The extensive ground floor entry of the iconic new hotel was coldly industrial with cool beige marble, stark walls, great slices of triangular glass and massive steel escalators placed in perfect geometric balance. Far down the corridor were immense double doors that had been wedged open with two enormous modern floral bouquets on tall shiny black pedestals. Faye couldn’t help but gawk at the amazing modernistic spectacle of the ballroom. Large spherical chandeliers with hundreds of narrow crystal arms shooting out in all directions reminded Faye of something you would expect to see in a planetarium. Her first impression of the supposedly luxurious Hyatt Regency Number 5 Embarcadero was one of quiet disappointment. But within the next few minutes she would realize the brilliance of this carefully calculated ruse. It served as the perfect foil for what was to come.
Michael wanted her first impression of the Main Lobby to be nothing less than overwhelming, dramatic and unforgettable. Faye stepped onto the wide vibrating rubberized stair that appeared before her. Michael followed one step below. She could feel Michael looking at her. As they slowly and rhythmically moved upwards, he gently tapped her on the shoulder,
“Step off at the next floor. Stop and close your eyes. Don’t peek! Don’t open your eyes until I tell you. No cheating! Promise me. Scout’s Honor!”
“Okay, Scout’s Honor!”
Michael had a nice voice. Resonant. Pleasant. Full of energy. Faye was startled by how quickly he spoke. During the ride into San Francisco, she had to pay close attention and concentrate in order to understand the rapid-fire speed of his speech. It wasn’t that he was nervous. Michael just seemed to have so much to say that he couldn’t get it out fast enough. Faye found this flattering. Nothing worse than awkward or uncomfortable silence between two people.
Faye stepped off the final escalator, took a few steps away from the main platform and waited for Michael. He was right behind her and instructed, “Now, close your eyes. Don’t open them until I tell you.” Devilishly he added, “You can trust me.” She rolled her eyes dramatically before closing them. Michael briskly, in a business-like manner, took her left hand in his, “OK. Let’s go. No peeking!”
Both of their hands were quite warm. Faye realized that she felt a great sense of anticipation and deep comfort. His touch felt strong and safe. For some reason Faye began counting the steps they were taking - 25, 26, 27.
Michael stopped abruptly. A vivid symphony of sound played all around them. People talking. Laughter. Glasses clinking. Big band music fusing with a jazz tune. The ‘ding-ding-ding’ of what sounded to be multiple elevator bells ringing on several floors at the same time. Foreign languages. The surprised gasps of delight. Michael’s voice was full of the promise for a glorious surprise, “Are you ready? Open your eyes.”
Faye was struck dumb, absolutely speechless. Her eyes were seeing but her brain wasn’t able to process it all simultaneously. The images magnificent. She realized they were standing in a vast open atrium, reaching well above one hundred feet tall. Faye finally found her voice, “I’ve never seen anything like this! It’s amazing! Tell me all you know.”
“Well, the architect was John Portman. My Dad and Grandfather’s company did all of the painting, wall covering and specialty finishes in the entire building. I worked here myself. It’s twenty stories tall and there are eight hundred rooms. The hallways to each room face the atrium. See the hanging plants cascading down from floor to floor? These serve as the balcony barriers. You can stand outside the door to your room and look over the plants, down into the lobby. In order to paint the ceilings above the atrium, we had to construct the scaffolding from balcony to balcony. We were working at least seventeen stories above the lobby floor. Like tight-rope walkers in the circus, except we had planks instead of wire.”
In full tour guide mode Michael continued, “That gargantuan metal sculpture over there is called Eclipse. I don’t know why. The sculptor was Charles O. Perry. The giant geodesic sphere soars to forty feet tall. Perry constructed it of curved metal tubing joined together in pentagons and supported by three massive steel legs. I was told there are over 1400 pieces! The sphere actually sits on an indoor waterway and reflective pool. Let’s walk over for a closer look.”
Faye's creative sensibilities were turning delighted somersaults in her heart, “Wow! I’ve never seen anything like this before. Unbelievable! Look at those glass elevators in the shape of capsules. What a view of the lobby as you travel to the top floor! Absolute vertigo! This is better than Disneyland!”
If you are ever in San Francisco, don't miss a frosty beverage at the Equinox; the revolving bar atop the Hyatt Regency has one of the best views of the City and the Bay.