ColORLANDO Featuring Thomas Thorspecken
Sonesta Hotel (near Lake Ivanhoe and I-4)
September 23, 2010
Orlando FL

Of all nights to not have a working camera, this was the worst. Thomas Thorspecken, Orlando’s most prolific ink and watercolor artist held a mural installation at the Sonesta Hotel on Lake Ivanhoe, right next to the sadly neglected art deco WDBO building. While the WDBO building is growing an urban jungle on its roof, the 1990 era Sonesta tower is renovated and sparkling. The building began life as a Radisson, went through a few marquees over the years, but remains an elegant lodging option in today’s highly volatile hotel market. The Sonesta hopes to become the local Arty Hotel, and they are off to a good start. Besides housing the Global Peace Film Festival artists, it’s celebrating its new art work with one of the poshest events I’ve attended in Orlando.

The party opens with free parking, a distinct treat in downtown Orlando’s auto-hostile environment. A golf cart circulated in the garage offering rides to the front door, but I opted for the redneck Stairmaster and hiked down the fire exit. In the lobby the hotel manger and a group of factotii in their best ironed shirts greeted the guests and pointed out the bar and other features as Thomas Thorspecken directed the painting of his mural on a 6 by 20 piece of canvas. The ink outlines were preprinted, and well dressed guests juggled paintbrushes and wine glasses and colored inside his lines. The lobby was crowed, but up a flight the next whiskey bar was open, and had no line. Time to grab a drink and explore the place with the handy map someone pressed on me.

The official reason for tonight is some fund raising for the Downtown Arts District, an oddly shaped area that lassoes Mad Cow Theater and a number of art galleries. Raffle tickets for a three night cruise on the Nile we on sale by a Nefertiti look alike, along with a silent auction of art and vacation packages to various odd corners of America. To my left was a ball room, to my right the Seafood room. Here cheese cubes and crackers were a distraction, but on the far end they were serving mussels, octopus salad, and caviar. To get there, you had to walk past a mountain of champagne and a wicked barrage of bubbles. Apparently Lawrence Welk haunts this hotel.

Across the hall a DJ made people do silly things as the alcohol flowed more freely. Vodka and whipped cream shots competed with carving stations providing roast beast, pork, and turkey. There was even a vegetarian bar – this is a hotel that knows how to appeal to starving artists. More floors of entertainment awaited, so I took some back stairs up to the gaming floor. Here a very nice Gene Simmons offered to let me play Guitar Hero with him. Next door Elvis and Marylin offered ice cream sundaes, gummi bears, and peanut butter and banana sandwiches on real Wonder Bread. I didn’t actually see anyone eat one so I checked out the Mystery Massage room where disconnected arms in white gloves gave your back a work over. Later, on the 14th floor concierge level the view was great, the cookies crispy, and someone even offered to play chess with me. Russians – they’re everywhere these days.

Food, booze, art, and entertainment and no story arc, what more could a writer want? Downstairs the mural was nearly complete, and I put a few dollops of paint on rooftop air conditioners before climbing back up to my car. It appears the Sonesta is headed toward becoming the local arty hot spot and I’m hoping they’ll tuck a round table in the barroom and let writers hold court on a regular basis. Oh, booze boy! Another G&T, please. And light on the lime if you will. Too much lime upset the gin.

More Sonesta information is at

For more information on The Downtown Arts District,“>

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