When Elton John had staff lug an upright piano to center court, graduates of the week-long clinic at John Gardiner's Tennis Ranch probably suspected they wouldn't be treated to a traditional rendition of "Pomp and Circumstance." As his fellow tennis alumni sipped champagne, John performed "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting," perhaps to get competitive juices flowing for the afternoon's matches. "Elton was just crazy about tennis," Horst Falger says. "He spent lots of time here and gave us a wonderful surprise once with an impromptu concert. When he was later interviewed on the TV show 60 Minutes, he was wearing our logo on his jacket. Our phone rang off the hook for a week."
The flamboyant piano player had shown up soon after the resort opened to improve his tennis game. "I remember my dad calling me up and saying, 'There's this guy here named Elton John who wears really big glasses and wants to rent a casa, have you heard of him?'" Thomas Gardiner recalls with a laugh. The musician returned on many occasions, including 1975, when he brought an entourage including bandmates, a chef, and, one suspects, a few groupies. "The whole time he was staying at our resort, his personalized 'Elton Rocks the Westies' 707 jet was parked at Sky Harbor for everyone to gawk at," Gardiner recalls.
The English performer treated the staff wonderfully, lavished gifts on the tennis pros, and inadvertently changed the clubhouse's formal dress code. "Elton came in and our hostess offered him a jacket, telling him he needed to wear one in the dining room," former resort employee Dallas Borntrager says. "Elton became indignant and exclaimed, 'I paid $150 for this shirt!' but put it on. We relaxed the dress policy the next day unbeknownst to Elton, who wore a dark purple tuxedo to dinner."
The Lincoln Legacy
North Phoenix owes two of its hospitals, a street name, a resort, and much of its community spirit to one visionary man. ...
Dr. Kenneth Hall operated a Sunnyslope hospital with a primate zoo until unauthorized medical surgeries used to illegally finance a nearby bowling alley led to his downfall ...
‘Cue the Right Thing
Bill Johnson’s Big Apple might have looked redneck, but the western restaurant was a welcoming haven for all colors in Phoenix’s segregated ‘60s. ...
Now a world-class resort, John Gardiner's Tennis Ranch on Camelback Mountain courted the rich and famous during the sport's 1970s boom. ...
As Tempe celebrates its musical legacy, friends remember the troubled life of late Gin Blossoms guitarist Doug Hopkins. ...