Though never as majestic as Spokane’s historic Davenport Hotel, the nearby towering Ridpath was plenty regal enough for the King and me.
My first night of wedded bliss was spent romantically ensconced in the Ridpath’s purple honeymoon suite.
That same year - 1973 - Elvis checked into the downtown hotel, 515 W. Sprague, for the second time in his hip-swiveling career.
That, recalls Carl Naccarato, was one crazy scene.
Naccarato was a Ridpath bellman back then. He and crafty co-workers actually peddled bogus Elvis autographs at 5 bucks a pop to gullible fans who stood vigil.
Imagine how all shook up these people will be to suddenly discover their cherished Elvis keepsake is actually a Carl Naccarato forgery. “We only sold 10 or 20 a day,” explains Naccarato, adding a laugh. “We tried to keep it down so we wouldn’t get caught.”
Twenty-five years after he started his Ridpath career, Naccarato today is the hotel general manager. He is living proof the old American virtues of hard work and persistence can still take a person to the top.
I was invited to the Ridpath the other day to help observe the hotel’s $3.5 million makeover. Rebuilt after a 1950 fire, the Ridpath lately was looking shabby and losing money.
The owners, WestCoast Hotels, had a tough choice: sell or improve their asset. That they chose the latter tactic says much about WestCoast’s faith in the future of downtown Spokane.
The beautification project is impressive. The hotel’s enlarged lobby shows off granite floors and marble countertops. The 344 rooms have been refurbished.
“If Elvis were alive I think he’d stay here again,” says Matthew Murphy, a WestCoast vice president.
He’d probably want his old room, 1201. That, Naccarato points out during a tour, was where the King and his Memphis Mafia bodyguards lived the high life for a couple of days in Spokane.
This was no Heartbreak Hotel. Elvis chose the Ridpath when he played Albi Stadium in 1957. In 1973, his entourage took up three entire floors.
Days before the King performed two sellout Coliseum concerts, his legendary manager, Col. Parker, came to Spokane. He ordered all windows on the three floors painted black. The night owl star apparently wasn’t keen on sunlight.
Naccarato says Elvis packed one room near 1201 with enough pistols and machine guns to arm a Third World revolution.
Elvis dined on lobster tails brought to his room after midnight. When he ran out of toothpaste, he called for Naccarato to bring him a tube.
His bodyguards “were drunker than hell,” recalls the former bellman. “Elvis was in the bathroom. I gave him the toothpaste and he handed me a tip.”
In the hall, Naccarato whistled at what the rocker had pressed into his palm: A $100 bill.
Naccarato has choice Ridpath memories. During one of his many job incarnations, he worked the top-floor restaurant known as the Ridpath Roof.
Naccarato remembers two regulars who tipped him $50 per visit for total privacy. Their food was all brought at once. Their corner booth was sealed off with a heavy curtain. About an hour after they arrived, a guy with camera equipment would go into the booth with them. “I have no idea what went on there,” says Naccarato.
Thank gawd these Ridpath walls can’t talk.
It’s better not to know what Elvis did with the mystery woman he beckoned to his boudoir. Or the embarrassing thing that happened on my honeymoon.
The morning after, a witless maid blundered into our burnin’ love nest without knocking. Let’s just say she caught my bride and me in a rather awkward state of in flagrante delicto.
For once in my adult life, I couldn’t think of any snappy rejoinders.
As the maid stood and gawked for what seemed like a month, it was all I could do to grab the purple bedspread and keep my rejoinders covered.