Last week, my ex-wife left me a voice mail telling me that the Milner-Matz Hotel in Bluefield, West Virginia, had collapsed.
My first thought wasn't about how the Colonial Theater, which was next door and is now crushed in the rubble, had hosted many a celebrity of the '20s and '30s, or about how the once-swank Matz hotel I remembered only from its seedy '70s Milner-Matz denouement wouldn't be part of the Bluefield landscape any more.
Instead, it was "where will people commit suicide in Bluefield now?"
For me, the Milner-Matz was part of that weird early-to-mid-'70s vibe where it seemed like everything might fall apart. Vietnam, race riots, Patty Hearst, Baader Meinhof, Watergate, airplanes being hijacked to Cuba, "Duke/Funk" graffiti on a bathroom stall at Grant's Department Store, Wacky Packages, Jimmy Hoffa, WHIS' March of Dimes Telerama, Quincy, Greeks vs. Turks in Cyprus, women trying to shoot Gerald Ford, shirtless Mark Farner, The Arthur Smith Show...
...and people jumping off the roof of the Milner-Matz on what seemed like a weekly basis. Yes, that was the rich social tapestry of my early youth. Sometimes I think the oddness and uniqueness of those times gets lost in the shuffle between Woodstock and disco, but they're all vivid memories for me.
The Milner-Matz roof jumpers of the '70s seemed like a local manifestation of the symptoms plaguing the nation and, heck, the world. It doesn't surprise me that the Bluefield Daily Smellograph... er, Telegraph (sorry, old Welch Daily News loyalties showing there) doesn't mention the Milner-Matz suicides in their retrospective article, but if I'd written the piece, I would have at least worked in a passing mention.
Anyway, I'm going to relive some more childhood memories now and go be afraid of the cover of Hair of the Dog. Have a nice day!