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Samantha Tonkin receives a lesson in “celebrity” from Hedi Olden

Roger Moore has done his part in shaping the mystique surrounding Gstaad Keystone

The international jetset make a pilgrimage to the resort of Gstaad every year. For decades, their central meeting place has been the Hotel Olden.

The singer and artist, Hedi Olden (her stage name), is the heart of the chalet, the friendliest and trendiest place to be.

Hedi experienced her musical hey day in the sixties, recording ballads and jazz numbers. Hedi married into the Donizetti music family, and together with her husband, ran the Hotel Olden for 37 years.

It was here that every night, Hedi descended the stairs to the restaurant and sang for the hotel and restaurant guests.

But these weren’t just ordinary diners. “We had Robert Wagner who was in my chalet for three years, Elizabeth Taylor, Julie Andrews, Roger Moore, David Niven, Kurt Jurgens, Peter Sellers, Richard Burton…”

Hedi recalls a particular night she shared the platform with Liza Minelli. “Wow, we were really singing together. Then I gave her the microphone. She has a voice that can take off a roof. She was there with Peter Finney and a whole group of people who were dancing Scotch reels, it was really something,” said Hedi.

Hedi also recalled sharing the microphone with Julie Andrews, Shirley Bassey and Frank Sinatra. “He was singing Strangers in the Night. That was THE big thing for him then. But he was singing along with my silly songs like Pennies from Heaven, Singing in the Rain, New York New York,” Hedi reminisced.

Hedi has strong memories of one New Year’s Eve party at Gunther Sachs’ chalet. He was recently married to the French siren, Brigitte Bardot. Hedi recalls Bardot as being spoiled and immature. “All she did was put on her records where she was singing and sat by the speakers, not saying a word to anybody, just listening to herself singing. And it wasn’t all that good, I remember,” laughed Hedi.

Veal curry with rice was David Niven’s steadfast favourite dish. “Almost every day he would come to lunch with his ski teacher and he would always have veal curry with rice. Hedi encouraged him to try something else from the menu. But his stock reply was: “No Hedi, that’s just the way I like it.”

“There was always royalty around,” Hedi continued. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands came for many years, and shortly before he died there was King Hussein. He had lunch at the Olden with his lovely wife, Queen Noor. My she is beautiful.”

Hedi remembers how friendly they both were. “[The queen] was so happy I could speak English and we had a long chat!”

But it was the king who impressed Hedi with his interest in the local farming community. “He wanted to know how the farmers go up the mountains…and make their cheese, as well as the subsidies they get to keep the mountains clean”.

Gstaad’s tranquil atmosphere provides an escape from city life where celebrities can walk down the street and not be hassled, but be greeted by the farmers and shop assistants, “which is very comforting,” said Hedi.

“I remember Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton when they used to sit in my pub. There were farmers playing cards and a whole bunch of workmen in their overalls drinking their beer at the other tables. And the two of them were sitting in a corner playing yatsi all afternoon. And nobody noticed them.”

by Samantha Tonkin

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR