A Room with a View

The Montagu Hotel, where the keyhole is more entertaining than the TV

Think you can't find a hotel room downtown for under $100 a night? Understandable, but wrong. Way wrong. In fact, you can have a bed to rest your weary head for a fraction of that -- a mere $26, after tax and "key rental."

I know what you're thinking: "I never knew!" But don't beat yourself up too badly over this one, friend. It's simply not your fault. The Sam Houston, the Magnolia and Hotel Icon all have beautiful, Flash-animated Web sites singing at top volume about their virtues and amenities. Your new favorite digs, sadly, do not. The historic Montagu Hotel (804 Fannin, at Rusk) lets its regal exterior do its advertising.

The Montagu won't be buying ad space in 002 anytime soon, and not just because that magazine is a steaming pile of corn-laced doo-doo. You won't read about it in a Frommer's guide to our fair city either. Hell, you can't even find it on Citysearch. Where the other hotels paint glorious pictures of their rooms with glossy, full-color brochures, the Montagu sits sadly on the sidelines like a bloated, one-eyed model (read: hooker) nobody wants to sketch.

Vortex of despair: What bodily fluids and remnants of 
sanity have gone down this drain?
Brian McManus
Vortex of despair: What bodily fluids and remnants of sanity have gone down this drain?
Management offers sanitation tips.
Management offers sanitation tips.

It got me wondering: What would a brochure for this decrepit old beast read like, anyway? If it were a destination for its guests, rather than a necessity, how would they sell it?

Like you, I'd never stayed in the hotel. I'd just picked up my pace whenever walking by. That is, until this week, when I checked in and opened myself to the sights, sounds and smells of the place. It was one creepy night, one not cut out for any sort of real, replenishing shut-eye.

During those exhausted, up-too-late hours, I did the hotel a favor and wrote a little something it can choose to use -- or not -- to drum up future business. Who knows? Maybe some convention-going suit will find himself in a fix one weekend. When all the other rooms downtown are booked, what can he do?

Well, for one, pick up the following brochure at the airport or the George R. Brown and make a reservation.

Whether you're planning a romantic evening or you just want to score some rock, treat yourself to a night at the Montagu. As downtown Houston's longest-standing hotel for the strung-out, downtrodden and downright insane, we know you expect a lot from us. We deliver.

The Rooms

Our opulent interiors offer a haven of sensory delights for the traveler, the tired office worker or the just plain drunk. Worn green carpet supplies a lush color contrast to our faded, spotted tobacco-white walls, which feature brown trim around the doors and floorboards.

Your window looks out upon the bustling downtown streets, provided your curtains, thick with dust, are operational. Chances are, they aren't.

Take off your shoes and kick back on our concrete-hard beds. You'll find the springs are just minutes from busting through the mattress, titillating your skin and keeping you up all night.

Goose-down comforters? Fuck no. But we do offer the best in Grandmother's mothball-soaked linens. The smell -- a potent mixture of industrial cleaner and bacon fat -- will linger in your nostrils for days.

The Restrooms

Described by some as "an ashtray with a sink," the bathroom is a surprise a minute. The burns on the edge of the tub will keep you enamored. Are they from cigarettes, or something else? It's fun to guess.

Extras Include

A roach will greet you at your door. Not the big outdoor, tree-living kind, either. These are certified filthy, cereal-box-living roaches we're talking about.

Yes, you are allowed to cook on a hot plate in your room. Beat that, Lancaster!

Room Service

Don't have it. In fact, there's not even a phone in your room. Sucker!

Wake-up Calls

What the fuck don't you get about No Phone in Your Room?

Meetings and Events

There are no meeting rooms. If you have visitors up to your room, you will be charged a $10 guest fee. This is non-negotiable. We don't care if she is your fiancée, who's just come for a minute to take a few photos of our cozy accommodations. There's no convincing us she's not a hooker. $10!

If, at any time, you should feel the need to venture up to our 12th floor and discover the door to the fire escape open, please, we beg you, resist the urge to walk out on it. We'll be watching you from behind the desk on our security camera, and we'll have to come up and ask you, "What are you looking for!?" in a menacing voice. It will scare you, and it's a hassle for us. Don't do it!

Oooooh, Hotel Icon Has a Wine Vault. Fancy!

At the Montagu, you're encouraged to bring in your own Boone's Farm or Thunderbird. Let's face it: Choosing to stay here sober is a bold move. Every time our centuries-old elevator comes to a deep, guttural foghorn stop just outside your door, you'll think someone is trying to break into your room. You'll be surprised how often it can freak you the fuck out in a one-night stay. Remain hammered. If you aren't able to procure liquor before your stay, we recommend you drink in our sister bar, Charlie's 804.

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