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The hotel where Sammy Davis Jr. once tried to fish off the 5th-floor balcony

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While researching a story on movie tourism as it relates to hotels for another website, I happened to get an email from a PR rep mentioning not the cinematic, but the musical, ties of a certain hotel in Madison, Wisconsin. Called the Edgewater, the hotel has been around for 65 years, and is about to reopen in August after a $100 million renovation and expansion. I thought the factoids she sent about the musicians who’ve stayed and played at the Edgewater over the years were pretty fun, so I thought I’d share them here.

• Artists like Shirley Manson and Kurt Cobain stayed at the hotel while recording at the nearby Smart Studios. Manson actually lived at the Edgewater for a year, even donning Green Bay Packers’ gear during the winter months.

• Cyndi Lauper wrote the song “Water’s Edge” while staying at the Edgewater. She was on tour with Cher at the time and was inspired to write the song while looking out at Lake Mendota from her room one afternoon.

• The Beach Boys requested a piano in their suite for Brian Wilson because he was also writing a song while staying there.

• Joan Baez once rehearsed by herself in the hotel’s lobby.

• Sammy Davis Jr. attempted to fish out of the window of his fifth-floor lakefront suite.

• During a stay at the hotel, Johnny Cash had two big semis parked out front in order to sequester him from adoring fans, but there was one problem—the trucks both said “The Johnny Cash Show” on the side.

• While dining at the hotel restaurant one night, Elton John sent a bottle of expensive champagne to Eleanor Pearson, the Edgewater’s piano player, upon hearing her play in an adjacent lounge. Later that evening he sat down next to her and performed “Your Song” and “Daniel.”

• Elvis Presley and his entourage took over two floors of the hotel in the mid-1970s and snatched a memento from the hotel—a wooden hanger that’s now in one of the closets of the Lisa Marie airplane on view at Graceland in Memphis.

Guests of the Edgewater—celebrity or otherwise—will have even more to appreciate when the hotel reopens this summer, as the property will include a brand new hotel tower complete with its own restaurant and additional meeting and event spaces, as well as a large outdoor plaza that will feature year-round programming and activities (including an outdoor ice rink come wintertime). The exterior of the two original buildings, built in the 1940s and 1970s, have also been refreshed.

For more information or to book a room at the Edgewater, which is within blocks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and just minutes from the state capitol and historic downtown square (and is not to be confused with the Edgewater hotel in Seattle), visit