Conrad Hilton, Be My Guest and American Popular Culture


  • Annabella Fick Julius-Maximilians-Universitaet Wuerzburg



Conrad Hilton, hotel, Celebrity autobiography, Cold War, Arrthur Hailey, Mad Men


Hotels are popular settings in European and American literature. They fire readers’ imagination and many of them have a personal relationship to hotels. These institutions are not only alive in the realm of literature but are real existing buildings which have become fixed parts of modern society. Conrad Hilton (1887–1979), founder of the international hotel chain of the same name, was very aware of the glamorous aspects of his field of profession and published his experiences in the autobiography Be My Guest (1957).One copy of the book was placed in each room of the Hilton chain. Due to this Hilton was reaching an enormous audience which inspired other writers to fictionalize Hilton and turn him into a character in their own books. In this paper I will show how Conrad Hilton achieved world-wide fame, partly with the help of his life account. Furthermore, the methods will be explained that he used to present himself as a prototypical American of the Cold War era. I will then focus on two fictional texts, Arthur Hailey’s novel Hotel (1965) and the TV-show Mad Men (2007) by Matthew Weiner, which both incorporated Hilton as a character, yet in very different ways. The aim of this article is to show the potential of celebrity autobbiographies to inspire other cultural creations and how authors react very differently to these texts according to their own socio-historical background.