by Stevie Wilson | January 24th will mark The Waldorf Hotel’s 64th birthday. In light of the recent sale of the property to condo developers, it’s uncertain as to whether this particular milestone will be celebrated by Vancouverites. But thanks to an outpouring of public support over the last week, the future of the East Van landmark as a multi-purpose venue and historic site is gaining a lot of attention.
At the time of writing, nearly 17,000 people have signed a petition to the Mayor, asking that he deny any rezoning of the property. Dozens of publications have covered the story, and social media has seen the topic trend up like a rocket. When Scout broke the bad news, the response was so overwhelming that it shut down the website (The Waldorf’s site was shut down as well). People desperately want to save The Waldorf, and there’s hope that all of the attention may – finger’s crossed – just turn the tide against its demise.
Mayor Gregor Roberson’s recent press release stated that “to lose such a historic building would be a big blow, which is why we need to do what we can to protect it”. It remains to be seen what that will be (we should find out this week), but if you didn’t get the chance to experience The Waldorf prior to its 2010 renovation, it’s important to know that not much, aside from the clientele and the ability to smoke inside, was changed. The Waldorf has always been a unique spot, and despite a relative lull in its popularity during the 1970s through the 1990s (the “Grove Pub Years”, we’ll call them), it was always known for its legendary Tiki Bar, which was tucked away like a secret inside.
If anything can save The Waldorf, it’s this bar.
Oddly enough, the Tiki Bar wasn’t part of the original plan. Mercer & Mercer architects, a duo formed in 1940 by Andrew Lamb Mercer and his son John, designed the original Waldorf Hotel in 1948 on a budget of around $300,000. The founding owner, Bob Mills, was a local businessman from Fernie who also owned The Haddon at 606 Powell St., which later became known as the Drake Hotel (sold to the City for $3.2 million in 2007). Mill’s new spot was named after The Waldorf Hotel in Fernie, which was owned by his father (it, ironically, was recently turned into condominiums). Vancouver’s Waldorf featured a “Luxuriously Furnished Ladies’ Parlor”, 25 “Handsomely Designed Rooms”, and even a “modern” coffee shop to attract luxury-seekers across the city. When it opened in 1949, it could boast the latest luxuries of air conditioning and fluorescent lighting. Mills and his wife were the original management team. Their menu, featuring ‘Turkey & Cranberry Sauce’ and “Jello with Whipped Cream”, was typical of the time; a far cry from the more modern and worldly culinary offerings enjoyed today at the hotel’s Café Nuba.
The original hotel operated primarily for motorists in the first few years, but upon Mills return from (his drunken escapades in) Hawaii, the hotel was redesigned. In 1955, Mills had the Mercer architects add a large lounge, restaurant, and additional rooms. He also put a Polynesian-inspired spin on the décor, and it is this that makes today’s Waldorf worthy of salvation. In addition to attracting working-class drinkers with one of the largest beer halls in the city, the Waldorf’s new Polynesian Room and “Menehune” Banquet Room (later “The Hideaway”) offered new guests a “unique South Sea atmosphere” which played to the popular post-war tropical aesthetic, complete with bamboo seats, Mai Tais, and a number of sensually-themed black velvet paintings, including original Edgar Leeteg works (much to the dismay of Mills’ wife). What’s more, the stunning murals were painted by noted artist Peter Hopkinson (who is best known for his White Spot advertisements). They were wild times for The Waldorf. Contemporary photographs suggest that a one particular staff party included a live cheetah. Because of course…
Over the years, The Waldorf has been managed in different ways. Most operators kept the Tiki Bar only for special events, and for a long time it languished as a satellite addendum to the infamous (and lacklustre) Grove Pub. But it was always – more or less – kept intact. When Thomas Anselmi et al from Waldorf Productions took over the lease in 2010, they brought it back to the fore, with great results. If the City really wants to save The Waldorf, making its redevelopment difficult would be essential. Designating the heritage status of its Tiki Bar would be the logical place to start.
Scenes From The Most Recent Renovation…
Stevie Wilson is an historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she’s decided to branch out with a cryptic agenda: encouraging the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with You Should Know, a Scout column that aims to show you the things that you already see. Just nod your head and pretend you’re paying attention.
by Daniel Colussi | There’s certain music that’s best suited to those bleary hours in between night and day, when your vision is gauzy and the world moves in slow motion. Enter Mister Lies, aka Nick Zanca, who’s proven himself to be a true professional at conjuring up the asleep/awake feeling of those lost hours. Working out of his dorm room in Chicago, Zanca’s nocturnal pop is purposely minimal and dreamy but nevertheless carries an emotional weight that’s foreign to the more vacuous forms of genre. The kid’s only nineteen but over several EPs and a new full length, Mowgli, he’s shown himself to be the natural heir to the trip-hop greats of the mid 90s. His show at The Waldorf tomorrow night will mark his first Vancouver appearance, and it’s going be a bitter sweet affair as the venue is being forced to imminently shut down in one of Vancouver’s cruelest fait accomplis. Send The Waldorf out with a bang, or even better — see it off as if in a slow-motion lethargic dream…
Electronic music can be a tricky thing to pull off live. What’s your approach? With the live set, these are songs that I composed in my room, usually by myself, maybe with two or three other people in the room but usually just by myself, and so what I’m trying to do is make these tracks a little bit bigger, especially since they’re going to be on loudspeakers. Also with this set, and I’ve not done this in the past, I kind of revised a lot of my older material and made versions of these songs that are a lot more suited for a dancy environment. There’s a lot of debate and conflict between people about the “liveness” of electronic music. I feel like you’re either doing everything up there or your doing nothing. For me, I’m doing a run of the mill laptop and controller set, but I’m actually deconstructing my songs as opposed to just DJing them. There’s an element…there’s a game about what I’m going to do with the songs. There’s a lot of open opportunities. I won’t play the song the same way twice, which is really exciting.
I get a real British 90s vibe from your music, the kind of trip hop stuff coming out of Bristol in the 90s. Is that scene a conscious marker that you’re after? Yeah? I’ve actually never gotten the word “British” from a journalist before. Granted, people will throw out Massive Attack or Portishead and stuff like that, but they’ll never say that it’s British-sounding — that’s interesting. With this new album, Mowgli, I’m not necessarily going out and saying, like, “I’m making a house track,” or “I’m starting with this specific BPM.” Usually it’ll start with something more melodic; a field recording or something like that. Read more
by Daniel Colussi | I think it’s fair to say that, historically, hip hop hasn’t totally flourished in Vancouver, or even Canada for that matter (no offence Maastro, Moka, K-OS, et al). We just don’t make rap stars the same way that NY, LA, and ATL do. Locally, we’re still living in the shadow of the Rascalz’ killer-good Really Livin from back in ’92. But what about Juice? I’ve been impressed with all their performances that I’ve seen to date; be it in an alley-entrance hovel or a legit bar – this band is always a good time. Front lady Genesis’ dirty raps give them a naughty angle that draws the attention of boys and girls alike, and she’s not shy live. The foundation for those NSFW rhymes is an interesting combination of tight, minimal rhythms and wandering, processed guitar lines that waft in and out of sync with each other…
As their name suggests, Juice is something refreshing to take in and enjoy. Below you’ll find a Juice-curated 12 track video mix specifically prepared by the band to serve as a kind of party-starting primer to get you in the mood to catch them play the Waldorf this Saturday night… Read more
by Daniel Colussi | There’s only one Damo Suzuki. His run as the vocalist with German avant-rockers Can from ’70 to ’73 was the golden era in which the band produced their most celebrated albums, each one bearing Damo’s inimitable presence. The man is a human lightning rod, a vibe-receptor of frequencies that most of us never knew existed, his vocal approach joyfully bouncing between Japanese, Enligh, French and German, or else just inventing new words/sounds as he goes along (listening to those Can albums, I really have no idea what he’s saying but still I get what he’s saying, you know what I mean?). As a solo artist who tours the globe, Damo embraces the eternal by living in the moment, so for his performance at the Waldorf’s 3D Music Festival you can expect a totally off-the-cuff, spontaneous come-together between Damo and Vancouver’s own Von Bingen; a night of unique, unrepeatable music. Because that’s just how Damo rolls. If you’re ready for Damo, he’s ready for you. Read on…
You’ve got a totally unique and personalized vocal style. What are some vocalists that you admire? Where did your vocal style come from? How did you develop it? It’s nothing to do with just vocalisation to talk. You find your self in social. If you’re not working for industry, you’re very free. You’re free from the system, from authority. Just find yourself and make your own. This fits into anything you do in your life. [Everybody] has one life on this planet. Everybody has a right to live free and do their own thing. But unfortunately, not that many people are able to do this, losing [their] own time for somebody else’s profits. It’s always been a problem in human history. Some idiots like to have power over people, pushing them like slaves. Authority, Establishment, Kingdoms, etc…what is this? I began my life. I didn’t choose to take a position. Freedom is creative. Everybody can be creative. To your question: I’m being Damo Suzuki, and this is the best I can do.
What are you earliest musical memories? What was the first music you heard that really excited you?
Any of the classical music I heard from my sister’s collection: Beethoven, Strauss, Mozart. She was working at the bank. Wvery birthday, she bought me a musical instruments. She didn’t ask me even if I liked to play or not. So I had a clarinet, saxophone, guitar, banjo, organ……
You’ve been working on this Never Ending Tour/Network project for many years. What are you hoping to achieve through through your collaborations with sound-carriers around the world? Networking with people on both sides: sound carriers and audience. Free energy is all you need. This is against any kind of violence in this world. I started to perform with unknown people, to create free energy on the spot. It was in 2003 that I began with this style to perform every performance with different sound carriers, without any rehearsal. I heard the news that the US [was] bombing Iraq when I arrived at J.F.K. Airport from the West Coast early in the morning. There [were] many demonstrations against [it] all around the world. Millions of people went into the streets [...] If you’re free you just ignore violence. Violence is not creative. It’s just ugly. Since then, I create time and space in the moment with ever-changing local sound carriers around the world. This, I feel, is like my mission and what I have to do. Everybody needs mission, right? Read more
The GOODS from The Waldorf Hotel
Vancouver, BC | Step right up and win a prize! One of the main attractions at the Waldorf four-day Halloween bash will be the Artists Midway. For this installation, we’ve enlisted some of the city’s most inspiring artists to create games of skill and luck that you can play to win fabulous prizes. Participating in the event are Andy Dixon, El Ballistico, Justin Gradin, Kevin House, Kaput, Office Supplies Incorporated, Kaput, Andrew Pommier and Peter Ricq. The Midway runs from 8pm -1am every night of Halloween at the Waldorf. Purchase tickets here and learn about the artists after the jump… Read more