Viewing: The Desert - View All Posts

WESTWARD HO 

Across the plaza from Civic Space Park (where guitarist Stan Sorenson and I played a noontime concert today) stands one of the most interesting and historic buildings in downtown Phoenix: the Westward Ho.


 

Upon its grand opening in 1928, the neo-Renaissance Westward Ho was the tallest structure in the area (16 stories!) and one of the most elegant hotels in the west, with vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows and beautiful tiled floors.


 

Over the years, the hotel accumulated its share of fame.


 

Jack Benny broadcast radio shows from the Westward Ho during World War II.


 

Elizabeth Taylor kept a suite at the hotel and dined in its restaurant, Top of the Ho.


 

Paul Newman filmed a scene for the 1972 movie Pocket Money there.


 

Robert Wagner married Natalie Wood on the hotel patio.


 

Marilyn Monroe filmed the parade scene in Bus Stop (1956) on Central Avenue in front of the Westward Ho and is said to have gone for a moonlight swim (without a suit!) in the hotel pool.


 

Some of the Ho's other famous guests include John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Rogers, Jackie Gleason, Myrna Loy, Amelia Earhart, Esther Williams, Danny Thomas, Gary Cooper, Lucille Ball, Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, Bob Hope, Liberace, Lee Marvin, Tyrone Power, Eleanor Roosevelt, Shirley Temple, Al Capone, Spencer Tracy and John Wayne.


 

Contrary to popular belief, the Westward Ho does not appear in the opening sequence of the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho, but is featured in the 1998 Gus Van Sant remake.


 

A 280-foot television broadcast antenna, added to the hotel's rooftop in 1949, is now used as a cell phone tower.


 

In 1980, after 52 years, the Westward Ho hotel closed for business and was converted to subsidized housing for the elderly and mobility impaired. 


The building is now recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.

AFFECTION FOR THE WEST 

"I have such tremendous affection for the West that I would want anyone I love to experience it and to see it and to spend as much time there as possible. I would definitely want that experience for my family, but it's also not entirely a romantic thing. I mean, I don't want to romanticize the experiences of people who are living in rural, poor communities...or the desert. Our dominant cultural narrative totally devalues all three of those things: rural, poor and desert. So there was a sense when I was there that you're often told that where you are is not valuable or important. Just think about the way we talk about the desert as a wasteland or the middle of nowhere or it's barren. That's a really bizarre phenomenon, when you've spent your whole life in a place and then the culture tells you it actually doesn't even exist, and if it does exist, it's worthless. That's a bit of a heady place to be, I think, and that's partly what I was looking for with this book, was getting a portrait of the place that had never before been presented to me."

 

~Battleborn author Claire Vaye Watkins on NPR Fresh Air


ON MONEY 


"Las Vegas is the only place I know 

where money really talks. It says Goodbye."

—Frank Sinatra

 

"For what? For a little bit of money. 

There's more to life than a little money, you know. 

Don'tchya know that? And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day. 

Well, I just don't understand it." 

—Marge Gunderson

 

"Getting money is easy, but changing an 

impoverished mindset is next to impossible."

—Nicholas Payton

FROM THE ARCHIVES 

On This Day

 

March 7, 1995

Visions of Kerouac Premiere

Dmitri Matheny & The SOMA Ensemble

Yoshi's Nightspot

Oakland, California

 

March 7, 1999

In-Store Appearance

Dmitri Matheny Group

Borders Books & Music

Emeryville, California

 

March 7, 2007

Arizona Jazz Week

UA Studio Jazz Ensemble with Dmitri Matheny

Crowder Hall - University of Arizona

Tucson, Arizona 

IN THE EMERALD CITY 

It's so satisfying to be back in the soulful city of Seattle, sitting in a cafe, enjoying a great cup of coffee, listening to the rain.

On the wall across from me is a Michael Dailey original, one of his spectacular landscape-inspired abstractions. I've always loved his work. These color field paintings are particularly arresting, like desert sunsets, yet somehow evocative of the Pacific Northwest. Similar to Mark Rothko, Georg Gudni and Hiroshi Sugimoto, Dailey was able to conjure atmospheric windows to a misty horizon, conveying a sense of longing for something just out of reach.


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