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Led Zeppelin and the destruction of the Edgewater Hotel

@SamWKemp

Seattle’s Edgewater Hotel has something of a reputation for rock ‘n’ roll debauchery. The waterside residence was made famous in 1964 when The Beatles dropped by during their first tour of America. They would be just the first of countless rock bands to spend the night at the Edgewater. This long list includes the likes of The Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa, and Led Zeppelin, the latter of which committed all manner of controversial, depraved and chaotic acts within its walls.

Following The Beatles’ visit to Edgewater in 1964, the hotel became something of a site of pilgrimage for fans of the Fab Four. Management knew an opportunity when they saw one and quickly went about cutting the rug in room 272 into neat squares, which were later sold as souvenirs. Then, in 1969, Led Zeppelin rocked up for the first time. During their stay, they would partake in one of the most controversial stories from the annals of rock ‘n’ roll history: a tale which is known to many as the mudshark incident.

The Edgewater had long encouraged its residents to exploit the building’s waterside location by fishing from their windows. The Beatles did so in 1964, as did Led Zeppelin in 1969 – but for very different reasons. There are several varying versions of the story, but the one Richard Cole, Led Zeppelin’s road manager, tells is perhaps the most disturbing, describing how “a pretty young groupie with red hair was disrobed and tied to the bed. Led Zeppelin then proceeded to stuff pieces of shark into her vagina and rectum”.

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Whether or not the details of that story are entirely correct is up for debate. What is clear, however, is that the presence of a mudshark in Led Zeppelin’s room incited the fury of the hotel’s manager, who, on discovering the stinking body of the thing, promptly banned Led Zeppelin from the hotel and prohibited any further indoor fishing. But despite the ban, Led Zeppelin returned in 1977 under cover of darkness, managing to avoid the watchful eye of James Blum, the manager at the time. “Somehow Led Zeppelin reserved rooms at the Edgewater and we didn’t catch it,” Blum recalled. “There were no computer systems back then. And the band didn’t use their real names when booking rooms. So it got past us. Once the band’s entourage had checked in, we couldn’t just kick them out”.

The group promised Blum that they’d be on their best behaviour, but without any fishing rods to keep them entertained, Led Zeppelin and their road crew had to find other ways to pass the time. “Everyone in Led Zeppelin’s entourage seemed to be behaving, as far as I could tell,” Blum remembered. “Then, on the morning they were due to check out, I got a call from Celia, the hotel’s head housekeeper. I asked her, ‘Are the band’s hotel rooms still in good condition?’”.

The short answer is no. The previous night, Led Zeppelin had decided to unplug the TV sets from their five rooms and hurl them out of the window into Puget Sound, where they watched them sink into the water like victims of some naval disaster. “The televisions are missing, in all five rooms,” Celia reported, having checked each of the trashed rooms. “Stay there. I’m on my way,” Blum replied, grey-faced and levitating with fury.

Blum instructed the desk clerk to notify him the moment Led Zeppelin walked through the door. Then, as if by magic, Richard Cole sauntered across the hall and towards the desk. Starring Cole dead in the eye, Blum watched as the manager flicked through a thick, mint-green wad of cash before pushing it towards him. “Mr. Cole, I must also charge you for those television sets that were thrown out of your hotel room windows,” Blum said. “How many TVs did they toss out?” came Cole’s reply. “Five. At $500 per TV, we must charge you an additional $2,500.” Cool as anything, Cole reach into his inner jacket pocket and pulled out another 25 $100 bills and slid them towards Blume, chuckling to himself all the while.

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