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B Resort & Spa: Uncovering its hidden Michael Jackson history

by Susan and Simon Veness

B Resort & Spa on Hotel Plaza Boulevard at Walt Disney World has a hidden history: It was once the hotel of choice for celebrities Michael Jackson and Bob Hope.

B Resort & Spa
Photos courtesy of B Resort & Spa

Michael Jackson’s child-like exuberance found its perfect outlet at Walt Disney World. But in the early 1980s, it wasn’t Disney’s most luxurious hotel, the Contemporary Resort, that the mega-star chose to stay in while vacationing in “The Most Magical Place on Earth.” It was the Hotel Royal Plaza, originally named The Royal Inn and now called B Resort & Spa.

Jackson had a signature Michael Jackson Suite at the hotel, which was officially revealed in December, 1983, as recorded in author Adrian Grant’s book, “Michael Jackson: The Visual Documentary.”

B Resort & Spa Michael Jackson Suite door
Michael Jackson Suite door

How did the signature suite come about? It is said that Jackson was so taken by the hotel’s welcoming staff that he returned many, many times, and as recognition of his loyalty, Phil Wright, the hotel manager at the time, arranged to have a suite named in Jackson’s honor.

Jackson had a hand in designing the four-bedroom suite — which featured his favorite colors, black, white, and red — and in the display of items he donated to the hotel. Among the memorabilia decorating the room were some of his awards, including his Presidential award from Ronald Reagan and a replica plaque of Jackson’s 37 gold and platinum records.

Replica gold and platinum records
Replica gold and platinum records

He also allowed several of his Grammy awards to be exhibited in the suite, saying, “What better place to display my personal memorabilia — which is so special to me — than Disney World?” The trophy case they were mounted in is rumored to have been insured for $1 million.

Although Marilyn Monroe did not stay at the resort, Jackson was such a big fan of hers that the suite included memorabilia in her honor, including a paper sculpture of the movie star, contained in a Lucite box hanging on the wall.

“Jackson worked with a designer to decorate the two-bedroom, 16th-floor suite at the Royal Plaza, and donated memorabilia for the walls, and when he wasn’t there, fans could rent the digs for upwards of $750 a night,” Orlando Sentinel reporter Bob Morris wrote in 1993.

Michael Jackson in Hotel Royal Plaza suite
Michael Jackson in Hotel Royal Plaza suite

If Jackson wasn’t in town, hotel manager Wright guaranteed guests could use the suite, but while Jackson usually gave one month’s notice prior to arrival, he also turned up unexpectedly at times. In those instances, any guests scheduled to be in the room would be relocated. “It’s his suite,” Wright said during an interview in 1986. “Most guests say they don’t mind getting bumped — as long as they’re put on the same floor as him.”

The suite is still there, of course, and guests can still stay in it, though it no longer contains any of Michael Jackson’s memorabilia.

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson

But Jackson wasn’t the only celebrity who chose Hotel Royal Plaza as their Walt Disney World home-away-from-home. Comedian, actor, singer, and dancer Bob Hope also had a private suite there.

Known for his television and movie performances, and for his overseas United Service Organization (USO) tours entertaining and lifting the moral of U.S. troops during World War II, Hope chose a 17th-floor, luxury penthouse retreat at the Royal Plaza.

His suite featured five balconies overlooking Interstate 4, as well as a master bathroom boasting an enormous sunken tub, walk-in closet, sauna, and shower, plus an outer dressing room and a magnificent illuminated makeup corner, all befitting a beloved icon of the time.

In 2013, B Hotels & Resorts acquired the Hotel Royal Plaza property, and in October 2014, after an extensive renovation and expansion, it reopened as the B Resort & Spa.

And now you know it’s hidden history!

B Resort & Spa is currently celebrating its golden anniversary with a B Celebrated package, giving guests who stay at the resort for a week before or following their birthday a special gift. The room rate on the night of the guest’s birthday is just $1!

For more information visit BHotelsandResorts.com.

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