Sri Lanka's iconic hotel doorman dies at 94

A photograph taken on Feb 6, 2010, shows Sri Lanka's legendary doorman, Kottarapattu Chattu Kuttan holding his palms in a traditional greeting, outside the island's historic 146-year-old Galle Face Hotel in Colombo. Sri Lanka's oldest hotel doorman a
A photograph taken on Feb 6, 2010, shows Sri Lanka's legendary doorman, Kottarapattu Chattu Kuttan holding his palms in a traditional greeting, outside the island's historic 146-year-old Galle Face Hotel in Colombo. Sri Lanka's oldest hotel doorman at the venerable Galle Face Hotel, K. Chattu Kuttan, died on Tuesday after a brief illness. - PHOTO: AFP

COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lanka's oldest hotel doorman at the venerable Galle Face Hotel, K. Chattu Kuttan, died on Tuesday after a brief illness.

Kuttan, who worked at the hotel for 72 years from the colonial era through Sri Lanka's independence and the dark decades of ethnic conflict, was 94, hotel managers said.

Kuttan was a fixture of the 150-year-old Galle Face Hotel where he was first employed as a waiter in 1942 before becoming a doorman 50 years later.

In an interview with AFP in 2010 when he turned 90, Kuttan recalled many of the famous icons he had welcomed during his long tenure at the hotel's door, including the likes of Emperor Hirohito, Richard Nixon, Sir Laurence Olivier and George Bernard Shaw.

Kuttan had also served figures such as Lord Mountbatten, Princess Elizabeth, Jawarharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.

Galle Face Hotel employees observed a moment's silence in honour of Kuttan.

The doorman was known for his wide smile and remarkable ability to recognise repeat guests to the hotel, one of the oldest in Sri Lanka.

His distinctive white-cropped hair, handlebar moustache, white-brass buttoned coat, sarong and ever-expanding collection of colourful souvenir badges from dozens of countries made him a popular photo opportunity for guests.

"He was an essential part of the Galle Face Hotel's culture and value system," Galle face Chairman Sanjeev Gardiner said.