Check-in time at the heartbreak hotel

A relaxation pack and a list of divorce lawyers on arrival - one New York club has cornered the suddenly single market.
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Your spouse has booted you out of the flat. The dog has been kicked out of his basket too. You've nowhere to go. You need a divorce lawyer, a therapist and well, some tender loving care.

If you live in New York help may be at hand, if you're prepared to drop a few thousand dollars. Located in corporate midtown Manhattan, The Envoy Club offers "Suddenly Single", a package for people (and pets) who need a temporary place to stay after the big split. But this is no cockroach- infested motel and certainly more comfortable than your best mate's sofa. Check in at this heartbreak hotel and you'll be greeted with a stress- relieving electric aromatherapy candle and a copy of the city's top 10 divorce lawyers. (Number one on the list, Raoul Felder, who has represented ex-wives of Mike Tyson and Patrick Ewing as well as Brazilian model Luciana Morad.)

A deck of business cards with your new number (and maybe new name) will be awaiting you upon arrival. A masseur is on hand, as the brochure puts it, to "loosen the knots that develop from untying the knot". And for those who don't wish to wait to see if their marriage has a future, the concierge can recommend a "reputable" New York psychic. The club even runs a grooming, pet-sitting and designer accessory service for your traumatised dog.

Of course, this being New York, these is plenty of self-help material available. Instead of the Gideon's Bible, dip into the recently published The New Creative Divorce by Dr Mel Krantzler and Pat Krantzler, to find out how to "turn personal pain into positive growth". Or Untying the Knot by Deborah Brodie. Then slip an inspirational tape into the entertainment system. You may not be ready to listen to psychologist Leo Buscaglia's dialogue on forgiveness ("to bear grudges, to harbour hate and seek revenge are all self-defeating"). But there are always Marc Allen's anxiety-reducing meditations "accompanied by a vibraphone".

Still feeling stressed? You can pour yourself a complementary cup of camomile tea and switch on the noise machine. There's a choice of a babbling brook, woodland bird songs, ocean waves or rain (alas, no womb sounds, however). And if you don't want to advertise your singleness by eating out alone, knock up a pasta and pesto sauce in the kitchen kitted out with the Royal Doulton china and Christofle silverware. In fact, the Envoy Club's suites attempt to resemble your penthouse overlooking Central Park as much as possible. Velvet sofas, dining chairs upholstered in red and gold, expensive linen, fresh flowers and luscious carpets.

The ambulance-chaser of the broken-hearted behind all this is Michael Rawson, a flamboyant hotelier of 18 years from Miami. He came up with the idea when a friend suggested he "go after the rich divorcees on the Upper East Side". "At the same time, I got a call from a woman saying she was desperately looking for short-term accommodation. I asked her why, and she said, "I'm going through a divorce". That's when I thought there might be a market out there," he said. After brainstorming with a few friends (Rawson has never been divorced) and a public relations firm, he came up with the firm's name, "Suddenly Single".

The service is being pushed through direct mailings to attorneys and estate agents - the first ports of call for those turfed out of the family home. Divorce rates in the US have been stable or possibly declining slightly since 1980. And higher income couples are less likely to get divorced than those from lower incomes. But in 1998 there were still 19.4 million Americans - 10 per cent of the adult population - classed as "currently divorced".

Quite who the "currently divorced" guests are, it's hard to tell. Discretion is part of the Suddenly Single service and the reception desk is keeping schtum. Customers scurry between the hotel's marble lobby and the outside world, clutching all sorts of things - one a can of Budweiser (drowning his sorrows?), another a bunch of flowers (hoping for a rapprochement?) One guest meets a well-dressed woman (his ex?) in her chauffeur-driven car (part of the divorce deal?).

There are plans to open two more midtown locations before the end of this year and to expand the services on offer. Other possible services include financial seminars in preparation for the expensive divorce battle and talks by yet another therapist on learning to date again. Subtle matchmaking events may also take place in the club's private 13-seat cinema.

For now, Suddenly Single is only for the Exceptionally Rich - $6,000 (pounds 3,698) for a 30-day minimum stay in a one-bedroom suite. Even so, life in Manhattan isn't cheap. A stay in a conventional five-star hotel costs a lot more, which may be why the nine-month-old Envoy Club's 57 rooms were all taken this summer. Indeed, Macaulay Culkin, child star of Home Alone, has also checked in (he's now 19). But unlike some of the other lovelorn guests, he is far from home alone. Happily, he is here with his wife.

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