It is a matter of record that the life of the touring rock star has two different sides to it. There are on the one hand the bright lights of the stage, the glitz and the glamour, the radio interviews, and the certain rush of thousands of adoring fans.
And then there is — well, life on the road. It is also no secret that part of that life on the road — and often, a significantly big part — is spent trapped inside a series of interchangeable hotel rooms.
Although it is probably not as true now as it was then, there was a time — particularly during the '70s — that bored rock stars confined to their hotel rooms before the big show, became particularly creative at finding ways to amuse themselves within these four-walled prisons. For most, trashing their rooms was simply one of the required rites of passage for rock stardom. While for others — like the Who's Keith Moon — such activity was elevated to something of a high art.
It's one thing to toss a lamp out the window of a downtown high rise. It's quite another to drive a Rolls Royce into the hotel swimming pool.
But while such behavior has earned several bands the distinction of being permanently banned from some of the nation's major hotel chains, a few brave innkeepers once actually embraced the concept. I mean, what's the cost of a few trashed rooms compared to the marketing possibilities of branding your inn as a destination point for touring rock stars?
During the '70s, the best known of these "rock-friendly" hotels was undoubtedly Los Angeles' Hyatt on the Sunset Strip. The Hyatt's history with touring rock bands is practically a primer itself in touring rock and roll hedonism, rife as it is with its countless tales of rock and roll nights of debauchery. The last time I checked, Little Richard even still maintained a permanent room there.
Although it is not nearly as famous — at least not these days — as the infamous "Riot Hyatt," Seattle's waterfront Edgewater Inn was also a required stay for touring rock bands back in the '60s and '70s.
I haven't been down to the Edgewater in years. But the last time I was, the gift shop in the lobby was still decorated with pictures of its most famous rock and roll guests. The Beatles have stayed there, as have the Stones.
And the lure of the Edgewater back then, over the more posh five star hotels in Seattle?
It's painted right on the side of the building: "Fish Out Your Window."
Probably the most famous rock story to come out of the Edgewater's history involves Led Zeppelin, a mudshark caught on one such window fishing adventure, and a hapless groupie who wound up with said mudshark stuck between her — well, I'll let you the connect the dots there. Blogcritics is after all still a family publication. Frank Zappa also immortalized the Edgewater in his song "The Mudshark," from the album Mothers Live At Fillmore East.
The Edgewater was also the best, and the easiest, place to meet visiting rock stars in the '70s. Like Cameron Crowe in the movie Almost Famous, I was an aspiring teenaged rock journalist back then, and I would regularly stake the place out with my buddies both before and after concerts hoping to catch a glimpse of visiting rock royalty.
Surprisingly, I got lucky a lot more often than I didn't. From the age of 16 up until about college, I actually ended up partying with a lot of rock stars as a result of such stakeouts. Later in life, when I finally fulfilled my boyhood dream of becoming a rock writer myself, I think that those early experiences actually helped ease my nerves when interviewing famous musicians.
As for the experiences themselves?
They are both numerous and quite memorable. Like the time I took southern rockers Wet Willie out to Seattle's waterfront restaurant Ivar's for some good old Seattle Fish And Chips. Or the time I took the Hendrix inspired guitarist Frank Marino from Mahogany Rush out to see Seattle's own best Hendrix tribute act Randy Hansen. When I took Marino backstage to meet Hansen (who was a friend of mine back then), he actually asked Randy to join his band.
I was in my early 20s then. But the best memories I have of partying with the rock stars at the Edgewater remain those that I experienced as a teenaged fan. For example, there was the night I partied with Uriah Heep, after meeting drummer Lee Kerslake in the lobby of the Edgewater earlier in the day.
Over the course of that evening, I threw martial arts stars into the door with vocalist David Byron, tossed a lamp out the window into the water below, and was sent to the front desk for salt to keep the mudshark Kerslake had caught alive in the bathtub (don't ask).
At 16 years old, I also drank in the bar with the band. I had my first Harvey Wallbanger that night.
This brings up another cool thing about hanging out with bands at the Edgewater back then. With my own long hair and standard issue platform shoes, I was able to blend right in with the band at the hotel bar. I drank in that damn bar with everyone from the lowly Heep to Rod Stewart and the Faces (on a tour where Ron Wood already knew he was leaving the band to join the Stones). I was never once asked for ID.
Of course not all visiting rock stars preferred the bar.
When Brownsville "Smokin' In The Boys Room" Station played Seattle opening for ZZ Top, we piled them into our station wagon to go buy six packs of Rainier Beer (Cub Koda and the boys wanted a local brew) in Seattle's Chinatown. Our under aged beer retailer of choice back then was a place called the Wah Mee Club, which a few years later would gain notoriety as the site of a massacre involving Chinese gangs and gambling.
As God is my witness, I am not making this shit up.
So as my friends and I by this time had become somewhat regular fixtures at the Edgewater both before and after rock shows, we also got to know some of the local groupies. They had names like Anita Bandita and Stars N' Stripes (so named for her patriotic taste in undergarments).
When the then red-hot T. Rex visited Seattle, these groupies literally had every floor staked out hoping to bed heartthrob Marc Bolan. I think I actually pissed a few of them off when Bolan granted me solo entrance to his room to conduct one of my first actual interviews. This was not set up through any publicist, but rather came as a result of me simply pitching the tour manager in the Edgewater lobby earlier that day.
The interview was later published by my high school newspaper.
So I'm not sure how many rock stars still stay at the Edgewater these days. Although I'm pretty sure that "Fish Out Your Window" sign is still there on the side of the building, they've really renovated the place. My best guess is that visiting rock stars these days more favor places like the Four Seasons. And if any still stay at the Edgewater, I'm equally sure the hotel security is a lot tighter now.
But I'll tell you what. When the final history of Seattle as a rock and roll town is written, the Edgewater's place is every bit as assured as those of Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix.