Noticed that new 816 Hotel on Westport Road? It’s nestled between the Flea Market and Relax Magic massage parlor, just across the street from bluestem and Baked in Kansas City.
It’s a hip, new getaway where you can spend a couple of nights at a reasonable rate, catch an hour rub for 30 bucks, sample one of KC’s best burgers, get a killer cup of coffee, and fresh baked goods, experience upscale dining at one of KC’s finest then check out enough cool boutiques, specialty shops, coffee joints and restaurants to make you completely forget you’re knee deep in the heart of Kansas City’s party zone.
And everything’s in walking distance, no less.
Not a room merely inspired by, but created by The Pitch, the Cowtown’s leading alt-weekly.
That’s exactly what I did two weeks back to celebrate my second anniversary with wife Kimberly. While it wasn’t like a trip to Chicago, in many ways it felt like one. Which is weird, because I’ve been crawling up and down the streets of Westport forever, and I was surprising how foreign my experience was staying at 816. And no credit card hangover afterwards like a trip to Chicago.
It’s one of 816 Hotel’s 19 Kansas City themed rooms to choose from for your escape more authentic. I’ll let Pitch publisher Joel Hornbostel fill you in here shortly.
Basically what 816 Hotel has done is take your basic, vintage Holiday Inn style hotel room – nothing fancy mind you – and completely made them over turning them into fun little minim museums to camp out in like if you want to stay in town for a show at Crossroads, the Uptown or wherever. You know, leave the burbs and/or the kids for a romantic or party getaway. Or in my case, both.
816’s Pitch Room is handsomely appointed, with a comfortable queen bed, a pair of red Pitch news boxes as end tables, a wall-sized black and white mural of a band at a Pitch showcase and a host of other trendy designer touches that render the room both interesting and fun.
Some may not recognize the giant, football-shaped PW lettered sign above the desk.
“That’s part of our old outdoor sign,” Hornbostel explains. “We used to havea PW on each side of our old building at 17th and Main when we were called Pitch Weekly. Then when we went with The Pitch, we took those signs down and stored them.”
Allow me to explain.
As the dude who took over the record store rag Pitch of old and moved it out of the basement of the former Pennylane (later Streetside) music store near Broadway and Westport Road, I can tell you a little about the Pitch name.
Years before I arrived on the scene, in the mid 1980s, it had been called The Penny Pitch. Subsequently, depending on who was in the mix – Donna Trussell, Scott O’Kelly and Jim Hense to name three – the monthly morphed into subtle variations of the Pitch name while losing the “Penny.” At one point we just called it Pitch.
During the early 1990s alternative publishing war between The New Times and Pitch – a time when the Pitch had just gone from biweekly to weekly with The New Times (formerly KC View, View and New View) still biweekly – grouchy Pitch editor Bruce Rodgers (I was told at the time) decided it would be advantageous to point out that the Pitch was weekly.
Like noboy’d noticed? So although it wasn’t particularly hip sounding they went with Pitch Weekly, hence the PW letters and signage.
Later, after the New Times had gone for a dirt nap, they exorcised “weekly” from the masthead and name.
So who’s the band in the black and white mural?
“That’s Radkey from St. Joe,” Hornbostel says. “They’re a post-punk power trio that’s getting a lot of attention. The photo was from a show three years ago at – I think – the Riot Room.”
816 Hotel owner Doug Gamble is the man behind the concept of a room dedicated to the KC’s alt weekly.
“Doug was like, ‘Do what you want with it,’ ” Hornbostel says. “The whole idea was to give the room a cool, post modern look and give it a vibe of what The Pitch is. I can’t say enough good things about Doug. You know, you always meet idea guys who have very good ideas but no follow through. Doug is enthusiastic and he has great follow through.”
Hornbostel green lighted the room immediately and “was kinda involved for the start, but my wife and sister-in-law Paula Henry decorated it. When Doug called, we tried to do it ourselves, but we just didn’t have time for it. So Paula took the newspaper boxes and everything else that she found on Craig’s List, Retro Inferno and Weird Stuff Antiques, a long with posters from past Pitch shows and promotions and put it all together.”
The rest is – shall we say – now history, living history.