In the summer of 2001, I was working at a four star hotel in
Las Colinas (Dallas), Texas, as a doorman and sometimes as concierge.
The job was a blast because I always got to see and drive (a little) the
newest models of cars before most of the general public - alot of auto
dealership owners frequented the hotel - and I got behind the wheel of
everything from Rolls Royce's to Porsches to Vipers, but never any Ferraris.
I had 3 special "hold spots" near the front door that I really used sparingly,
only for the most prestigious of cars. I had one regular customer
who drove a Ferrari, and he parked it himself in my hold spots, which I
didn't mind too much because he always took care of me.
One day, while working inside as the hotel concierge, a man approached
me and informed me that he was on the planning committee for the upcoming
Ferrari Club of America's annual meet, which would be headquartered at
our hotel, and he needed help discerning the most scenic route from the
hotel to the Motorsport Ranch that would be hosting the concours and track
events. I was delighted to help him, and felt privileged to be involved
in such a task.
is a link to the FCA's page regarding the 2001 Annual Meet
On the arrival evening of the meet (Friday), I was working as the doorman,
which meant I directed traffic onto the circle in front of the hotel and
assisted people with luggage, and directed the valet attendants.
First I helped Bob Smith, who was one of the people in charge of the event,
to unload all sorts of materials and files and merchandise, including the
copies of the poster for the event. I had always wanted a watercolor
racing print of good quality, and since they were beautifully done, and
only ten bucks!!!, I of course bought one and stashed it in the closet
where we kept the keys to cars we parked. A handful of people drove
their Ferraris in, modern ans well as classic, and of course, very few
used the valet parking.
I had a trick which helped me earn better gratuities, and that was
that when a traveler pulled up in a rental car, often their last name was
visible in bold letters on the rental agreement, which most people usually
toss on the passenger seat. I walked up to a maroon Buick rental
car, opened the drivers door, and welcomed the guest to the hotel, peered
into the passenger seat, and there was the rental agreement. P. Hill,
plain as day. At this point, the only thing I knew about Phil hill
is that he was a racecar driver, and wrote great articles in road and track.
I had no idea what he looked like, and besides, Hill is a very common last
name. I gave "Mr. Hill" a valet parking ticket, and for the purposes
of billing the charge to the correct room, asked his first name.
"Phil," was the reply. My heart skipped. I told him that my
name is David, and I assured him that I would be glad to help if he had
any needs. Soon after, I saw one of the event sponsors, and she confirmed
my suspicions - that was "the" Phil Hill, and I asked her what was bringing
him here. When she told me he was the 1961 F1 champion while driving
for Ferrari, I really was getting giddy.
At the end of the night, I was inside the lobby at a computer terminal
calculating the Valet charges for hotel guests, when who walks past by
himself but Mr. Hill. I smiled big, and called, "Goodnight, Mr. Hill."
When he answered, "Good Night, David" I couldn't believe it. What
came next could have easily gotten me fired, but I thought, this is a one
in a million opportunity. We weren't allowed to ask high profile
guests for autographs. I quickly reasoned that if I have established
a (small) rapport with such a guest, and was polite in asking, it was worth
the risk. "Oh, Mr. Hill," I called, "Could I trouble you for a small
favor?" He said "Sure," and I explained that I had the event poster
in the valet closet, and that I would be honored to have his signature
on it. He obliged, and I went home beaming, and flipped through all
my back issues of road and track looking for articles about and by Mr.
I had the next day off of work (Saturday), but I went back up to the
hotel because when I bought the poster, I was told that the artist who
created the poster, Mr. Bill Neale, would be signing copies of the poster
for anyone who bought one. I found Mr. Neale, who gladly signed the
print, and was tickled to see that Mr. Hill had already signed it, and
told me that he had just been speaking with Mr. Hill about an hour ago.
I was a little disappointed that Mr. Neale signed the print directly below
Mr. Hill's signature, which was in a somewhat empty part of the print,
but within the watercolor portion, because I thought it should have been
signed at the bottom. I didn't let this disappointment show, and
I have since regretted my initial disappointment, because its a beautiful
print, and he can sign his own creation anywhere he damn well pleases.
This is a link to Mr.
Neale's homepage. The print behind him on this page is the one that
I have been discussing here.
I took the rest of my day to get estimates on framing the print, and
finally settled on a very simple black frame, with all the UV protective
glass and on-adhesive mounting techniques and all the other garbage.
I left the print there with a week or so turnaround.
Sunday was the big day, with lots of Ferraris gracing the front drive
of my hotel, and I got the change to drive (okay, move a few dozen feet)
several cars, including a 360 Modena, 550 Maranello, 80's Testarossa, and
a couple F355s. No classics, but I was loving every minute.
My personal favorite was the 360 F1 - If you've never driven a Ferrari
with Paddle shifters, even just a short distance, you're missing out!
The rally that I had helped lay out was also taking place that day.
In the first part of the morning, during a slowdown in the rush, an elderly
gentleman stepped onto the drive, and lit a cigarette, and I greeted him
and asked if he was enjoying his stay. He smiled, and nodded, but
I was pretty sure he didn't catch what I had asked him. Just then,
one of the hispanic valet attendants came up to us and spoke to the man
in spanish. Then my coworker explained that this gentleman is Italian
and that they were able to speak since Italian and Spanish are very similar.
We both spoke to him a little, myself in really broken spanish, and he
often commented on how big everything was here in Texas, with a big grin
that showed his chain-smokers teeth. It wasn't until later that I
learned that one of the original Ferrari coach builders, Mr. Sergio Scaglietti,
would be in attendance, and putting two and two together, I realized that
was the Italian gentleman who had been standing on the driveway with us
for the better part of an hour! I also learned that this was his
first vacation in over 20 years and his first time in the US.
As soon as I got off work at 3pm, I dashed over to the frame shop and
luckily, it wasn't too late to get the print and hold off the framing process.
I asked my mom, who has several italian speaking friends, to translate
a phrase like "will you please autograph my poster" so I could learn it
during the day Sunday, and ask Mr. Scaglietti in his native tongue.
She called a friend, who translated it two ways, I think in an informal
sense and a formal sense. I went to sleep that night, excited by
the opportunity to awaken early and go drive more Ferraris.
Sunday morning I drove into the hotel parking garage at 6:50 am, 10
minutes before my shift, and who is sitting by himself on a bench but Mr.
Scaglietti! I decided it was now or never, none of my managers was
here yet, and I would be pretty safe. So armed with a sharpie and
the poster, and the paper which I had not committed to memory, I went and
sat with Mr. Scaglietti, who welcomed me with a big "Buon Giorno," and
I handed him the slip of paper with the two phrases in Italian. He
put on his glasses and studied this paper for about 20 seconds, reading
over it as a teacher would who was studying a first grader's grammar, and
I realized that he thought I was asking him to scrutinize my Italian skills!
I laughed and showed him the poster and pen, and he smiled his toothy grin
and realized what I was driving at. He gestured to Mr. Hill's signature
and said "AAhhh, Pheeel Heeel!" He looked at me as if to ask, where
do I put my signature, and I waved over the entire poster and said, "Anywhere."
He chose another empty area of the design and in a penmanship that was
shaky, yet still elegant, inscribed Scaglietti Sergio. I said Gratzi
several times, and excused myself to put the poster in my car for safe
While on duty that day, I had several occasions to see Mr. Scaglietti,
Usually while he was smoking another cigarette. While he was out
on the front drive, a man with an enclosed trailed pulled up and frantically
asked, "Is this where the Ferrari thing is happening?" When I told
him it was, and that I didn't have room for his trailer on the front drive,
he asked if he could at least get the Ferrari off the trailer now, and
then move the trailer. He told me he had owned his Ferrari less than
a month, heard about the meet yesterday, and borrowed a trailer to drive
from Austin, a 3 hour drive tops. Mr. Scaglietti and I stood and
watched as he and the requisite blonde bombshell attempted to unlatch the
car from its harnesses, and I couldn't help but giggle. Here I was,
standing with a man who had built the most beautiful cars in automotive
history, and we were laughing at a high strung, pompous ass try to unload
an F355 from a trailer. While the man wasn't looking, I did a mime
performance for Mr. Scaglietti. I acted like I was behind the wheel
of a huge truck and was beeping the horn, all the while pointing at an
invisible trailer behind me and saying, "My Ferrari, Look at my Ferrari!"
We both got a huge kick out of it, and soon, the guy was driving over to
the parking lot with all the rest of the trailers, and left the keys to
the 355 with me. I put it in one of my hold spots, because every
single other Ferrari was at the Motorsport Ranch, which I assume is where
Mr. Scaglietti spent the remainder of his day. I don't remember if
I saw Mr. Scaglietti leave on Monday for the airport, but I know I missed
having his company once he was gone.
You know when you get asked what you'd save in a fire if you could
only save one thing? I'm pretty sure that poster is what I'd save.
Until I get that first Ferrari, of course.