ranging from President Jimmy Carter, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw,
Justin Timberlake, Patrick Swayze, Oprah Winfrey, Emeril
Lagasse, Joan Collins, George Hamilton, Paula Deen and Larry
King to name just a few. This year, Princes William and Harry
watched the ducks waddle down the red carpet just days after
l my last trip to Memphis so I didn't get to witness
the royal spectacle. The princes, that is. I did get to see the
ducks and had an informative interview with the Duckmaster
The ducks are celebrities in their own
right. They have appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny
Carson, Sesame Street on the occasion of Rubber Ducky Day,
Oprah Winfrey Show, and have been featured in People magazine
and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Celebrity guests are
often made Honorary Duckmasters for the day.
You might say
the ducks rule the roost at the Peabody. From their Royal Duck
Palace on the rooftop to the reserved elevator after their short
march from the fountain down the red carpet to the return to
their penthouse palace, they command everyone's attention.
|Young spectators line the carpet
as the ducks march
Naturally no duck dish is served in any of the hotel's
restaurants out of respect for the celebrity water fowl. That includes their
famous French restaurant, Chez Philippe ruled over by Peabody
Executive Chef Andreas Kisle, the Capriccio Grill, an Italian
Steakhouse, or the Peabody Deli and Desserts. The Chez Phillip
is possibly the only four star restaurant in the world that does
not serve duck.
How the ducks came to reside at the
Peabody is a story in itself. It began in the 1930s when the
hotel manager, Frank Schutt, and a friend returned from a duck
hunting trip. They may have imbibed a bit too freely and got the
idea to put their live duck decoys (which were legal those
days) in the Travertine marble fountain that has always graced
the Peabody lobby.
Guests loved the ducks and they became a
fixture. Today's ducks are always mallards, one male and four
who worked as a bellman was a former circus animal trainer. In
1940, he offered to help with training the ducks and the famous
Peabody Duck March at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily became a
was the first Duckmaster and remained in that position for 50
years until he retired in 1991. Duckmaster Anthony is only the
fifth person to hold the title of Duckmaster.
The ducks serve for just three months and
then are returned to the farm where they were raised to livie
out their lives as wild ducks.
Duckmaster Anthony told of a
former duckmaster trainee, one Silas Harris. "When he went to
the roof to get the ducks for the morning march somehow one of
the hens did not care for Mr. Harris. She flew off the building.
The man was distraught as he knew he had to go down and face Mr.
Pembroke. When he got to the lobby and marched the remaining
four ducks to the fountain, Mr. Pembroke demanded, 'Mr. Harris,
where is that
duck?' Just at that moment, a customer came n the front door
with the duck in his arms, asking. 'Is this one yours?'' He
probably saved the poor man's job. Mr. Harris went on to work at
the hotel for the next fifty years."
I asked if the ducks had names.
Duckmaster Anthony replied, "No. I don't give them names or pick
them up and pet them. I would get too attached to them. To do so
would make it harder for them to be returned to the wild. Once I
get new ducks trained, the old ducks and I will go visit a
school or retirement home for people who might not get to see
|A luxurious suite at the Peabody
I think if I were one of the Peabody
ducks, I would not want to retire and return to having to live
in the wild on an eight acre farm. That $200,000 penthouse
palace is pretty plush.
Of course, the accommodations for human
guest are pretty plush too. This is a four star establishment.
There are 464
which include 15
Your pet is welcome here but there
are limited dog-friendly rooms available so if Fido is traveling
with you, reserve early. And no, Fido cannot attend the Duck
March for the safety of the ducks.
Be sure to visit their Memorabilia Room
to learn about the history of this grand hotel. To keep in shape
visit the Peabody Athletic Club, a well equipped Nautilus
Training Center with a Grecian-style indoor heated swimming pool
and whirlpool spa. To get even more relaxed stop in for a
refreshing day at Goulds Day Spa and Salon.
I can guarantee you won't find a more
unique and fun place to stay in all of Tennessee and probably
anywhere. I mean how many hotels have a full time duckmaster and
five resident ducks.
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