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Home sweet home


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POSTED: Sunday, July 12, 2009

The view from the top is usually good. That's doubly true for David Lewin, who lives in the penthouse apartment of the Waikiki hotel that he manages.

Looking out the balconies of the Lewin family residence atop the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort & Spa, there's nothing but blue skies and ocean views.

“;I have the greatest front yard in the world,”; Lewin said as he gestured to nearby Waikiki Beach.

Living in a hotel wouldn't be for everyone, but Lewin, who was raised as a “;hotel brat”; and worked his way up the ranks, is living a dream in his 3,600-square-foot private residence that comes complete with housekeeping service and all other hotel amenities.

Out of milk and eggs? No problem, call room service. Need to squeeze in a workout? Hit the hotel gym. Feeling tense after a day at the office? Reserve some spa time. Are the children clamoring for a pet? Take them to chatter with the hotel's parrots.

As a child of hotel great Werner Lewin, who ran the San Francisco Hilton and worked in the hotel industry for 44 years, Lewin is well aware of the disappointments and perks that the occupation brings.

“;My father worked 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. six days a week, and we never saw him except on Sundays,”; Lewin said.

By the time Lewin was born, his dad was at the top of his hotel game.

“;On summer vacation at the Kahala, we'd sit with Sammy Davis Jr. at the pool,”; Lewin said. “;And my Uncle Henri ran the gaming in Vegas for Hilton, so we had interaction with stars like Elvis, Bill Cosby and Liberace.”;

Lewin, now 45, said that he was a teenager before he realized that his family lived differently from most.

“;I grew very accustomed to a lifestyle only maintainable if I did what my dad did,”; he said.

Lewin got his start in the industry at 11 manning the switchboard at his father's hotel. He spent 15 years working for his father at Hilton, eventually moving up to kitchen saucier and a housekeeping and front desk supervisor.

Of course, like most young people, he found time to rebel in his spare time.

During the five-week lockout in 1979, Lewin hosted a constant party when his dad hired about 50 of his friends to replace striking workers. The teens helped themselves to leftover alcohol from the suites and snuck into the kitchen to pilfer food, Lewin said.

“;They called us the midnight bandits and set up a sting to catch us,”; he said. “;My friends got away, but I got caught and the resident manager threatened to have me removed.”;

Lewin was only a few years past that near eviction when he decided to become a general manager. He earned degrees in culinary arts and in hotel administration from the Statler School and Cornell University before joining Hyatt's management training program.

“;It was supposed to last a year, but after the first 90 days I told my boss that they needed to promote me or I would quit,”; Lewin said. “;Growing up in the hotel industry, I had done it all before.”;

Lewin was promoted to sales the next day and later became general manager of Hyatt hotels in Westlake and Burlingame, Calif., before arriving in Hawaii, a step up the corporate ladder that had eluded his father.

“;He was supposed to take over the Hilton Hawaiian Village in 1978, but at the last minute my mom didn't want to move,”; Lewin said. “;However, we were frequent visitors to Hawaii.”;

Lewin campaigned for the Hawaii job at his wife Simmone's urging.

“;She had been a frequent business traveler to Hawaii and just loved it,”; Lewin said.

Lewin's 8-year-old daughter, Luciana, had briefly lived in a house, and missed having neighborhood friends and a pet at first. But his son Samuel, 5, has never known anything but hotel life, he said.

“;He loves that he can have all the sushi that he wants,”; Lewin said. “;He thinks you get batteries from the hotel engineer.”;

There are a lot of perks that come with Lewin's job, but at the end of the day, the one he loves most is that the push of an elevator button gets him quickly home.