There’s not plenty of room at the Hotel California. But The Eagles sued the Mexican hotel, anyhow.
The rock band filed suit in federal court against the 11-room hotel in Baja, Mexico, this week for using their most famous song’s title without their permission. The litigation faces one major hurdle: the real Hotel California opened more than a quarter century before the imaginary one immortalized in song.
“Defendants lead U.S. consumers to believe that the Todos Santos Hotel is associated with the Eagles and, among other things, served as the inspiration for the lyrics in ‘Hotel California,’ which is false,” the lawsuit alleges.
While one can argue that the hotel did not inspire the song, one cannot argue that the song inspired the hotel. Its founder broke ground on the project in 1947, the birth year of Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmidt, Joe Walsh, Bernie Leadon, and Don Felder. It opened three years later. While the property called itself Hotel California at its origin, as dated pictures attest, its founder, a Chinese immigrant named Mr. Wong, attempted to assimilate by changing his name to Don Antonio Tabasco, which did not fool the locals, who collectively changed his name to “El Chino”—the Chinese man.
The hotel’s website further informs, contrary to the claims of the lawsuit, that though “the present owners of the hotel do not have any affiliation with the Eagles, nor do they promote any association, many visitors are mesmerized by the ‘coincidences’ between the lyrics of the hit song and the physicality of the hotel and its surroundings.”
These coincidences include guests arriving by traveling a “desert highway,” hearing mission bells chime daily, and smelling “colitas” occasionally in the air. Alas, no mirrors adorn the ceilings and you can leave whenever you want.
The Eagles famously provoked condemnation when they broke the $100 barrier for tickets at their reunion concerts in 1994. With the death of Glenn Frey earlier this year, the opportunities for massive moneymaking opportunities appear diminished. But litigation lottery generally pays well for the winners.
File under: Bring your alibis.