‘Achievement seems to be connected with action. Successful men and women keep moving. They make mistakes but they don’t quit’
Conrad Hilton, founder of the eponymous Hilton hotel chain, has the honour of building the very first hotel in space – at least in fiction anyway; the hotel inside the space station in 2001: A Space Odyssey is a Hilton.
Great-grandfather of the even more famous Paris Hilton, Conrad Hilton founded the world’s first international hotel chain, starting in Texas after the First World War and then spreading to New Mexico, then Chicago, and finally New York where he took over the renowned Plaza and Waldorf-Astoria hotels.
Conrad Hilton believed that his hotels should all have their own look and not be part of an anonymous chain. At its peak the Hilton International Company became one of the largest hotel businesses in the world, with 3,600 hotels globally.
Although he passed the reins of the company to his son Barron in the 1960s, Conrad Hilton remained chairman of the board before his death aged 91 in 1979.
Although Hilton liked to project an image of wholesome Catholic probity, his life was not without Hollywood scandal. In 1942 he married screen siren Zsa-Zsa Gabor, who claimed that she had an affair with her stepson, Conrad Jr. He did one better than dad when it came to Hollywood glamour, marrying box office idol Elizabeth Taylor in 1950.