Stumbling Down Memory Lane in the Tenderloin.
Yesterday, we celebrated a love bubble at The Phoenix hotel (my first hotel created 35 years ago). With more than a hundred MEA alums and friends, it was a lovely reminder of the importance of being part of a community with a shared ethos (and lots of masks with the party being all outdoors).
Our more than 20 regional chapters around the world all convened either yesterday or sometime this month. I'm feeling truly blessed by this little movement we've created.
At the poolside party yesterday, an alum asked me about my favorite memories of being San Francisco's rock 'n roll hotelier. On the spot, I was hard-pressed to answer, so with less than a day of reflection time, here's my top five list of memories:
1. Providing all kinds of unique services that my MBA didn't prepare me for.
I babysat Sinead O'Connor's young child when she went off to one of her first concerts in San Francisco. I lent John F Kennedy Jr. cufflinks when he was going to be the best man in a wedding in our hotel courtyard. I washed Faye Dunaway's undies when she was shacking up with a musician on the road. And I celebrated New Year's Eve two years in a row with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who all came back from their concerts and partied poolside.
2. Becoming room service buddies with Linda Ronstadt.
Linda's "Canciones de mi Padre" tour came to San Francisco twice, and both times she and her band, road crew, and entourage reserved the whole hotel for weeks at a time. I got to serve her breakfast in bed and met her boyfriend at that time, filmmaker George Lucas.
3. Using our iconic courtyard for all kinds of epic events.
If you haven't been to The Phoenix, imagine Palm Springs meets Miami Beach in the form of a two-story 50's motor lodge with a historic swimming pool (due to its mural). I love throwing parties and some of the best have included the annual Celebrity Pool Toss (which raised $10 million for Tenderloin kids programs), the ArtPad modern art fair with each room dedicated to a different global artist or gallery, the Rock' n Roll Fantasy Camp, the Festive Vibes reggae parties by the pool, and, of course, the famous "Wet Parties" during the dot-com boom. We'd have a waiting line snaking around a city block for that one. And, of course, yesterday’s MEA Bay Area alum party was fun!
4. Creating weddings in the Tenderloin.
Not many couples dream of their wedding at the garden on Eddy Street. Yet, my sister Cathy started the trend by marrying Bill there, complete with Miss Pearl's Jam House (our Jamaican restaurant) ties as part of the wardrobe. And my friend Michael Franti married his wife Sara poolside in a poignant Bahai/Native American celebration. By the way, Michael will be co-leading an MEA workshop with me in Baja this coming January.
5. Being Dave Chappelle's white friend named Chip.
Some of you have probably watched Dave's well-known comedy routine about how he and his friend Chip were getting high and had very different responses to being in the vicinity of the police. Urban myth?! Dave was a regular guest at the hotel more than two decades ago, and we became friends when he was a young, rising comic. We enjoyed each other's company, but we never got caught by the cops.
For those of you who want to get a visual sense of The Phoenix, here's a video.