Hotel Utah, 100 years of history
From the Hotel Utah to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building
It is truly a remarkable, and impressively detailed, artwork.
When the day of the concert arrived, 17-year-old Gallegos took it to the Salt Palace, hoping to meet Harrison. No one knew where the star was. No one had a clue. Most discouraged Gallegos from trying to meet his favorite Beatle, the one he admires most for "his music, his singing, his songs."
"I went home, all sad, laying down. I thought: I'll never meet a Beatle, but at least I'll see him in concert."
Then resolve kicked in: Gallegos decided to try one more time "or I'll regret it."
This time someone gave him a name: Denis O'Brien, Harrison's manager. He went to the Hotel Utah, thinking George might be staying there — and in fact saw keyboardist Billy Preston emerge. A chauffeur verified that Harrison was indeed at the hotel. A new friend from India, "Gabs," who Gallegos met on the street, helped him write a note to O'Brien.
Later, Gallegos felt a tap on the shoulder. "I'm Denis O'Brien," a man said. "He says, 'Let me see what you have. That's really good.'" O'Brien wondered: If Harrison signs the portrait, will Gallegos be inclined to sell it? At first Gallegos says "Yes!" thinking the ex-Beatle might buy it, but O'Brien wants to know if the artist will sell it at all. Gallegos says "No!"
O'Brien took the art board and returned with it signed.
"Very Good Ted," it says near the bottom. "Love from George Harrison. Hare' Krishna," with several religious symbols and writing below.
"In a couple of minutes, the elevator opened, and there he was." George Harrison, all alone, smaller than Gallegos expected, i.e., about the teen's own size. "He said, 'I want to talk to you. Are you the artist? Did you do that?'"
Afterward, Gallegos amazed, Harrison walked off toward the Hotel Utah lobby's west exit, to Main Street, got in a light green mobile home, sat in the drivers seat — and drove off.
The lesson learned, Gallegos says today:
"Nothing is impossible."
All Things Must Pass
That, of course, is the title of George Harrison's landmark 1970 album. It rings true in song, in life and for the Hotel Utah era.
In 1980 the Hotel Utah Motor Inn closed. In 1984 the Utah Hotel Co. passed management of the Hotel Utah to the Westin Hotels organization. The hotel celebrated its 75th birthday in 1986, with media fanfare, the book "The Hotel" and high hopes.
However, in 1987 the LDS Church closed the 76-year-old hotel, planning new things for a new era. The structure itself was saved, and following adaptive renovation reopened in 1993 as the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.
Rob Sibley was recently coming back from the airport when he noticed the forest of Salt Lake skyscrapers; the iconic gray Salt Lake LDS Temple; the lower, domed Salt Lake Tabernacle.
But the Hotel Utah's bright-white gleam amidst the cityscape concentrated his eye. Maybe the hotel's centennial and his own KBYU documentary project had something to do with Sibley's refreshed perspective.
"The building," he says, "really does stand out."
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