CoMo Review: Regency Hotel

Editor’s Note: I too received the mysterious email to check out the events in the Regency Hotel, but I was unable to go. As I sat around flipping through my Twitter feed Sunday, I noticed Glenn’s pictures inside the Regency and promptly asked him to share his experience as this is the sort of thing the Collective loves. I hope you like it too. -Zac

Columbia's downtown Regency Hotel, to be demolished early next year.

 

It began, for me and many others, with a cryptic email from impresario Paul Sturtz: an invitation to an event that evening at the soon-to-be-demolished Regency Hotel in (beautiful) downtown Columbia. Guests were instructed to meet in the hotel lobby for orientation, then on to the “open house” with performances every half hour.

Regarded by many Columbians with feelings ranging from affection to derision, the Regency and its predecessors have been intertwined with downtown’s culture for decades. The building, first named The Broadway Inn, was constructed during a hotel-development boom in the 1960s. Now, it’s planned to be demolished in January, to be replaced by a Doubletree Hotel and parking garage. Parts of the hotel have already been stripped, although it’s still offering accommodations. Paul has been working on a short film at the hotel, documenting its end of days.

Sunday night around 9:30, we found a spot in the Regency’s cramped parking lot and entered the lobby as directed. The first person we saw was Jarrett Crader, of Hellbender Brewing and revered True/False boozemaster, who offered an unofficial tour of the basement. Tempting as this was, we hit the lounge instead — located in the former Thai Kitchen restaurant — for some beers and to wait for our flight to be called. While waiting, we signed the waivers, read the rules [1], and speculated about what was happening five floors up. Polina Malikin, the hostess and perhaps organizer of the event [2], eventually announced the next group and bestowed a carob chip on each guest as they headed for the elevators.

The juddery, lurchy, claustrophobia-inducing elevators are one of the Regency’s many endearing features, along with its outdoor pool deck and bizarre inside-out design — a roadside motel stacked like a cake and wrapped in windows, with the hallways on the outside, offering fine views of the Donald Duck Church and Jingo’s.

The Regency was the hotel of choice for my visiting out-of-town friends. It’s been an official True/False lodging for several years, and during recent fests, the hotel’s lobby has served as an impromptu filmmakers’ lounge. Back in the days when there were more kids living in North Village, families could buy cheap “memberships” to the Regency’s pool during the hot summer months.

At the top floor, we disembarked into an equally cramped hallway filled with people and the sounds of nearby live music by Believers. Thus began a slow shuffle through a warren of former hotel rooms, each of which had been decorated and constructed by itinerant artists over the past week, apparently out of materials salvaged (or demolished) from parts of the building — mattresses, draperies, structural materials, furniture, bathroom fixtures, TVs. Getting into and between these spaces involved much ducking under and around splintered wood panels, glass sheets, gutted light fixtures, etc. It was visually and spatially chaotic, but somehow intimate and inviting.

The overall arrangement was designed to funnel guests through the first 2-3 rooms, into the big room(s) with the band, and then through to the other side of the 5th floor for the end of the “tour.” The idea was apparently to have groups moving through, and then out, to make room for the next group, but in reality it didn’t seem to work that way. There was a pushy guy that kept trying to move people along and out, but no one was really listening to him.

That's Sabrina of Maude V assuming the position. I'm really confused...

 

Music permeated the whole floor. I hadn’t seen Believers before [3], really enjoyed the big double-drumkit sound, which was surprisingly good considering they were playing in a giant cinder-block box. There was a professional camera track laid along the back wall (outside window) of the big room; some guys were rolling a large camera back and forth and filming everything. (That’s what the waivers were for.)

On the far side of the elevators, more themed/altered hotel rooms, one filled with soft matresses, comforters, etc. draped and cushioned like the inside of Jeannie’s bottle.

Eventually we made our way back down to the lounge, where we found the keg disturbingly empty. Jarrett then took us on the basement tour.[4] The Regency basement is a huge, creepy, dangerous place, with giant metal tanks, an underground spiral ramp next to a former maintenance man’s shack (like Carl the Groundskeeper’s place in Caddyshack), deep open cisterns, 80s-corporate-style conference rooms, and at least one room that looks like a good place for criminal torture (“Where’s the money!?”)

Still won't talk, eh? Let's see if Mr Toaster can help you change your mind!

 

We finally left around 11. The band was still playing and people were still coming and going. Overall this was a fun event, and I’m glad we went. Great music, interesting art and people, and a fine send-off for this old place. I’m very interested in seeing Paul’s film, when it’s done.

The Regency Hotel isn’t old and grand like the Tiger, but had its own unique character. I’ll be sorry to see it go.

[1] Basically, “keep on the path.” The Regency is still serving guests.

[2] I was never able to find out for sure who was involved in putting on this show.

[3] Zac reminded me that Believers played at the T/F “super secret” party earlier this year. I think I spent the whole time on the roof, though.

[4] I’d actually been down in the Regency basement before as part of my T/F duties, which require me to carry heavy, dirty objects through moldy caverns. But this was extra-special.

 

Comments

  1. Very cool. Bummed I wasn’t invited.

  2. [2] The installation concept was designed for the movie by a for-hire collective of artists known as Rabid Hands:
    http://www.etsy.com/people/RabidHands

  3. Coolness. If events like this were common at the Regency I’d be sad to see it go, but it’s really a quite ugly building. Are there renderings of the new Doubletree out there?

  4. I don’t care if the thing is eventually being demo’d. I feel sorry for the guy who bought the place and the contents. I’m sure he wasn’t invited either. I can’t imagine he’d be pleased with the condition it has been left in.

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