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Saying goodbye to the Regency

The Regency is gone, but the filmmakers will always have their crazy memories from the hotel

Rachel Coward

Regency Hotel in downtown Columbia on January 23, 2011.

March 1, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST

Live music, singing, dancing, bottles of liquor, cigarettes and a good time. That’s the best way to describe the scene in the lobby of the Regency Hotel after a day at the True/False Film Fest. Although the Regency has closed and The Broadway, a DoubleTree by Hilton hotel, is going in its place, the memories and stories from the Regency live on. Whether it was a crazy interview in the creepy basement or a hungover breakfast in the parking lot, filmmakers shared some of their most memorable (or in some cases, barely memorable) stories from their time in the infamous Regency Hotel.

Using the Regency as the designated hotel for True/False was an easy option, according to True/False co-conspirator Paul Sturtz. Not only was it close to festival venues, but also the hotel owner and staff were easy-going and allowed for all sorts of shenanigans to occur in the lobby. “It was sort of a well-loved and also ridiculed aspect of the festival because, in its later years, the Regency was considered to be either a free-wheeling, rock ‘n’ roll type hotel or just a flat-out dump,” says Sturtz.

The Broadway Hotel

The Regency Hotel shut down for good, but a new hotel is on its way. David Parmley, owner of Chesterfield Hotels, purchased the property that will be turned into The Broadway. Parmley says the new hotel is a 15-month project and should open summer 2013, featuring seven floors and 114 guest rooms, including six suites. Some of the fun amenities in the hotel will be an outdoor bar and lounge on the rooftop and an indoor lounge. True/False plans to use The Broadway as lodging for future festivals.

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Filmmakers, musicians and festival guests alike would congregate in that lobby after a long day of films. Sturtz says they would stay up until the earliest hours of the morning playing music, singing, smoking and passing bottles around in the lobby. “It’s sort of this anything-goes atmosphere,” Sturtz says. It’s that carefree vibe that True/False patrons will remember long after the Regency is gone.

LATE NIGHT STORIES

Lee Kern is a comedian who did a stand-up act at The Blue Note for True/False 2011. He recalls one particularly hazy, vodka-infused memory of being stopped by a man in the mirrored basement of the Regency. The man had seen Kern doing his comedy and wanted to interview him. Kern knew that this guy wasn’t all there. “I don’t just mean he was a loveable screwball character, I mean he was a sociopathic lunatic who I could imagine killing both his parents as they slept at night,” Kern said in an email. Essentially, their interview turned into a power struggle for who would control the conversation. Kern says the interviewer asked questions aggressively and made him feel threatened, but he felt he came out on top. The man was angry he couldn’t intimidate Kern, so he spat on the ground with disgust and frustration toward Kern, and finally, the bizarre interview was over.

Donna Kozloskie, who performed in a live show at True/False and starred in a documentary, also remembers that last night of the 2011 festival at the Regency. She recalls a crowd of directors and entertainers dancing and singing to tunes from a banjo late into the evening. Kozloskie and Kern capped off their weekend on Sunday morning eating breakfast in the parking lot of the Regency, a place “whose memories will live on long after the Astroturf and cigarette smell is torn down,” she wrote in an email.

Filmmaker Robert Greene contributed to the atmosphere of the Regency with his “VHS wrestling party” he held in his room. Last year, Greene’s pro-wrestling film played at True/False, so he watched many VHS tapes about wrestling, drank beer in his room and had filmmakers and friends join him. They even moved beds and furniture around, transforming the room into a wrestling ring where they wrestled with one another until the complaints, and the police came early in the morning.

Greene is a loyal fan of both True/False and the Regency, despite its run-down interior. He describes it as feeling “like you’re in a ’70s thriller or a cheap porn.” Greene says he can tell that the unidentifiable stains covering the rooms have stories behind them, and he always looked forward to contributing his own stories.

Greene loves coming to True/False with his filmmaker friends every year, but there’s already been in discussion about what this year’s festival will be like without the hotel. “True/False is bigger than the Regency,” Greene says, “but the Regency will definitely be missed.”

REMEMBERING THE REGENCY

As a tribute to the Regency, Sturtz has been working on a 15-minute film documentary that he calls Dear Valued Customers. Sturtz has a soft spot for the hotel because he met his wife in the infamous lobby of the Regency. “Between the connection to the festival and my own personal connection to it,” Sturtz says, “it felt like we needed to commemorate the end of the hotel in some way.”

His short documentary will be shown in the True/False filmmakers lounge, a new addition in the old Pasta Factory space downtown that is exclusively for festival guests. In attempts to recreate the cool vibe of the Regency lobby, Sturtz says the lounge will incorporate some items from the Regency rooms like curtains and beds.

When the new hotel is finally in place, Sturtz hopes it will have the same atmosphere as the old Regency, but knows it won’t quite be the same. “It’s going to be great, but it’s not going to have this anything-goes, just whatever-happens-happens atmosphere because it’ll be nice,” Sturtz says. “You’ll have to be a little more reverential I guess.” The glory days of the Regency lobby might be over, but no matter where the filmmakers stay for future festivals, plenty of new memories and stories will be made. Maybe this time without the wrestling matches and psychotic interviewers.

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