Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dear Valued Guests — More Mid-century CoMo

Last week, I tried to find an angle to write about a popular (sic) Columbia building that had been demolished two years ago. But there was a twist — nothing newsworthy has happened at the site the since the skeleton of a new hotel had been constructed in its place.

The subject was the Regency Motel, one of the seediest, run down lodging options in the city. But in 1968, the blocky, mid-century modern building was known as the Downtowner Motor Inn.

Downtowner Motor Inn postcard, c. 1968
Standing five stories above Broadway, the Downtowner featured four floors of rooms with exposed breezeways and brightly painted panels. The original postcard boasts "Combined advantages of motor inn and excellent restaurant, convention facilities, 103 fine rooms, color TV, swimming, free wire reservations to other Downtowners and Rowntowners."

As the decades progressed, the Downtowner changed hands and started to deteriorate. It no longer retained its open-air appeal, and everything that made it unique was ditched in exchange for typical ‘80s boringness. Allegedly, the place changed hand 15 times before its demolition in the fall of 2011.

Luckily for us, Paul Sturtz, filmmaker and co-founder of Ragtag Cinemacafe in Columbia, Mo. saw the appeal of this decaying structure and decided it would be the perfect spot to make a film. With the help of co-director Jarred Alterman and the Rabid Hands artist collective, they turned the building into a living piece of artwork a week before demolition. And you get a taste of it in their film “Dear Valued Guests.”

I had the opportunity to watch the film last week at Ragtag Cinema as part of a special night for local directors. Although it was short — only 16 minutes — they did an excellent job finding bigger stories. I was expecting a documentary about a hotel, but instead it was a story about the people that it housed…because in the end they were the valued guests.

Check out the website, with trailer, here


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