World Class Stars at Kämp
If in the early stages it had sometimes been a challenge to please “Average Joes from Helsinki” in the restaurant, on the hotel side Kämp scored immediately when it came to accommodating VIPs. Although the handsome, modern State Guesthouse was completed in Munkkiniemi in 1984, and though many other VIP guests were put up in the Hilton Strand in Hakaniemi, there was a clear opening for a hotel of quality situated right in the centre of town. Among the leading lights of the entertainment business, Kämp became the industry standard within the first twelve months.
Erkki Kerttula remembers it all happened very fast: “Kämp just swept up all the VIP guests practically immediately. Before 1999, the elite had been staying in Strand; it was the No. 1 hotel in town. We looked after our famous-name visitors very well, and we quickly won the confidence of their London agents, who were ultimately who made the hotel bookings on these concert tours. I think the Backstreet Boys were among the first, and Whitney Houston was not far behind. In Houston's case, she used Kämp as 'Helsinki Base', and she stayed here and handled her gigs in Moscow and in Germany from Helsinki. She cancelled her hotel bookings in Germany and hung out here in Kämp for a few days.”
The Viennese-born journalist and hotel researcher Andreas Augustin, who edited a history of Hotel Kämp in 2003, lived in the hotel and interviewed and photographed members of the staff for his book. According to Augustin, the personnel had particularly fond memories of the visit by the late Whitney Houston. Andreas Augustin describes how one day Houston was recognised by some children in the lobby: "She just sat right down with them and sang them a song."
Augustin has other celebrity tales to tell. One concerns a certain wellknown rock band – don't ask, don't tell – that was notorious for radically rearranging the décor of their hotel rooms. Augustin reports that when they had checked in the Kämp Security Officer took the band's tour manager to one side for a quick word, after which the tour manager allegedly addressed the band members as follows:
"Listen up, quys, we're here in this fancy luxury hotel in Helsinki. You can start chucking TV-sets out of the window right away. Just go ahead, trash your rooms. No sweat, I've got a credit card. I can cover the damage.
But… Do bear in mind that we're now here in Finland, where they have this saying, a bit like a bad reputation travels faster than shit through a goose. And after tomorrow, when we head on to the next gigs in Russia, if this Helsinki hotel looks like a war-zone, no luxurvis in Russia is going to touch us with a long pole, but instead we'll have to stay in hostels. Do you understand what that means in Russia?”
Augustin & Kolbe, Hotel Kämp Helsinki (2003)
This worked wonders. The band members decided that it was better to leave the rooms in the same shape they were in on their arrival.
Visits to Kämp by big international acts generally adhered to the same formula. They would arrive in Finland on their own chartered jet and bring with them a massive retinue of assistants and PR people, and sometimes friends or family members. Kämp had no difficulty accommodating even a large entourage in comfort. The impending arrival of mega-stars always attracted crowds and journalists and photographers outside the hotel.
In July 2003, when the Rolling Stones played the Helsinki Olympic Stadium, the arrival of the band generated an enormous buzz in front of Kämp. The newspapers had made the usual huge fuss about the seemingly ageless British rockers, and the security measures in force would not have shamed a head of state.
Of all the famous guests to have stayed in Kämp since 1999, the greatest impact on the hotel personnel was left by the late American singing star Whitney Houston. After an enjoyable dinner in the restaurant, the singer thanked the staff by breaking into song for them. Houston lived in Kämp on both her visits to Finland (1999, 2010) and in 1999 she left her greetings in the visitors' book, along with her then husband Bobby Brown.
Over the years, the hotel has played host to countless pop and rock superstars who have appeared in concert in Helsinki. The names include Elton John, Sting, Tom Jones, Rihanna, Shakira, and American artists such as Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Cher, Tina Turner, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga. Headlining bands staying in Kämp have included the Rolling Stones and the Eagles.
The stories are compiled from Laura Kolbe's book Kämp – The Hotel and Its City (2015). Get your own copy at the hotel reception.