A Grand Landmark Returns to Glory
Mar30

A Grand Landmark Returns to Glory

My love for old buildings started at a young age. One of my earliest real estate crushes was the Indiana Hotel building, attached to the Embassy Theatre downtown. Looking up into the rows of windows framed by limestone façade, I imaged the grand guests who once stayed inside. I envisioned glamorous ladies dressing for dinner – styling their hair, adorning themselves with sparkling baubles, and gracefully sashaying down the halls. I imagined what it would’ve been like to sleep there in the hotel’s heyday. How did they heat the rooms? Did they share bathrooms? Did any famous people spend the night? A few years later, I got to know the building even better. I had the privilege to perform on the Embassy stage dozens of times. Back then, the backstage hallways were painted with murals and covered with autographs and fading head shots from past performers. The cramped dressing rooms had faded carpet and peeling paint. But backstage passageways offered plenty to explore and imagine. As we waited for our turn at recitals and dress rehearsals, we’d play hide-and-seek down the halls and tell ghost stories in the Embassy’s ornate, expansive bathrooms. My attachment for the Embassy and Indiana Hotel building was partially inherited. In the ’70s, my dad and uncle donated their time and professional skills to return the Embassy to its former glory. My dad would point out the decorative molding and ceiling designs. “You see that,” he’d say. “That’s gold leaf paint. It has tiny bits of actual gold in it.” (My dad has always known EXACTLY what kind of information would thrill me.) As a kid, it was hard for me to imagine that such a captivating architectural treasure – the Indiana Hotel – sat empty, collecting cobwebs instead of hosting guests. I told myself that someday, I wanted to buy it and turn it back into a posh hotel, a quirky shopping mall or a complex of studio apartments. Back then I didn’t grasp the kind of expenses such an endeavor would entail. But happily, I don’t have to worry about what will become of the historic structure. Today, the Embassy will unveil recently completed renovations to the Indiana Hotel. The two-year renovation project included the addition of a rooftop patio, a two-story ballroom, rehearsal and classroom spaces and new administrative offices. The $10-million project included the removal of a wall separating the Embassy Theatre and Indiana Hotel spaces, and made way for a mezzanine lounge, theater bars, concessions, new dressing rooms, an updated box office and a heritage center. The project started with the construction of the downtown Courtyard Marriot, says Barb Richards, Marketing Director at the Embassy Theatre. “[They] wanted to build in downtown Fort Wayne...

Read More

The Mersey Beatles: A British Invasion at the Embassy

It takes four fab musicians to cover the Fab Four and earn the official stamp of approval of John Lennon’s sister. But on Friday night at the Embassy, The Mersey Beatles proved that they were up to the task. I went expecting to hear great Beatles cover tunes. But The Mersey Beatles delivered much more. The show started with a red-hot opener by the talented local musicians of Moser Woods. After everyone was warmed up and settled in their seats, Julia Baird – younger sister of John Lennon – introduced the headlining act with a touching tribute to her brother, the Beatles, and the impact their music has made for generations. It goes without saying that the Beatles are a tough band to cover. In the last 50+ years, The Beatles have surpassed “iconic” status. They are not simply a band – they are a cultural institution in their own right, eclipsing the impact of any other group in rock n’ roll history. If you’re going to cover something of that caliber, you’d better do it perfectly. After all, no matter where or what you play – you’re playing to an audience that can sing every note by heart.  As Julia’s endorsement attests, the Mersey Beatles take that task seriously. Musically, the group is exceptionally talented. Riffs and rhythms matched with a level of precision that makes the highest levels of “Guitar Hero” look like tic-tac-toe. The licks, solos, tight vocal harmonies and instrumental harmonics rang true to our collective musical memory, song after song. But they don’t stop there.  Just like the original band, these guys are all from Liverpool, Merseyside. (Which, by the way, they affectionately compared to Fort Wayne.) They play at many of the same joints where the Beatles first earned a fan base. Onstage, they even refer to each other as John, Paul, George and Ringo. The costume changes also reflected the Beatles personal and musical evolution. The show started with Ed Sullivan-approved short wigs and clean-cut black suits, for songs like  “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Dressed-down khakis and vests accompanied the “Rubber Soul” era. And the full Sergeant Pepper regalia came out – long wigs, fake mustaches and all – for “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Strawberry Fields.” By the end of the night, the costumes became a living replica of the “Let it Be” cover photography. The matching outfits were gone – a reminder that it was a quest for personal autonomy that ended the Beatles run as the fab foursome. An onstage screen added to the evening’s experience, setting the mood with Beatles-inspired photography, artwork, videos, song lyrics and era-appropriate memorabilia. Much...

Read More