February 15 – The Flamingo

02-16 Flamingo post1The Flamingo was originally built in 1948, providing comfort and shelter for the likes of Bing Crosby, Gene Autrey, Rudy Valley, and other members of the Hollywood and show-business elite. Before it’s doors were closed in the 1980s, it had fallen into miserable disrepair. The rooms were poorly lit, the pool was dry and cracked. The old-world gloss had given way to broken concrete and mold.

When the doors were locked and the windows boarded up, shrink-wrapped soaps still sat in their dishes, dusty towels still hung on the racks, the beds still tightly made. It only sat vacant for seven years before the padlocks were snapped open and the hotel was resurrected with new furniture, carpets, air conditioning, and placards on the doors to designate which Tinseltown stars had stayed there.

I had the pleasure of staying in Burt Reynold’s room. Above the bed was a framed poster of a 1973 Reynolds feature I had never even heard of before: The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing. I still haven’t seen it, but I think I might have to check it out and add a movie review.

The Flamingo was the first Tucson hotel I stayed at – it’s salmon colored paint drawing me in – back in the Spring of 2001. I’d taken a road trip out to Tucson with my girlfriend to check out the city, seeing as how I had just received my acceptance letter from the U of A. Thankfully the new owner respected the building’s history – rather than tear down the classic sign, it was resurfaced and adorned with new neon tubes.

Hopefully, even as the city around it modernizes, The Flamingo will hold onto its charm. The neighborhood isn’t the prime real estate it once was, but affordable rooms in a college town will always find occupants. It isn’t fancy by today’s standards, but I’ll never forget how good that hot shower felt after camping on Mount Lemon for several days.

Today’s photograph is a continuation of “Film February,” made using the Fujica Half. I think the aged aesthetic of film works quite well with a classic mid-century building.


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