The rumor spread in the mid-90s and was covered by large US-based publications, including the LA Times and the Detroit Free Press. Tourists began making the trip up the coast from Los Cabos, driving up the rates and fostering new businesses in town: Restaurants, T-shirt shops – you know, the works.
Businessmen will give them credit, yet we won’t be as kind. The brutal truth is that we find it hard to respect a hotel that feels the need to misrepresent itself, whether it was then or now. It was sort of sad to see tourists taking photos, wasting their time. When we went to take a look, it was easier to find the gift shop than it was the lobby (seriously). The vibe just felt so off, so uninspiring, so “what am I missing here?”
Here’s what most people missed (us included to a degree), and what we hope will prevent more people from false pleasure: Travel writer Joe Cummings broke the news over a decade ago that the hotel’s story was a bunch of baloney in a piece called “Hotel Where.” It was based on faxes he exchanged with Don Henley, who responded that neither he nor the band “had any sort of association – business or pleasure – with that establishment.”
In his article, Cummings mentioned the hotel closed in 1999 and was bound to become a cooking school, but in 2001 a couple of Canadians bought it. They renovated, turning 16 rooms into 11 suites and replaced the original gas station out front with a restaurant and “a boutique gallery/bazaar” (aka giftshop). Whatever character or charm the Hotel California may have had during 1970 was lost on us that day in Baja California, although in all fairness the interior does look nicely done.
Don Henley told Rolling Stone the song "Hotel California" was the band’s “interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles“ and later reiterated “it’s basically a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream and about excess in America, which is something we knew a lot about.” Hm. Nothing about a trip to Mexico.
Moral of the story: Not only do marketing campaigns work, they can apparently be disguised as historical significance very easily. Check out this post from the Hotel California - they certainly will continue to play this tune for as long as they can.
[Photos: Hotel California]