs. Taylor?" She replied: "Yes!" A face that famous is recognizable even off duty, naturally.
6. Mohamed Ali
Mohamed Ali wanted to speak only to female clerks when he was picking up his mail. There were three gentlemen working with Ashenafi at the time, but he insisted he talk only to her.
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