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Posts Tagged ‘Stories We Could Tell’

And I wish we could sit upon a bed in some motel
And listen to the stories it could tell
John B. Sebastian/Stories We Could Tell

BH-CedarFalls

When artists, speakers, and musicians come to Cedar Falls they often stay at The Blackhawk Hotel.  Over the years Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane have stayed at the historic hotel.  And just a few days ago singer Brandi Carlile was a guest.

photo-28

Architect Dan Tindell and his wife Kathy bought the hotel a decade ago almost on a whim. And they took to restoring it as a passion project that has turned into a profitable business venture, as well as an anchor building for downtown Cedar Falls. (May all your passion projects go as well.)

I’m sure the hotel has many stories to tell in its 100 year plus history, but one of my favorite ones is film related.

“After graduating from college Wally Shawn went off on his own to write nightmarish little plays. For years, he couldn’t write unless he was in some exotic locale far from home. He wrote his first play on a trip to Italy, the second in Ireland, the third and fourth during an off-season visit to the tiny West Indian island of Bequia. When he could no longer afford to go abroad, he sold one percent of his future earnings as a playwright to six of his friends (one was screenwriter Jacob Brackman), which gave him enough to spend a few months holed up in a four-dollar-a-night hotel in Cedar Falls, Iowa, writing his fifth play — all of this happening, incidentally, before a single word of his had been spoken by a professional actor.”
The Secret Life of Wally Shawn by Don Shewey
Esquire, 1983

That four-dollar-a-night hotel was The Blackhawk Hotel decades before its restoration. And before Wally Shawn ever spoke that single word that he is most known for today—”inconceivable.” In fact, that word from The Princess Bride written by William Goldman has to be up there in repeated movie lines.

If Shawn visited The Blackhawk Hotel today I imagine he’d be surprised at the transformation of the former $4 a night hotel. And you may be surprised to know that Shawn is a screenwriter.  Along with being an Obie Award-winning playwright his first produced feature film (co-written with Andre Gregory) was My Dinner with Andre (1981) and currently in post-production is Fear of Falling which is his adaption of Ibsen’s The Master Builder.

But it’s okay if you know him more as the voice of Rex from the Toy Story films. There are people in Cedar Falls that still remember Shawn as a young man who lived at The Blackhawk and played in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony and dated a professor at the University of Iowa.

I’ve been staying at The Blackhawk myself the last few days working on various projects and taking some photos for their website as well. I took the top photo many years ago around Christmas time and here’s a more recent shot of what the hotel looks like these days.

Black Hawk Hotel

Seems like a fitting end to this post is Brandi Carlile’s video The Story.

Scott W. Smith

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