Visitors have reservations
about Houston hotels
By Carol Bartholdi
Mary Spottswood Pou of Washington, D.C, arrived in Houston Thursday,
with a confirmed reservation at the Sheraton Inn. She was unable to wrest even a
broom closet from the hotel that night
however, and was not the only person
whose plans were upset.
Thousands of women, and somewhat
fewer men, descended on mid-town Houston on Thursday and Friday to attend the
International Women's Conference. Approximately 1,500 members of the media
were among those arriving. Despite rumors
of impending confrontations between pro-
ERA and anti-ERA groups, the biggest
news has been the problem trying to procure a hotel room.
People waited for six hours for a
room at the Sheraton on Friday, and lines
four persons wide looped around the lobby
of the Hyatt Regency, blocking doors and
fencing in mounds of luggage.
Horror stories abounded. Six members of the District of Columbia delegation
said they were denied rooms at the Sheraton-Houston Thursday night, despite the
fact that they held confirmed reservations.
According to the women, hotel officials
informed them that members of the National Building Materials Association had
extended their convention one more day
and were still occupying the women's
Sheraton officials sent the women
to another hotel, the Mitchell Inn-ap-
proximately 14 miles from downtown. According to the women, the hotel was "in
terrible condition." The women drove
around the city until early Friday morning,
finally finding rooms at the Holiday
A reporter from the New Women's
Times of Rochester, N.Y., told Breakthrough that a woman from Minnesota had
said her delegation arrived at the Hyatt
Regency at 3 a.m. on Friday and waited
until 8 a.m. to be given their rooms. While
talking with employees of the hotel, they
learned that a "Mr. Smith" had called the
hotel last week and cancelled the reservations for the entire Minnesota delegation.
Black activist Flo Kennedy had reserved a room at the Whitehall Hotel for
Thursday night. She arrived at 4 a.m. and
had to sleep on the floor of the lobby
One of the worst stories concerned
the New York delegation. The chairperson
and vice-chairperson arrived on Tuesday
in order to smooth out any problems for
the 88 women scheduled to arrive on
Thursday night. When the group did arrive
at 12:40 a.m. on Friday, however, they
were met at the airport by the two officers
who told them they could not be housed
in either the Sheraton or the Hyatt because
a convention had stayed on an extra day.
According to New York delegate
Sally Martin Fisher, the women finally
found rooms at the Astro Village hotel at
2 a.m. They had to pay for the rooms with
their own money. They doubled up, sleeping three to a room. According to Fisher,
they were told by managers of the hotel
that the charge was $15 per person, which
was referred to as the standard convention
It was difficult to discern the real
reasons for the confusion in housing. There
were rumors that a right-wing group that
opposed the convention had conspired to
disrupt the conference by reserving rooms
early in the week and then refusing to va
cate them on Thursday. Others said that
the hotels had overbooked, and others
blamed it on poor management by the
hotels or by the IWY housing organizers.
The explanations offered by the
management of the Sheraton and the Hyatt
The Hyatt Regency blamed the congestion on "human error," saying they had
accepted too many reservations on Thursday. They said that there were fewer than
100 rooms affected by this mistake. Jo Ann
Crapito, manager of public relations for
the Hyatt Regency, said the number of
reservations had been miscalculated on
Thursday. However, when two- and three-
hour lines still were filling the lobby on
Friday evening, no one was available to
explain the problem.
Crapito said that the hotel had tried
to reach all persons at the airport whose
reservations had been cancelled. She said
the Hyatt "would always pay for another
hotel" if they had to find one for someone.
Don Gaffney, manager of the Sheraton, said that there were many persons
who had not checked out of their rooms
on Friday after 1 p.m., although he would
not give a definite number. "There is no
way I can evict them," he said. "We've
tried to reach them and intimidate them.
However, we have no legal right to make
them leave their rooms."
Both Gaffney and Crapito said this
kind of confusion does happen between
conventions sometimes. However, many
delegates waiting in the lines disagreed.
One woman said she has attended "at least
a hundred" national conventions and had
never run into such housing problems
It is unfortunate for Houston that
some people are blaming the problems on
Author Kate Millett, speaking at the
ERA benefit, said that the housing situation was a disgrace and that if it were a
men's convention, such chaos would not
have been allowed to take place.
New Yorkers seemed to be particularly angry. Sue Cohen, vice-chair of the
New York delegation, said, "A lot of us
are saying 'Why Houston?' and then saying 'It will never be Houston again.' It
wouldn't happen anywhere else."
And Sally Martin Fisher said "People
complain about New York's lack of hospitality, but it's nothing compared to this.
It's been a lot worse here so far."
The anger of some of the New York
delegation was due to the long wait that
many of them had. At 9:30 a.m. on Friday, they signed in at the Hyatt Regency,
and at 3 p.m. they returned to stand in
line for a room number and a key. At 8
p.m., some of the New York delegates
were still waiting.
While some persons placed blame on
the situation in Houston, others waiting
in the Hyatt, blamed it on the hotel.
Seventy-eight delegates, alternates and observers from Massachusetts had been waiting for five hours at press time, and were
still sitting on the floor of the Hyatt lobby
waiting for their rooms. They vented their
frustration by singing "I'm tired and I want
to go home."
One of the Massachusetts delegates
suggested they boycott the Hyatt Regencies throughout the nation. A New
York delegate said she liked the idea and
was going back to her caucus to suggest
that they do the same.
DAILY BREAKTHROUGH NOVEMBER 19,1977 PAGE 1