If there's one element crucial to a successful Hollywood event, it has to be efficient valet parking. You can get the right caterer, the right band -- even be entertaining for the right cause, but if people can't get in and out of the event easily, you could wind up in the hosting slow lane. Chuck Pick has been providing valet parking for 55 years. His Chuck's Parking averages 100 events per month and scored its all-time high one December in the late 1980s, with 211 events.
Pick began parking cars at age 16 in 1958, when he got a valet job at Romanoff's, the one-time famed Hollywood eatery. He then worked for Peter Lawford, who'd opened a private club, the Factory, in 1967. Early on he tried his hand at other jobs, including publicity, but always returned to valet work when restaurant owners pursued him for his services. Pick started his own business in 1968.
SWEET VALET HIGH
Chuck's Parking has worked on everything from political fundraisers (Ronald Reagan knew him on a first-name basis) to private parties for celebrities like Jack Nicholson, Magic Johnson and Muhammad Ali. "Parking cars for a living -- it's really been a great ride," Pick says. He tries to look at every event from the guests' viewpoint and see how they would want the service performed. "A smile and a hello; that's the difference between good service and service," Pick explains.
Pick says his newest challenge is cars that run on a keyless ignition. "They're driving me crazy because you have people who sometimes don't leave the key in the car -- plus they are very easy to start and steal, which is a problem." Pick also says the plethora of car names can be confusing: "Back in the '70s, all you had was Chevy, Ford or GM."
In the 1980s, producer Hal B. Wallis hosted a cocktail party at his home prior to a big charity event being held elsewhere. There were 200 guests, with 100 keys on the keyboard -- which someone knocked over. Pick recalls, "All of the keys looked the same, and everyone was leaving at the same time to get to the event. I was literally in tears; some people waited 30 minutes for their car as we figured out which key went with which car."
Pick enjoys playing tennis and gardening, but says his favorite thing is "watching all my guys do what they do, and enjoying it."
Name: Chuck Pick
Title: Owner-president, Chuck's Parking
Goal: "To get a car to the guest in a nicer and quicker way than they could get it themselves."
Headquarters: Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Years on the Job: 55
Number of employees: About 75
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