Many national and local groups held their meetings and conventions at the Camelot Hotel in Tulsa from its founding in 1965 until the early 1990s. A now-defunct local group called Okon hosted annual science fiction conventions in Tulsa to raise money for charities. There were 15 Okon conventions, running from 1977 through 1992.
In 1988, Okon moved its convention from another Tulsa hotel to the Camelot.
According to the Okon information page on www.burningclam.com, “During the convention at the rapidly decaying Camelot Hotel in 1992, several room air conditioners exploded over the weekend, and many ‘congers’ refused to swim in the sickly-green swimming pool. Late Saturday night, someone set off a smoke bomb in one of the video rooms. Nine Tulsa Fire Department fire trucks responded to the alarm. The entire second floor was evacuated for several hours, and one person was treated on the scene for smoke inhalation. Immediately following closing ceremonies, lightning struck the roof of the Camelot, which soon closed down for good.”
The Tulsa Green Country Rotary Club began holding its weekly meetings at the Camelot in the mid-1980s, when the hotel was in decent condition. By the early 1990s, things had changed dramatically. The air conditioning in the building began to fail, as did the plumbing and food service. After a terrible Rotary luncheon meeting, four of the officers of the club visited the general manager of the hotel to complain about the poor quality food and other issues. The general manager replied in a Southern Asian accent, “I wouldn’t know about the food in this hotel. I refuse to eat it myself.” The Rotary Club moved the next week to the Trade Winds Central.
At this point, the story of the Camelot takes an intriguing, interesting turn.
The building, which was built by Ainslee Pauralt in 1965 and sold to Kinark several years later, was sold by the second owners in 1991 to a company called Lata Enterprises. Lata was foreclosed on, and the building changed hands several times until 1995, when the deed was transferred to the current owner, Maharishi Ayur-ved University, a school for teaching Transcendental Meditation and the teachings of the founder of TM, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
TM leapt onto the world stage in 1968 when the Beatles met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India. Their interest fueled the enthusiasm of many, including celebrities such as Shirley Maclaine, Laura Dern, Heather Graham, director David Lynch, as well as Mia Farrow, Donovan and the Rolling Stones, who spent time at Maharishi’s ashram in the late 1960s.
TM followers say that it brings the practitioner to a special state of consciousness often characterized as “enlightenment” or “bliss.” The method involves chanting a mantra, said to be unique and specially devised for the practitioner. One can purchase his or her own mantra from the Maharishi TM organization for several hundred dollars. There is much more to the TM story that will be dealt with later.
For now, let’s return to the issue at hand, the Camelot, which is not alone in its devastation.
Tulsa is not the only city where the Maharishi’s organization has purchased a property and allowed it to sit for years, only to rot and decay. In a November 2003 article in The Hartford Advocate, Chris Harris reports, “In 1994, the bearded popularizer of TM’s enigmatic and faceless Maharishi Vedic Development Corporation purchased the Clarion Hotel building on Constitution Plaza, and there, in full view of the bustle of I-91, the dilapidated edifice has sat—a vacant, untouched, neglected eyesore, and a billboard advertising Hartford’s urban ruin.”
Harris goes on to write, “There were plans to convert the hotel into one of his Maharishi Vedic Universities, where students would be schooled in the ways of transcendental meditation. But again, no action, and now, in 2003, the hotel lies in wait, its future uncertain.” According to Harris’ article, the Maharishi Vedic Development Corporation purchased the property for $1.5 million and in 1998, after years of decline, put it on the market for $14 million. As of 2003, it remained unsold, but was still on the market although the realtor would not discuss the asking price with Harris. The realtor did offer, though, that he had had several offers coming in from around the world.
Then there’s Dallas. Jeffrey Weiss, Dallas Morning News, reported in October 2002, that the Maharishi-owned “old Hilton hotel at Mockingbird Lane and North Central Expressway was going to be converted into a ‘holistic living and transcendental meditation center,’ The hotel is still there but the only trappings of TM are in the TM Center of Dallas on the fourth floor.”
Chicago is a bit more hopeful. David Roeder of the Chicago Sun Times, reported in March, 2005 that “there’s a plan to breathe new life into the landmark Blackstone Hotel at 636 S. Michigan.” In March, The Blackstone was still owned by the Maharishi. According to Roeder, “He tried to turn the building into a condo property posher than the Gold Coast. Without the Gold Coast location, he couldn’t sell any units.” Negotiations were underway to sell the property to Denver-based Sage Hospitality Group for $24 million. Sage, however, was looking to the city for a substantial subsidy for the project due to the need for a gut rehab which was estimated to cost $100 million. The broker declined to discuss the deal with Roeder.
In a recent conversation with Roeder, he disclosed that, although it has not officially closed, Maharishi has a contract and the sale will most likely go through. He did not know the actual selling price but did confirm that Sage Development had received a subsidy from the city to redevelop the property, believing it to be in the $20 million range.
Unfortunately, no such deal is in the offing yet for The Camelot. According to David Humphreys, the realtor handling the property, “We’ve had some interest but nothing concrete yet. It’s still on the market, priced at $3 million.” The assessed market value is $1.25 million.
Whether The Camelot is sold soon or not, there are plans underway for the property. Apparently the castle is going to be replaced by a Peace Palace.
Part 1Once Grand Camelot Hotel Had a Quick Demise
Part 3: A look into the Mararishi’s organization and the possible future of the Camelot.
Part 4: Man fails to fly sues Camelot owner: A deeper look into the teachings and plans of the Maharishi Mahesh Yoga.