Fearless lunacy characterized the Waldorf

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      In Vancouver, things come and things go. Mostly, they go. You get used to it. But when the Waldorf creative team announced yesterday that it was vacating the premises they revived starting in October 2010, a shitstorm descended.

      Here’s the reason: led by Tom Anselmi, Ernesto Gomez, and Danny Fazio, the Waldorf proved itself to be the kind of visionary creative enterprise Vancouver has always lacked and has needed for even longer.

      Notwithstanding the great work being done at the Rio, Biltmore, and Electric Owl among other places—ditto Vancouver’s permanent bank of hit’n’run underground stalwarts—it was the spectacularly turned-on programming of the Waldorf  that caught everybody’s imagination over the last two-and-a-bit years.

      Indeed, what the reborn complex came to symbolize—besides the oft-quoted “Cultural Oasis in the middle of nowhere" —was the possibility that this no-dick city could actually compete with all those other places that Vancouver’s best-and-brightest habitually split for, like New York, London, or even Toronto.

      Anslemi in fact did his time as an exiled Vancouver artist in Berlin a few years ago, and he brought some of that city’s vibe back with him.

      Under this team, the Waldorf became so fuckin’ hot that it got people whizzing themselves over breakfast cereal. Behind the classy dining and exquisitely refurbished Tiki Room was a sense of fearless lunacy, and it rubbed off on people.

      For more evidence, cast your minds back to the legendary parties; the electro-shock machine; the 16 storey drop of doom; the parking lot music festivals; or the fact that last summer they tried, out of nothing more than a native sense of whimsy, to build an outdoor swimming pool (it was shut down).

      And then there was the music programming, which was often unreal, and which again—Japandroids; Faust; the Wyrd Festival; the New Forms Festival; Ty Segall; Grimes; Black Mountain; Skrillex; and various and sundry oddball happenings like a DJ set from a Sex Pistol—carried with it the sense that this couldn’t happen anywhere else, or with so much automatic style.

      Maybe that’s what leaves the Waldorf on January 20—automatic style. Whatever comes next will need to capture that same unique and ineffable quality.

      In a call to the Straight yesterday, Waldorf Hotel lawyer Gavin Crickmore said that we should expect business as usual at the East Side venue once Anselmi and his partners have left the building. Assuming this is true, and in the unlikely event that we’d see a smooth transition between the current operator and the next, the fact remains that the heart of the establishment has been cut out.

      If, however, Anselmi’s information in yesterday’s media release is correct, and the Solterra Group of Companies has bought the complex and is planning to build condos—well, Vancouver has already made its position clear on that, with Geoff Berner employing his customary pith in one of the holy blizzard of tweets that followed.

      “… It’s undeniable,” he wrote. “Vancouver: I hate you.” 



      Michael Barber / Designer

      Jan 10, 2013 at 1:43pm

      I cannot believe this…! A unique cultural hub like the Waldorf is so inspiring for all Vancouverites offering such wonderful mixed venues that make the trendsetters from LA to New York very envious. The Waldorf has soul and new development seldom does, simple! Also, the sad thing is that the very team that brought life to the Waldorf, in such a clever melange of style and funk, are the very people that should be hired to add "life and culture" to new developments. Incorporate the live Waldorf, not a dead relic, into the new development and get that awesome, inspired architect Scott Cohen to make it sizzle!

      Barney Fife

      Jan 10, 2013 at 1:44pm

      This is what you get for "backing the bid".


      Jan 10, 2013 at 2:14pm



      Jan 10, 2013 at 3:04pm

      I could care less about Anselmi and crew. The most important thing to me is the building. The history in the building is greater than just the last few years. The biggest challenge Vancouver faces is the preserving of the structures, not the businesses that run inside them. Businesses do not last forever, club nights come and go...


      Jan 10, 2013 at 3:32pm

      @Mike - that's too bad Mike. Buildings are just empty spaces until someone brethes life into them. Club nites DO come and go.... but The Waldorf was NOT just some club nite... it was a huge cultural/creative undertaking that was striving to do something unique everytime they opened the doors. I DJd there for the past 2 and a half years... Thomas and crew treated us very well.... and I have nothing but piles of respect for what they worked so hard to accomplish. Maybe you can walk down there after it closes and get your kicks looking at an empty building. I prefer cool buildings when someone is doing something fitting inside them.


      Jan 10, 2013 at 5:12pm

      Beat it Fanboy, that is my line.



      Jan 10, 2013 at 7:12pm

      @Mike - If the most important thing to you is the building, do you not realize what Anselmi & Co. have done to restore and maintain it, at their own expense?

      Dani Kreeft

      Jan 11, 2013 at 11:28am

      I've worked at the Waldorf since it re-opened, so this is my family. On the 2-year anniversary Halloween night, Tom said thank you, thank you for staying through it all. I told him it was flat-out because I believed in the project. And I did, and do. These guys deserved to continue building something that no one else had the balls to.

      Richard Mills

      Jan 19, 2013 at 5:37pm

      My Father Robert Mills opened the Waldorf on Dec 26th 1946 not 1947, an interesting story as the draft beer license was not valid till Jan 1 1947, lots of partying going on then, the real history of the hotel happened when dad and I ran the hotel as all the old time people know, most of which are passed now. During those days, it had the highest recorded draught beer sales in western Canada, it was a real legend in those days, some of the most colorful people in the city called the Waldorf home including the polonesian lounge (not tiki bar) and the dining room. In all parts of the Hotel you would see the same people at the same tables. It was really a legend but those days are long past.