Tuesday, August 4, 2009

July Winner ~ Tell Us Your Boulderado Story

One of the components of the Boulderado's 100 year anniversary is the Tell Us Your Boulderado Story campaign, which is a collection of memories and narratives from the last century about the Hotel Boulderado. Our goal is to collect 100 stories which will be compiled into a coffee table book. The Boulderado selects a monthly favorite, and July's winner is David Grimm. Enjoy his story, "Affection for the Boulderado."

"For those who remember, there was a bar at the Boulderado called Le Bar. It was a tiny room tucked in behind the main desk. You had to know it was there to find it. At best there was room for five people at the bar and maybe five small tables in the room. For its matchbox size it was nonetheless the favorite watering hole for a number of us downtown types. We might have shown up occasionally at the Walrus or Catacombs or Potter's, but Le Bar was home on most days. Back then there were no tourists to contend with and decor was not a concern.

In 1972 when I started frequenting Le Bar the Boulderado was past its prime -- way past. The hotel was hovering between renovation and demolition and it seemed the wrecking ball had the odds over renewal. At the time my group, two errant radio writers and a late-night disc-jockey (myself), were drinking gin and tonic and Le Bar had a healthy supply of Bombay of which we made ample use each afternoon beginning at five o'clock.

One of the regulars during the summer months was a quiet man who always sat at the bar. He was thin and sad and routinely dressed in a 1950s vintage black suit and black tie. He seldom spoke except to the bartender and then only to order another. He was William S. Burroughs. He was occasionally joined by a younger, boisterous, shaggy, ill-kept man. Then Burroughs would leave his lethargy behind and become animated in conversation. The shaggy man was Allen Ginsberg.

I had no acquaintance with the works of the 'Beat' poets and so had no reason for either alarm or adulation. The two were simply patrons of Le Bar.

One night a television set was brought in by request so that we could watch a Muhammad Ali boxing match. I can't recall whom Ali was fighting but it was of great interest at the time. As the match progressed round by round it became clear that Burroughs and Ginsberg were as big of Ali supporters as the rest of our little group, lending their voices to the alternating cheers and boos.

One night, encouraged by the affectionate attention of a stunning blonde, I went to the front desk to seek a room. In those days there were plenty of rooms available and no reservation was required. It was my good luck to receive a large, airy corner room with private bath on the fourth floor facing front. The cost was two dollars. Three days later when the blonde left for Santa Monica, I kept the room. I had an apartment just two or three blocks away on Arapahoe, but I kept the room at the Boulderado. In the end I kept it for over nine months. It was nice to have a restaurant and bar just downstairs. I always had lodging for visitors and the company of Mr. Lowry in the lobby.

For me the Boulderado has always been my home away from home. Over the years I have often taken a room for the weekend simply to spend time with my old friend and breathe in the Boulderado air.

At some time during the early 1980s while working for KGNU radio, I had the opportunity to host a daily morning talk show at the hotel. It was called "Breakfast at the Boulderado." We filled the airwaves every weekday morning from a booth in what was then the Fleur de Lis restaurant. My co-host, Tom Swope, and I ate breakfast on the air and interviewed governors, senators, mayors, actors, musicians, parolees, and panhandlers. In fact we interviewed anyone who would sit down at the table. One of my favorites was Joni Mitchell, who stopped because she simply wanted a cup of coffee and was willing to sing a cappella to get it. The hotel's venerable general manager, Sid Anderson, was a regular guest keeping the public informed of Boulderado events and making weekly sports predictions. After more than 20 years in the media, I am still asked why we ever quit doing "Breakfast at the Boulderado." The simple answer is that I got married and my wife preferred me at the breakfast table at home. Not so much for my charm as for my cooking skills.

My affection for the Boulderado remains undimmed and untarnished. Many of my fondest memories of Boulder have occurred under its roof. It has always provided for me the perfect setting for public meetings and private occasions. Decisions which have shaped our community have been made there, and both of my daughters had their first 'restaurant' dinners at the hotel.

Today I had a glass of champagne outside at the Corner Bar and listened to the downtown church bells celebrate Boulder's 150th anniversary. The only place to be."