Outgoing state representative Michael Prufrock’s concession speech late last night in the Twilight Ballroom of the Hilton Garden Plaza was but one in a long line of such speeches given in that spot over the decades. Since its opening in 1906, the hotel’s elegant decor and central location has made it a favorite spot for candidates to hold their election night parties, whether they end up being in victory or pity.
Looking at the numbers, though, it would seem that pity tips the ledger. Of the 97 election night affairs held there, 73 have ended up being for the losing candidate, causing area television viewers to often see the graphic “Live: Hilton Garden Plaza (or Windemire Hotel until ten years ago), Downtown” at the bottom of their screens during concession speeches by mayors, council people, senators, representatives and even union presidents. There have been a lot of tears shed in this room, but not always. Bartender Otis Welling has worked many of these events over his 30 years at the hotel and he says it all depends on the candidate-
“Peter Jeffries- that man lost three times in a row- every single one, he’d tell people to keep drinking and eating, not to get too sad about things, there’d always be next time. And there was, you know, until the plane crash,” he says, pausing a bit. “Then you get the others- that one, who just wouldn’t say anything to the crowd, then went up and tore his room apart- I won’t name names, but that’s not a good loser, there.”
(He doesn’t really need to name names- a headline from the Wednesday, November 4, 1987 Journal-American: “Rep. Lane Defeated- Destroys Hotel Room.” Or, from the News- “‘Penny’ Lane On Crybaby Rampage!”)
So, the hotel is perhaps a bit better equipped than most to handle a losing candidate’s affair- You could say that some choose it as their party spot knowing the fate which awaits their political aspirations. The staff seems a tad more understanding, more compassionate. They usually throw in a few extras- some more table decorations to take home, nicer hors d’oeuvres, bringing out the top-shelf liquor later in the evening, that sort of thing. It’s usually why some of the smarter reporters in town request covering the losing candidate at the Garden Plaza every year.
– R. White