On a rainy Saturday night in October, a group of 100 strangers have converged on the Waldorf Astoria hotel for an unsanctioned scavenger hunt. Dressed in formal business attire with official-looking name tags, the 19 small teams attempt to blend in with the well-heeled clientele as they race around the hotel for three hours, checking absurd tasks off their lists. Take a picture hugging a guest while wearing his or her bathrobe? Check. Gather the “company” into a maid’s closet? Check. One participant strips down to take a bubble bath in a momentarily empty room. Others deliver room service.
When security catches on (“There’s one group booked here and this isn’t them,” a guard is overheard telling his colleague.) and begins cutting off elevator access to certain floors, attendees slip into back stairwells and, later, freight elevators.
Some planned pop-up activities, like ballroom dancing lessons, have to be scrapped. But the finale to the illicit event goes on as planned: the 80 people who stick it out make their way onto the roof of the hotel for a secret show replete with a burlesque-dancing opera singer, an accordionist, and an upright bassist. Below, midtown New York City literally sparkles.