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D.C. Gigs: Greeting Power Brokers At The Willard

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Steve Blum is the Uniform Services Director of the Willard Intercontinental Hotel.
Jocelyn Frank
Steve Blum is the Uniform Services Director of the Willard Intercontinental Hotel.

Steven Blum has worked at Willard Intercontinental Hotel for over 27 years. He began as doorman in 1986 and after 7 years working out front of 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue, he moved inside to become a manager — the Uniform Services Director. It’s a job informally known as “Ambassador of the Lobby.”

The Willard first opened in 1850 and has hosted nearly every U.S. President since Franklin Pierce. The term lobbyist was coined in the lobby that Mr. Blum works in every day. He says, with a hotel of this degree of prestige, you never know what to expect. On his first morning on the job, Blum learned to think on his feet.

“I was scheduled on my own… I heard someone coming through the door and I turned around and I was like, ‘oh!” It was Jimmy Stewart.”

The award-winning actor was the first of many celebrities to be greeted by Blum with his own signature smile and graciousness.

“I greeted him and he asked me, how long of a walk is it to the White House? Should I get a car?”

Blum laughs as he remembers his reply, “No a car wouldn’t help, but you can walk three minutes and knock on the door.”

In addition to film stars, the Willard InterContinental Washington attracts a large number of international diplomats. Often, the only person allowed behind the police lines is Steven Blum. Even to this day, with 27 years of experience, those arrivals still get his heart racing.

“There’s an excitement,” Blum reflects, “You hear the motorcade coming and the sirens — you get pumped up.”

Even though today Steven Blum is a manager, he continues to make a point to meet and greet guests as often as he can. He’s commonly the first face that many past U.S. Presidents find when they arrive. Blum has pride in his voice as he notes that former President Gerald Ford and his wife Betty knew him by his first name.

Being a bellman, doorman or ambassador of the lobby takes a lot of smiling, charisma and the ability to adapt to the guests of the day. A number of years ago, Blum considered a career change, but decided this was the line of work he liked best and at which he excelled most. He’s humble but proud of his job.

“I can’t be the third baseman for the Washington Nationals,” says Blum, “But then again, the third baseman for the Nationals might not be able to do my job either.”

[Music: "Working For the Weekend" by The Brown Derbies from We Deliver]

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