Many large high end hotels today do offer some nighttime entertainment, and your seedier roach motels generally have a bar nearby. But, back then even your local inauspicious Holiday Inn offered the vocal stylings of lounge singers, comedy acts and organ maestros.
The back cover of the Ken Demko LP shown below reads "The Lamplighter Inn is ideally located six miles southwest of Cleveland-Hopkins airport. Tuesdays through Saturdays the organ entertains listeners with nostalgic selections performed by leading pipe organists. We invite you to rustic Olmstead Township to enjoy our fine food, good drinks, and an evening of entertaining pleasure." (source: Bizarre Records)
Old records do a wonderful job of bringing to light the forgotten stars of the lounge era. After hotels phased out the lounges, these performers faded further into obscurity... their picture on an album cover is a sort of fossil of a bygone era. Maybe they never became big names performing at The Sands, but in their own little corner of the Ramada or Holiday Inn, they were kings.
By the late seventies, they were being mocked by Bill Murray on SNL. Murray's character, Nick, wore leisure suits that matched the wallpaper and murdered the Star Wars theme. He had the smarmy mannerisms of the typical lounge act down pat. Andy Kaufman was known to poke fun at them as well.
By the eighties, the lounges were renovated to fitness or gaming rooms. The lights had been cut off and the curtains closed on nearly all the hotel lounges in the US. Perhaps, it was for the best... maybe I'm just glamorizing the hotel lounge. Most of the people I've talked to about it remember them as being smoke filled, dark and depressing. I guess it's a matter of taste.
So, what's the take home message from this post? Next time you're stuck in a hotel room with nothing to do, and the only perk is the continental breakfast, remember that once upon a time...