By AYN ROBBINS
CLASSIC TULSA: The Mayo Hotel, which opened in 1925, has been renovated by the Snyder family and is scheduled to officially reopen Dec. 3.
DANIEL C. CAMERON for GTR Newspapers
If you’re looking for the definition of “bon vivant,” save yourself the Google and just sign up for a tour of the new Mayo Hotel by unofficial resident ambassador, Rodney Pratz. He is the epitome of don’t-take-yourself-too-seriously elegance and style. He should be passing out cigars for his new baby, a loft at the iconic Mayo. It’s where the ghosts of Will Rogers, Babe Ruth, and Mae West may play as they surely enjoyed the much heralded amenities back then (c. 1925 – 1980) like ice-cold water faucets and ceiling fans.
These days the amenities include double entry doors, sleek wooden floors, granite counter-tops, and multi-fauceted shower heads that make you feel as refreshed as a parrot in the rain forest.
Pulling up in front of the hotel at 5th Street and Cheyenne Avenue, with its terra cotta and intricately detailed façade, I was reminded that some of my favorite ghosts might drop in now and then, too. After all, it is where my mother, once a Mayo Hotel switchboard operator, met my father, who was a guest and a city slicker from Kansas City.
Rodney greeted me in front of the hotel alongside two freshly-starched doormen wearing white shirts emblazoned with the unmistakable “M” insignia. Inside, a vision to behold: the elegant Mayo Hotel lobby, with luxurious crystal chandeliers, restored marble flooring, and a sweeping staircase leading to the mezzanine.
Our tour culminated in the lavishly-appointed Crystal Ballroom, aptly named for a pair of heavenly crystal chandeliers. Rodney put me in the middle of the darkened room and slowly turned on the “thousand points of light” or more, revealing painstakingly restored ornamental moldings and the stately ballroom. Acoustics were superb, so he joined me in the middle of the room for a duet. The Two Tenors we were not (we weren’t even Sonny and Cher). Makes no difference. The room is magical and within the cake-icing walls of the Crystal Ballroom, one certainly feels anything is possible.
Rodney’s apartment made me think of when I lived in Manhattan at the historic Ansonia Hotel, which was once home to the likes of famed conductor Arturo Toscanini and actress Angelina Jolie (it was also home to bank robber Willie Sutton, but that’s another story).
Rumors abound that a superstar performer had already christened the Mayo Hotel prior to its official grand opening by staying there before a concert at the Center. Rodney and management will neither confirm nor deny this rumor. (No sense perpetuating unfounded gossip, but her initials are Britney Spears.)
Of course, what makes a hotel a home is the heart of who lives there. Gracing a special place in Mr. Pratz’s home and life is a bronze sculpture of a boy reaching for a star. He created it himself as a prototype for the “Power to Dream Achiever Award” for honorees of the D.R.E.A.M. Institute he co-founded with Kristy Long. This all-volunteer non-profit organization provides scholarships to physically and learning challenged youth. (Log onto dreaminstitute.org to learn more.)
Rodney is multi-faceted and multi-talented. He has degrees in business both domestically and internationally. He is controller of a Tulsa company. He is an artist. He authored the book, “Amazing Achievers” (available at amazon.com), which has sold more than 100,000 copies. He has written a children’s book that will be published in 2010. In my book, he qualifies to wear the laurel of a Renaissance man.
Did I mention that Rodney turned 30 years old this year? What do you do for a second act? Well, I can assure you he won’t be resting on his laurels.
Rounding out his prolific profile is K.I.P.P. – Tulsa (Knowledge Is Power Program.) Mr. Pratz volunteers his time to teach an entrepreneurial class for eighth graders every other Saturday. Business leaders and professionals help students set up mock businesses. At the end of the course next year, the students will present their business ideas to a community board of directors. Go to www.kipptulsa.org to discover more about this group and to hear what Bill Gates has to say about moving our youth to move the world.
The Mayo Hotel will officially re-open its post-deco doors after nearly 30 years on Dec. 3. Look for the joie de vivre its rebirth brings to downtown Tulsa as the iconic sign lights up the sky like the HOLLYWOOD sign. And don’t forget to say “hello” to its unofficial ambassador, Rodney Pratz.
Ciao for now.