Today we are going to take a break from Shane’s video game opus and shift gears to something much more serious; the many tragedies to have befallen upon the Gulf Coast.
|If it wasn’t so sad it would almost be pretty… and there is nothing funny about it.|
In 2005 Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the Gulf coast devastating the region, and then 5 years later BP decided to dump a couple hundred million gallons of crude into its previously pristine waters. Lives and businesses were destroyed; even regional parks have been forced to close and life if far from being back to normal. What’s next? Will something truly tragic like a Universal theme park come it’s way?
|Even Disney will turn down some sponsors… maybe.|
However these are not the first disasters to strike the Gulf Coast. In fact one happened a number of years ago that completely wiped the Gulf Coast off the map, unceremoniously eliminated… gone forever. Of course I am talking about the once exclusive Gulf Coast Room restaurant housed within the Contemporary Resort (this is a Disney blog after all).
|Two remain, two gone forever.|
|If its got lobster, cream, liquor and fire the Gulf Coast Room has it.
(From 1970’s Disney Publicity)
|This completely natural, obviously candid and un-staged photo
shows Carlos making two Sears catalog models very
uncomfortable. Note the single rose… keep it classy baby.
Although The Gulf Coast Room was the fanciest and most expensive restaurant at the hotel (or the entire resort save for the Empress Room) it was also a last minute stopgap measure to address the high end dining and business market.
|Frozen treats, hot oil, canned fruit and flowers…
Natural partners if ever there were.
(from Disney News Fall 1978)
Before heading upstairs to the “Top of the World” lounge to catch a performance by Mel Torme or Vicki Lawrence patrons could relax in the dark, shag carpeted, windowless chambers of the Gulf Coast Room while partaking in good food and drink.
|Yea, not really that good, but man… I loved pouring through them as a kid.|
Gulf Coast Room – One of the most elegant of Walt Disney World’s continental restaurants, with a subdued, relaxed atmosphere that seems worlds away from the bustling Grand Canyon Concourse and the congestion of the elevator lobbies. Roast lamb chops Orloff, beef meunière, seafood brochette, and veal piccata are specialties of the house. There are delicious flambéed coffees for après. Carlos, the strolling guitarist, plays just about any song a guest may request. Children who don’t delight in the leisurely pace of the service can be dispatched to the Fiesta Fun Center Snack Bar. Jackets are required. Reservations are suggested.
Sure, why bother dining with your kids while on a once in a lifetime family trip to the vacation kingdom of the world. Screw ‘em… dispatch little Suzy and Jr. to the arcade and order up another cognac and maybe a fine cigar. You’re living the high life here and no rug rat is going to stand in your way!
|A single pink rose, fancy gold script: Tres’ Elegante.|
As you can see the menu was indeed heavy on cream and oddly enough, fire. They really liked to set things ablaze in the Gulf Coast Room… Coffees… yup, light those babies up. Flambéed steak Diane… check… cigarettes? A-OK if you are in the smoking section (ornately embossed matches available on all tables) and then there was the fried ice cream. While technically not on fire if you take frozen milk and sugar (i.e.: ice cream) and deep-fry the sucker it is close enough… and crazy, and crazy good, but mostly just crazy. It is indicative of the days when Walt Disney World relished in uniqueness and individual experiences. You could not get fried ice cream at the Magic Kingdom, or in any of the EPCOT World Showcase pavilions or anywhere else on property for that matter (except for the Trophy Room at the Golf Resort which was sort of a Gulf Coast Room cousin… plus who the heck went to the Golf Resort anyway?). If you wanted semi frozen Haagen Daz enrobed in an oily yet somehow still crispy fried skin and served on a half of a canned peach in an old school Champagne glass… well your choices were wonderfully limited. In many ways the Gulf Coast Room and it’s style were indicative of Disney at this time… a little out of step with the times, a little square, and in many ways trying too hard to please, and yet somehow it’s naiveté and innocence worked to create a special and individual experience.
|Not a good night for Carlos|
The Gulf Coast Room continued to serve its country club-like fare to dwindling crowds throughout the mid 80’s. By 1986 the Eisner regime had dug deeply enough to discover the oddly placed restaurant and its days were numbered. The Gulf Coast Room quietly closed in May of 1988 taking with it it’s retro frozen in time menu and serving style as well as a unique bit of Disney history. Shortly thereafter the new Grand Floridian Resort, the new flagship hotel of Walt Disney World, opened with many new and “improved” fine dining options.
|Today’s fancy wavy ceiling leads to what once was
a dark hidden away gem… plus they had a guitar and lots
of things on fire.