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Palmer House Spatactular

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1 p.m. Dec. 6----
Updated with Palmer House history 3:30 p.m. Dec. 8

Here you can check out whats new with the Palmer House and take a spin through a pretty cool photo gallery. See you in the lobby...,TRA-News-Detours07.artic

They redid the Palmer House.
Now can they redo me?
It was only fitting that the Palmer House's brand spanking new Spa Chakra is on the former 5th floor location of the Gaslight Club. The last time I was in this 10,000-square foot space was in 1985.
Jo Collins, the 1965 Playboy Playmate of the Year had been hired as manager of the Chicago Gaslight Club. The terminally Baroque Italian club opened in 1953 and closed in early 1987. It was a men's only joint filled with really friendly waitresses in skimpy flapper outfits. The Gaslight Club was regarded as the template for Hugh Hefner's Playboy Club. I spent much of that interview grilling Collins about her 1968 marriage to baseball casanova Bo Belinsky.
I have only visited one other spa in my lifetime...

HEY, WHO'S THE PAPARAZZI? Its Sun-Times lensman
Scott Stewart snagging my rubdown from Spa Chakra
Massage Therapist Coredlia Williams

UPDATED Aug. 18, 2008

[Archived from April 2, 2006 Chicago Sun-Times; this is one of my top three favorite hotels in America]

MADISON, Wis. -- The best hotel creates a community within a borrowed city. You are no longer a stranger in town. You have arrived. This was not lost on the Elvis Presley entourage, who knew something about weird road trips.

Anyone who has paid attention to a tour of the Lisa Marie airplane in Memphis will notice a closet that has a wooden hanger from the Edgewater Hotel in Madison. During the mid-1970s Elvis and his pals took over two floors of the Art Deco hotel on the shores of Lake Mendota.

Someone wanted to keep this borrowed moment.

1:10 p.m. Feb. 23

Rancho de los Caballeros ("gentleman on horseback") corral foreman Tom Secrist sized me up. I did not look like a cowboy, even though I was tumbleweeding around the 60-year-old ranch in Wickenburg, Ariz., 55 miles northwest of Phoenix. I wore my faded Cubs cap, shorts and blue Chuck Taylors.
I looked like an extra in "Bleacher Bums."
I told Secrist I had been on a horse twice in my life. He told me I was going to ride Custard though the high Sonoran desert. If Custard was a train, he would be Amtrak. The 1,200 pound custard-colored horse moved slow. As slow as molasses. Or custard.
In some rusty quarters he would have been called lazy but I will call him leisurely......

1:55 p.m. Feb. 16

I first visited the Double JJ Ranch in Rothbury, Mich. in November, 2006. The historic ranch was a gentle, rural escape from the madness of Muskegon, 25 miles south. I returned with my girl friend on New Year's Eve 2007 to find a new indoor water park and pizza parlor. The vibe was sort of Wisconsin Dellsy. We avoided soggy kids and came away impressed with the ranch's New Year's Eve fireworks show.
But now this?
ROTHBURY--a sustainable camping festival that features the Dave Matthews Band, Jakob Dylan & the Gold Mountain Rebels, Primus, Snoop Dogg, John Mayer and more than 60 other acts ( is scheduled to be held July 3-6 around the ranch. Its like Burning Man for the Heartland. Besides the music, there's daily yoga sessions (one with Michael Franti & Spearhead) face painting and DJ master classes. Nearly 50,000 people are expected to attend and there's camping available on 300 acres of land that surround the ranch.
I'd check out Conscious Alliance's effort to get into the Guinness Book of World's Records for the "World's Largest Canned Food Sculpture," which will also generate 40,000 cans of food to be donated locally. The sculpture will be on exhibit all weekend. So if you're planning to go to ROTHBURY or some more tranquil time here's the backstory on the JJ Ranch, whose name is derived from Jack & Jill. Or now its Jack and Jerry as in Garcia....
This edited story appeared in the Nov. 26, 2006 edition of the Chicago Sun-Times:

ROTHBURY, Mich. -- The folks at the Double JJ Ranch & Golf Resort in wild western Michigan rope you in with the tagline "Outside the Ordinary."
Where do I sign up?
The 2,000-acre resort north of Muskegon celebrates its 70th anniversary next year. It features heated log cabins, hotel rooms, horses, three lakes and a natural cranberry bog.......

4:10 p.m. Jan. 26

I'm down with the tradition at the Davenport Hotel and Tower in downtown Spokane, Wash.
Opened in 1914, the Davenport was America’s first hotel with air conditioning. It was also the first hotel with housekeeping carts---designed by owner Louis Davenport.
Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were guests at the Davenport. Der Bingle launched his career as a drummer across the street from the hotel at the newly restored neo-Classical Bing Crosby Theater. Steroid free slugger Babe Ruth was a guest. Authors Zane Grey and Dashiell Hammet wrote scenes while staying in “the house of comfort” as the Davenport was promoted. I always thought “The House of Comfort” was a Bourbon Street “spa.” Here's a hot photo gallery which is part of the hotel's website:
Check it out. And enjoy these other tidbits......

6:35 p.m. Oct 24, 2006
The idea of the swinging Mexican hideaway was born at the Hotel Los Flamingos in Acapulco, Mexico. That idea sounds good about now. Its cold in Chicago and I'm thinking of returning to Acapulco, where during the 1950s and 60s the hip went to sip and flip.
In the 1950s Johnny "Tarzan" Weissmuller and a bunch of his Hollywood cronies bought Los Flamingos, a shocking pink 45-room shangrila atop a 450-foot cliff, one of the highest points of Acapulco.
Weissmuller died in in 1984 in Acapulco. He spent the last four years of his life in a secluded two-bedroom roundhouse that still stands at Los Flamingos. Its still affordable to rent out Tarzan's home and if I ever get married again, this is high on my list of honeymoon locations. There's a quiet mountainside pool surrounded by banana trees and an outdoors bar and gazebo. Current hotel owner Adolfo Santiago was a Los Flamingos bus boy in the 1950s and he recalls Weissmuller yelling his "Tarzan Cry" late at night in the roundhouse while fighting the advancing stages of dementia.
AAAAAhhhhh as in Acapulco..............

Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.


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