“He liked people”
Klosters Music will be showing the Hollywood classic “Singin’ in the Rain” with live music on August 5. Lead actor Gene Kelly was a frequent guest at the Chesa Grischuna in Klosters in the 50s and 60s. Georg Rudiger spoke with managing director Barbara Rios Guler (69) about a surprising kiss on the hand, Gene Kelly’s skiing skills and “Hollywood on the Rocks.”
Georg Rudiger: Gene Kelly was a guest at the Chesa Grischuna in Klosters many times. Did he really dance on the tables in the bar there, as you often read?
Barbara Rios Guler: I was a child at the time and was not allowed to go into the bar in the evenings. I think the story is true, but I can’t attest to it.
When Gene Kelly came to the Chesa Grischuna for the first time in 1951 and praised the wonderful place in his guest book entry of February 14, you were not yet born. What is your first memory of the American film star?
I really only have one memory of him. As children, we were sometimes asked by our parents to greet individual guests personally, which we never liked to do. So I went to this round table where Gene Kelly was sitting and said Grüezi. He then kissed my hand in a very warm way. As a five-year-old, I was overwhelmed, but at that moment I perceived him as a very warm person.
Gene Kelly is said to have been a very good skier.
That’s true, I know that from stories. I was also given a few photos as a gift. He was very athletic and had perfect body control as a dancer. With his ski instructor, Fluri Clavadetscher from Klosters, he mastered the Casanna downhill run from Gotschna on only the second day of ski lessons. That’s impressive, even if it was an easy descent. Back then, the slopes were not prepared as well as they are today. There were a lot of little hills that you had to curve around.
Did Gene Kelly like to be alone?
No, he was always out with other people. Of course, with his family – his daughter Kerry was there sometimes – but also with friends, especially the screenwriter Peter Viertel and the writer Irwin Shaw. In the photos he is always surrounded by other people. I think he was very approachable and liked people.
The Chesa bar was a focal point of “Hollywood on the Rocks”, as Klosters was called in the 50s. What made the bar so attractive to the film stars?
The room is very beautiful – a cosy vaulted cellar, with a beautiful mural by Hans Schoellhorn, not too big and not too small. After the war, there was a need to catch up when it came to celebrating together. People wanted to have fun and be carefree again. We also had phenomenal bartenders and pianists.
Did local residents also mingle with the stars?
It wasn’t easy for locals to get into the Chesa bar. My father wanted the celebrity guests to be able to be among themselves. Today, everyone is welcome.
Why did the film stars actually come to Klosters?
One brought the other. It started with Salka Viertel, who like her son Peter was writer and screenwriter. Salka Viertel was a close friend of Greta Garbo; Peter Viertel later married Deborah Kerr. And brought many Hollywood celebrities here, including Gene Kelly. They all knew each other and invited each other.
Did the discretion and understatement of Klosters also play a role in its appeal to the film business?
Definitely. This is still the case today. When Prince Charles is a guest here, he remains completely unmolested, even though we have many English guests in town. He eats quite normally with us in the restaurant. For me, all people are equal – whether locals or celebrities, whether simple farmers or kings.
When was the last time Gene Kelly’s was there?
His wife Patricia, whom he married in 1990, is still a regular guest here. The last time that he himself was at our hotel was in 1965, I can see that from the index card. After that he changed hotels. And went to Kaiser’s Garni Hotel, which our bartender Leo Kaiser had newly built. You see – he knew him well. He was often at the bar.
Hollywood – “Singin in the Rain”. Timeless classic film starring Gene Kelly on the big screen, with live film music (in original language English with German subtitles) performed by the City Light Symphony Orchestra conducted by Anthony Gabriele. Friday, 5 August, 2022 at 19:00 in the concert hall of the Klosters Arena.