'Shades of Grey' tourism in Seattle, Portland

SEATTLE - Could the erotic best-seller "Fifty Shades of Grey" do for Portland and Seattle what the "Twilight" series of books and movies did for the sleepy town of Forks on Washington's Olympic Peninsula?

Tourism promoters hope so. Many of the steamiest scenes take place in Seattle and Portland, and there are plans to turn the novel into a movie. "We're getting people making dinner reservations, people in the bar, people just coming in to look around because a friend told them, or they read the book," says Chris Erickson, general manager of Portland's Heathman Hotel. "It's more than I expected, and it's been a lot of fun."

Mention of the Heathman pops up 18 times in the book, as young Anastasia Steele and her billionaire boyfriend Christian Grey meet in elevator No. 3 and have dinner in a second-floor private dining room.

Erickson says he has no plans yet for public tours, but says he welcomes tourists who have been dropping in to look around, ride the elevator, snap photos and book rooms.

For those who want to create their own fantasy, hotels in Seattle and Portland have come up with elaborate packages.

Seattle's Hotel Max offers a $1,669 two-night package that includes a skippered-sunset cruise, inspired by the Puget Sound sail enjoyed by the book's characters.

Bigger spenders looking to recreate Steele's birthday party can opt for the Heathman's $2,750 "Charlie Tango No Limits" package, including appetizers, wine, dinner and a helicopter ride over Portland for six; roses and limo transfers. Rooms are extra.

Guests soon may be able to check out the "Shades" books for bedtime reading. That is if British author E.L. James responds to an invitation to spend the night, a requirement for any author whose book is on display in the Heathman's library.

Erickson says he skimmed the book, the first in a trilogy, after a guest put a copy on his desk last September. Now, like millions of others, he's curious to learn more.

"If I ever get a day off, I'm going to dive into those books cover to cover."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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