LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS 11)--He works in one of the city's oldest landmarks, and likely knows more about the Seelbach Hotel than anyone else. In this week's edition of our Five Questions series, you'll meet a man who is equal parts history buff and day brightener.
More than a century ago, the Seelbach Hotel solidified its spot as a crown jewel of the Derby City. The brightest gem of the place works on the seventh floor.
"You know, I searched for a long time looking for a dream job, and I think 35 years ago, I found it,” concierge and hotel historian Larry Johnson said.
Larry held plenty of jobs before landing his spot at the Seelbach, but it may have been destiny all along. After all, he was raised on the corner of Woodruff and Seelbach Avenue, close to Churchill Downs.
“I had no idea what the Seelbach was. In 1979, I was in a movie called Stripes. During the course of the shooting, I met a guy by the name of Pat Hamilton who worked with the unemployment office. We became real good friends. In 1981, he called me and said what do you think about becoming a doorman at the Seelbach Hotel?” Larry said. “I was a painter. I worked at Ford Motor Company. I worked at Courier-Journal lithographing. I’ve done a lot of different things before I found this. I also had 22 years in the National Guard.”
Larry loves the Seelbach so much he wrote a book about it. His grand tour of roles around the hotel made him more than qualified to do so.
"I started out working at the front door. I was the first doorman they hired, the tuxedo tails, top hat, greeting the guests. I did that for three years. Then, I was a bell captain for about 18 years, lobby concierge for several years, and then up here,” Larry said.
This jack of all trades even won National Bellman of the Year back in 1988. It's an amazing accomplishment, but Larry has a few others who make him the proudest.
"Probably my favorite is my wife, my daughter, my grandkids. They're my life. My wife and I will be married 51 years in April. Not a day goes by that I don't see something that I'm glad I did,” Larry said.
Larry serves all of his guests with whatever their hearts and appetites desire, always adding a side of stories.
“When I worked downstairs in the lobby, sometimes I would get stuck just talking to one person. Up here, I can talk to everybody,” Larry said.
Larry is always able to tell a tale and considers this his best bit of wisdom to pass along.
"Get as much education as you can. Education will take care of you in the long run. If you're fortunate enough with the education, get your dream job. Then, you've made it,” Larry said.
If this caretaker could give the world a little more of something, he said it'd be a simple, but powerful gift.
"Ellen DeGeneres says it every day- love. Just need to get along more. Open up a hand and shake hands with the next person you see,” Larry said.
If Larry was running the country, he knows what would come first on his agenda.
“First of all, I wouldn’t want to be president because I think the job is underpaid. I would try to bring more people together. Try to solve some of the problems we’ve got. I know you’re not going to solve everything. You’re always going to have people not liking people, but try your best,” Larry said.
With more than three decades devoted to the hotel, this Seelbach superior has lived through a lot. If it was up to him, he'd live through even more.
"I would like to go back in time and see Jackie Robinson playing baseball. I'd like to be able to enjoy Johnny Unitas throwing the football. I'd like to see John Kennedy live longer,” Larry said.
This once self-proclaimed shy guy is silent no more. He never meets a stranger and hopes his service speaks for itself when it's all said and done.
"That I'll be remembered and I've done the best job I could do. I feel like if that's what comes out of it, then I'll be very pleased,” Larry said.
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