« Gay-rights foes vow to act against Miami-Dade County domestic partners proposal | Main | Bravo Top Chefs headline Aqua Foundation for women VIP event »

George Slover | 1965-2008 : Maitre d' `lived his life onstage'

Slide show | George Slover

BY ELINOR J. BRECHER, ebrecher@MiamiHerald.com

George Slover was a star in the gilded universe of South Beach dining. As the frontman at several hotspots-of-the-moment -- including his own short-lived o-R-o -- he delighted patrons with his graciousness, wit and undivided attention. Slover died April 29. Photos courtesy of the Slover family and friends. In the gilded universe of South Beach dining -- where success depends as much on image and buzz as food and service -- George Slover sparkled like $200 champagne.

As the frontman at several hotspots-of-the-moment -- including his own short-lived o-R-o -- he delighted patrons with his graciousness, wit and undivided attention.

Fabulous from his head to toes encased exclusively in size 8 Donald Pliner shoes, Slover died April 29, at 42.

His mother, Cecilia Slover of Benton, Ark., took in her youngest child in February, when AIDS-related dementia left him unable to care for himself.

''He would never have lived here,'' said the retired teacher, whose town is also home to the world's biggest retailer. ``It's a small town and a dry county. He would never have shopped at Wal-Mart.''

Whether busing or waiting tables, or managing a dining room, -- at Ian Schrager's Hudson Hotel in New York, Kiss Steakhouse, Barton G., The Delano Hotel or China Grill in Miami Beach -- Slover ''created an effervescent aura around him that would captivate people,'' said Michelle Payer, the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain's area public relations director. Slover was the South Beach property's first maitre d'and hand-picked its ``tanning butlers.''

Whether staging a synchronized-swimming routine for the hotel's grand opening, catching the bouquet at Lisa and Donald Pliner's 1997 wedding, partying with his best friend -- the drag queen Elaine Lancaster -- or planning charity events, Slover ''lived his life onstage,'' Payer said.

Lisa Pliner said that when her bridesmaids groused that the bouquet-catching George Slover ''wasn't one of the girls,'' she declared, ' `Oh yes he is. . .!' We were like brother and sister.''

Having attended a Houston performing-arts high school, Slover ''was fascinated with everything entertainment-oriented, colorful, over the top,'' said Lancaster, aka James Davis. ``He always wanted everyone's experience to be spectacular.''

''He was very charismatic and had a way of making you feel you were the most important person on the planet,'' said Laura Cullen, who owns Clarke's bar and grill, a favorite Slover hangout.

He mixed and matched from a vast and eclectic social circle, and created friendships among people who otherwise might never have met.

Among his gifts was that of gab, said Terry Zarikian, director of product development at China Grill, where Slover once waited tables.

``He really knew how to schmooze people. . . . He had charm, culture and very expensive taste.''

As a child, when his siblings wore jeans and T-shirts, George insisted on Izod and Ralph Lauren, his mother said.

''He never got very dirty.'' She knew he'd never join the family office-furniture business.

``He wanted to go to New York, and started in retail shoes for women. . . He had made a lot of contacts and decided to go to Miami as a waiter about 25 years ago.''

She visited several times, and although his drag-queen friends ``set me back a little at first, that was his choice and I respected that. We went nightclubbing with them and had a fantastic time.''

In 2004, Barton G. Weiss hired Slover, then ''the starlet of the restaurant circle,'' as general manager at his eponymous eatery.

''I've never met anyone else with that kind of energy,'' said Weiss. ``He was like a butterfly -- here, there, constantly on the move. His mind worked faster than his body and his body worked pretty fast. . . . He was as well-choreographed as a professional dancer.''

Weiss knew Slover wouldn't stick around long.

``He had to be . . . where the new, the hip and the happening was, in the spotlight.''

In 2005, Slover opened o-R-o, at 300 Alton Rd., with his own and investor money, lavishly appointed in white ostrich leather and crystal, serving $70 lobster dinners. It won him the cover of Dining Out magazine, and was ''elegant and sexy,'' Laura Cullen said.

Then came The Miami Herald's Feb. 23, 2006, review, with lines like, ''How many ways can you screw up seared tuna?'' and, ``. . . Slover, who made his name in this town remembering other people's . . . was notably absent from his own place on two visits at the height of the season.''

James Davis said his friend was ''furious,'' and Lisa Pliner said he was ``very hurt. He had worked his way up . . . and was very sensitive and took it very personally.''

Cullen saw another side: ``He was incredibly gracious. He got pummeled, and he sort of shrugged it off.''

The place closed five weeks later. Weiss feels that as good as he was with people, Slover was ''not prepared'' for the business of running a restaurant.

Pliner said o-R-o's demise was ''the beginning of the end'' for Slover.

After that, Slover went to Singapore with the Mandarin Oriental chain and traveled widely overseas. By then, he'd been living with HIV for decades.

''He took a battery of pills'' for some years, his mother said, but stopped because friends who took the same drugs were dying.

''He lived years without any outward signs of HIV,'' she said, and looked fine last year when he returned to Florida from Singapore.

Several months ago, his friends started calling his mom, worried about his irrational behavior and uncharacteristically unkempt appearance.

Cecilia Slover brought her son home.

''We were always optimistic,'' she said. ``We said he would get back on his medication and in several weeks he'd see a marked improvement. I did not want to take that hope away from him.''

Last week, he suffered seizures and lapsed into a coma. He never regained consciousness.

In addition to his mother, George Slover is survived by his father, Ira Slover, also of Benton; sister Adriane Slover of Paron, Ark., and brother Buddy Slover of New Braunfels, Texas.

The family requests donations to Miami's Bay Point School and the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Saturday afternoon, friends plan to ''celebrate his life the way he did every day, with stories, music, a lot of laughter and champagne'' at Clarke's Bar and Grill, Cullen said.

About the same time, he'll be buried in Houston, in a Ted Baker of London suit, with his cellphone in his pocket, favorite watch on his wrist, Donald Pliners on his feet, an expensive bottle of wine in his coffin.

His mother said she ``promised he'd go out in style.''

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
https://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451b26169e200e5520bf8368833

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference George Slover | 1965-2008 : Maitre d' `lived his life onstage':

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

We're very sad to hear about George death - we holding his house hold goods in the storage fecility (approx. 7,000lbs of clothing, shows and pursenal belonging) with a bill due that never been paid - If someone from his family or friends can contact our office at 818-768-8668.

George had a fabulous life that may have ended too soon...but I'm sure he enjoyed every moment.

George had a fabulous life that may have ended too soon...but I'm sure he enjoyed every moment.

George hired me to work as a cocktail waitress in the lobby of the Delano hotel and within a few months I moved into his fabulous apartment and was safe under his wing. He showed me how to take pride and succsed in the service industry. I still use and apply everything he taught me. He had unbelieveable energy, he could party all night and be up at 9:00 starting a new day with enthusiasm. He could eat caviar and drink champagne at night , but he ate ritz crackers and cheese wiz at home, he was after all from Arkansas ! I absolutley adored him and wanted to make him happy. I have not seen or spoken to him since 2001, but every few months I google him to see what great things he is up to. I just didnt expect his obituary. George was dearly loved by many , his faults and all, and I was no exception. I will miss him for now and forever. If Larry Nelson, Carlos perrar and ken dushane read my message please write to me. Love you forever George, Deborah Pachano (debpacha@hotmail.com)

Please, please anyone who have his photo as i realy can't recall how he's look like. Im working in Mandarin Oriental currently now and realy sad to hear bout this.....GBY

George Slover was not from Arkansas! He was born in Houston, Texas. His mother Cecilia Slover is in Benton, Arkansas.

But George always claimed he was from Arkansas, and proud of it !

Adam, click on the link for his picture

sorry forget to type the link to George's picture

http://www.linkedfacts.com/person/george_slover

Wow is really all I can say. I went to high school with this amazing and beautiful person named George Slover....It is August 2011 and I am just now finding out about his death...This deaply saddens me. High School was more fun with him around. He was quite the trend setter, always gracious and respected by many peoples lives he touched. What a beautiful article to read. It does him lots of justice... Thank you to whoever wrote it and I am sure my friend George would have loved it. Bless him and I know he has and will continue to be missed by many people. I will continue to morn his loss but will try to remember the good times we had in Bellville...sneaking across the field during school to hang out at Dawn Haffers house then going back after maybe 1 period had passed...We never got caught though. Love those memories..

The comments to this entry are closed.