Quip Service, Please

Times Staff Writer

As American hoteliers try to imbue their spaces with personality, they aren't stopping at the threshold: The do-not-disturb sign has taken a turn for the kicky. Take New York's Le Parker Meridien, which orders its "FUHGETTABOUDIT" doorknob tags in bulk these days because they keep winding up in suitcases. The first witty door hanger that Armella Stepan remembers was at the 1995 opening of the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. It read: "I hear you knockin', but you can't come in," a lyric from 1950s R&B singer Smiley Lewis. "People are looking for an experience when they go to a hotel," says Stepan, now vice president of strategic development for a hotel group that includes Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. Shutters obliges with a sign featuring a rotating dial of five message options written by Stepan, including "I am still in my jammies" and "Sssshhhh, I am becoming one with my minibar."

Some inns play up the charm. Knob hangers at the tony San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara are small pillows embroidered with a bird and a gentle "Shhhh. . . . " At the new Cosmopolitan Hotel in Toronto, two-sided faux-wood-grain signs whisper "Rejuvenation in Progress" on one side. On the other side? "Please straighten out my life." And who wouldn't want that?

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