Streeterville Doorperson of the month: Tom Alaraj of the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel
By Elizabeth Czapski | Staff Writer
Tom Alaraj, doorman at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel, has been working there since May of 1972, when he walked into the hotel and asked if they were hiring. Alaraj is Palestinian and was born in Lebanon. He arrived in the United States on a student visa on Nov. 6, 1967, when he was 19. He started out at YMCA College, then transferred to Loyola, then to UIC, where he studied economics.
In 1972, when he asked at the Knickerbocker about job openings, they sent him to the personnel office, where he filled out an application. Then he was sent to housekeeping, where he was fitted for a uniform. Alaraj was hired.
Alaraj, 70, comes to work at 3:30 in the afternoon and spends his shift greeting guests, assisting them with their luggage, parking their cars and giving them suggestions about things to do in the neighborhood, he said.
“I like my job because it gives me an opportunity to really do good to people and to help people,” Alaraj said. “I know the city; I know the neighborhood, and I think I’m good at it.”
Alaraj said he’s met many famous faces over the years, including Ronald Reagan, Oprah Winfrey and Hugh Hefner. He said Princess Diana shook his hand, and Andy Williams took him to his show, A Christmas Carol, at The Chicago Theatre.
Alaraj described himself as “very home-oriented.” He likes to stay at home and take “lots of long walks.”
As for people who want to get into his line of work, Alaraj said it’s necessary to like people and be tolerant of the weather, which can sometimes be “cruel.”
Overall, he said he likes his job and he called it “very rewarding.”
“I take pride in my job. I love my job. I like to do good to people, I like to assist people, I like people,” he said.
To nominate your favorite doorperson, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the door person’s name and why you think they should be the doorperson of the month. Each winner will receive a $25 gift card to Mariano’s.