Midcoast residents with half a brain always depended on the luxury of the Samoset Resort in Rockport to get them through the long, cold winter. The Wednesday night Italian buffet for $10 was a cabin fever reliever, if you could stay away from those $9 glasses of wine.
Now the George Bush economy has even ruined that. The Samoset announced last week that the Breakwater Lounge would be closed for renovations and open only if someone famous like Steve Betts happened by. Marcel’s dining room will be open for Sunday brunch but not for dinner. Convention business will continue, uninterrupted.
Renovations at the Breakwater Lounge, which overlooks Penobscot Bay, the lighthouse and the ferry activity, could stir and awaken some grouchy ghosts.
I covered the area for three decades (gulp) and the endless parade of Samoset conventions and Fishermen’s Forums always concluded with a chocolate milk in the lounge — on the expense account, naturally.
Although the Samoset is a luxury resort now, it opened in the early 1970s during a period of wild inflation. They finally finished the place, but not the way they wanted it.
If you had a serious interview for the newspaper in those days, you would take them to the Samoset lounge. I was a huge fan of District Court Judge Paul McDonald, since he always was good copy. Like the time he fined a downtown miscreant five cents for throwing a Frisbee or a bottle cap across Main Street. “It was a five -cent crime,” he reasoned.
It was snowing outside — and inside. I was getting the fiery judge’s background when a blast of wind sent a few handfuls of snow around the window and onto the dining room table. I had to brush snow off my notebook.
The Samoset was always good for a story back then, as the hotel went from owner to owner, sometimes several times a year.
Blackie Langlais was a sensational Cushing artist who specialized in outsized, lamppost-tall wooden sculptures of anything from Richard Nixon to NFL linemen. One Samoset manager liked the Langlais oeuvre so much that he purchased several for the front lawn. That manager lasted about six months. The new guy hated the Langlais work and ordered them removed — by chain saw.
This caused, naturally, a furor when the story broke (by me) and awakened art lovers everywhere. Some of the sculpture was piled near the fireplace for burning.
Luckily, the Maine Press Association chose the Samoset for its annual convention that year. My personal hero, BDN reporter Davis Rawson, decided to be the volunteer bartender for the celebration. He mixed each drink in the Samoset lounge, you guessed it, with a toy chain saw.
The travails of the Samoset ended when Marcel Lacasse landed as the new manager. His expertise and personal warmth put the Samoset on an even keel that it enjoys today. He decided when he landed from Portland that the key to restoring the hotel image was the coverage by the Bangor Daily News and the Portland Press Herald.
Naturally, Larry Ouellette from the PPH and I could do no wrong. Only our thin journalistic ethic kept us from accepting all that Marcel offered, insisted.
One Christmas Eve, I was at the Samoset lounge waiting to meet Larry. Needless to say, we had nothing better to do. When Marcel, who bore a passing resemblance to Alfred Hitchcock, saw me sitting alone on Christmas Eve, the ultimate loser, he rushed over with tears in his eyes, offering me drinks and dinner, in his heavy French accent. I tried to explain that I was meeting Larry and we were off to some party or other. It took a while to calm the poor man down.
I might have accepted a holiday eggnog before I left. I cannot remember.
Now McDonald, Rawson and Langlais are all gone. Ouellette survives but is living in Texas, to get closer to George Bush, which is almost like being dead.
When they start those Samoset lounge renovations, I would bet the workers will hear strange murmurs and comments coming from the walls and floors. Some of them could be in a heavy, unmistakable French accent.
Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at firstname.lastname@example.org.