CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When Dolly Parton stayed at the Charleston Marriott Town Center in 1990, room service captain David Robinson walked a chef's salad up to her suite.
After Robinson handed the country star the plate lined with hardboiled eggs, Parton picked up one of the eggs and tossed it into her mouth.
"She picked up an egg and just ate it," Robinson said last week. "It made me feel comfortable and relaxed."
Later that same day, Linda Wolfe, lead server in the hotel's restaurant, ran into Parton as she stepped out of the elevator.
Without thinking, Wolfe said she looked right at the singer and shouted, "Dolly Parton!"
"She probably thought I was crazy," Wolfe said last week with a laugh.
Robinson and Wolfe -- along with five other "charter associates" -- have worked at the Charleston Marriott since it first opened its doors 30 years ago.
The Charleston Marriott is celebrating its 30th anniversary today with a reception from 4 to 7 p.m. at the hotel. The public is welcome to sample foods from the hotel's new 50-seat day/night bar.
The hotel's new owners have invested $8 million in renovations. Before guests see the sleek new bar and seating area, they will notice a brand new lobby studded with modern furniture. The bright, beige walls surround a new fireplace, front desk and gift shop.
Oak Brook, Ill.-based Inland American Lodging Group purchased the Charleston Marriott for $25.5 million from Forest City Enterprises in 2011.
In its 30 years, West Virginia's only full-service Marriott hotel has served more than 2.8 million guests, including many celebrities.
The Eagles, Pat Benatar, George Jones, Larry Bird, Muhammad Ali, Hank Williams Jr. and Willie Nelson are among those who have slept in Charleston Marriott beds.
Larry Walker, a banquet supervisor and charter associate, said he had to "keep the women calm" when Tom Selleck stayed at the hotel.
When country star Lee Greenwood needed new pants while staying at the Marriott, he bought a pair at the Charleston Town Center Mall across the street and had a housekeeper hem them, said Jeff Messinger, the hotel's director of engineering and a charter associate.
'A real big deal'
Of the seven charter associates, Virginia Brown, a housekeeper; Reba Nichols, a banquet server; and Barbara Duff, administrative assistant in housekeeping, were not available for this article.
In 1982, most of the seven -- and 3,000 other people -- stood in the line at the Charleston Civic Center to apply for the 300 jobs at the new Marriott.
"It was like concert tickets went on sale," Messinger said. "There was nothing like the Marriott in town."
Former West Virginia University and NFL great Sam Huff, who was also a Marriott vice president at the time, encouraged the hotel's president to bring the first and only Marriott to his home state in the late 1970s.
The hotel was built in a "Superblock" development plan that included a new Civic Center and a $100 million shopping mall. Huff had to convince executives to build in an area that was once scattered with homes.
The 15-story, $17 million Marriott hotel with an indoor pool and hot tub and workout facility opened to the excitement of the whole city, Wolfe said.
Wolfe -- who had worked at a Yeager Airport coffee shop for 13 years -- didn't expect to get a job at such a "fancy" place, she said.
Robinson and Walker, who attended Stonewall Jackson High School together, applied when they were just 19 years old.
It was "a real big deal" for Messinger when he landed his job at the Marriott because the construction company where he worked in Montgomery had closed, he said.