Consider me among those stunned by the bankruptcy filing and abrupt — and temporary, I hope — closing of the Fairmont Hotel in downtown San Jose. Hotels and restaurants have been absolutely devastated by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, but I would have bet on the Fairmont weathering the storm.
When the hotel does reopen, most likely under a new brand, it will still mark the end of an era in San Jose. The iconic hotel was the crown jewel in the downtown redevelopment effort when it first opened in 1987 and quickly became the place to see and be seen. Its guests included Presidents Clinton and Obama, countless celebrities from Muhammad Ali to Lady Gaga, and other dignitaries visiting San Jose. It’s been the site of hundreds of charity galas, hosted weddings both lavish and modest, and provided a backdrop for downtown events including Christmas in the Park and the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest.
Of course, the 805-room tower and annex aren’t going anywhere and certainly could be part of a post-pandemic downtown renaissance. But it won’t be the same, and no matter what it’s called, it’ll be a long time before people stop referring to the hotel as the Fairmont.
BINGO-VERSARY: We’re creeping up on a year since the first stay-at-home orders changed the way we do everything, including have fun. Downtown San Jose events guy Fil Maresca is definitely aware when that happened because it was a year ago that he had to move his fun ’80s Musical Bingo games from the Fountainhead Bar at SoFA Market to this thing called “Zoom” that few people had heard of in March 2020. The anniversary edition of the game takes place March 10 at 6 p.m. It’s free to play — Maresca spins a snippet of an ’80s song and you match the artist to your custom bingo card — and you can win prizes while also introducing your kids to some classic tunes. Check it out at www.facebook.com/80sVirtualBingo.
MOVING RIGHT ALONG: Steve Dini — who built a second career as a drama teacher at Pioneer High after his first as a morning radio host ended — has pulled up stakes from Morgan Hill and headed to Texas. But Dini’s departure to the Lone Star State isn’t a protest like Elon Musk’s; he just wants to be closer to his grandchildren. Assuming the pandemic recedes, he plans to return this fall to perform with Pioneer High’s Glue Factory group and visit family members still around here.
The little town near Fort Worth he moved to is called Prosper, Dini reports, and is covered in brown Bermuda grass which he’s told will all turn green in about a month. He hasn’t seen the Tesla CEO in Texas yet — “One of his rockets may drop out of the sky here any minute,” he quipped — but he also hasn’t seen many actual Texans.
“Everyone seems to be former Californians like us,” Dini said. “We met our next door neighbor today and she and her husband are from Orange County, and another couple we met are from San Diego.”
CARING ABOUT CHRIS WILDER: There’s been a huge outpouring of well-wishes and positive thoughts shared for Valley Medical Center Foundation Executive Director Chris Wilder, who was hospitalized after a stroke last weekend. Family members say it may be a few days before Wilder’s prognosis is known, but if karma counts for anything, Wilder has a lot of credit in his bank. The VMC Foundation has promised to keep people updated when possible on its website, www.vmcfoundation.org.
But while the well-wishes and concern are appreciated, Wilder’s family has one request: Please, stop calling the hospital to ask about him, as the flood of calls has been overwhelming staff. I’m not naming the hospital to help stem the calls.