Greater Tulsa Reporter
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth of a five-part series investigating the demise and possible future of the Camelot Hotel. Once one of the most popular gathering places in Tulsa’s history, and the host one time to President Richard Nixon, the building has become an eyesore and health menace.
On August 29, 2002, the Washington Post reported that The Global Country of World Peace issued bonds which, according to information provided by Maharishi, the owner of the Camelot in Tulsa, will pay 6 to 7 percent. He has enthusiastically encouraged investors to “Create world peace – and make money!”
In addition to founding his own country and developing its own currency, the Maharishi empire has been active and fairly successful in reaching out to our nation’s schools. In a November 13, 2004 article, AP writer Patrick Condon writes that officials from The Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment, a 300 student, private K-12 academy located in Fairfield, Iowa, have reported “all their children are above average.” The secret, they claim, is Transcendental Meditation. Advocates for TM are enthusiastic about spreading TM’s success to other schools and have appeared at public schools in New York, California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and other places.
University of South Carolina sociologist Barry Markovsky, who researches social networks, has referred to TM as a “stealth religion” and questioned the benefits of exposing students to it. Maharishi adherents emphasize that the movement is not a religion. They are quoted in a Kansas City Star September 27, 1999 article on this subject: “It is a mental and spiritual exercise that allows the human mind to come closer to its full potential.”
The TM programs advocate, Bob Roth, spokesman for the Consciousness-Based Education Association is quoted in Condon’s article as saying, “You have 10 million kids on antidepressants, one in five black kids with hypertension and America not leading the world in test scores. Transcendental Meditation is not just a way to reduce stress, it’s a way to prepare a student to learn and do well.” Despite questions that have been raised about Maharishi schools’ accreditation status, school officials have pointed out that their students have scored in the 99th percentile on standardized tests for the last 10 years, 95% of their students go on to college and that they graduate 10 times the national average of National Merit Scholars.
The TM program for students has already been adapted into the curriculum at public schools in Detroit and Washington. George Rutherford, principal of the Fletcher-Johnson Learning Center in Washington and TM practitioner himself introduced TM into his school in 1994 and informed Condon that, thanks to TM, “Johnson has become a safe haven.” Public charter school Nataki Taliba Schoolhouse in Detroit teaches its students TM and the cost is covered by private grants and corporate donations from companies such as Daimler-Chrysler and General Motors. The private funding is helpful because it costs an average of $625 per student per year to bring TM into the curriculum.
Despite the educational successes claimed by officials at Maharishi educational institutions, concerns have been raised by some about issues of violence and drug abuse. The IowaChannel.com reported on March 4, 2004 that Maharishi University of Management (MUM) student Shuvender Sim, 24, of Lancaster PA, was charged with first-degree murder and assault with intent to commit serious injury after the stabbing death of fellow classmate Levi Butler, 19, of LaQuinta Calif. The attack occurred in front of dozens of students in the campus dining hall. Sim was also charged with a stabbing attack that occurred earlier in the day when he allegedly stabbed a classmate in the cheek with a ballpoint pen during a class called Teaching for Enlightenment. School officials intervened after this incident and said they had “handled the problem” and reminded officials the MUM was a place of peace and enlightenment. No one could determine what led to the assaults. Sim was arrested and held on a $1 million dollar bond.
According to the report, Sim, a diagnosed schizophrenic, had been off his medication for months when he stabbed the two students. According to a June 8, 2005 report in the Des Moines Register, “Prosecutors, and defense attorneys for Sim say that he should be found not guilty of first degree murder because he was insane at the time of the incident.”
The confiscation of drug paraphernalia at MUM in April 2004 raised more eyebrows among officials. Officers were called to the University when a campus security guard found an “indoor marijuana growing operation” in a student’s room.
The equipment included grow lights, fans, tubing, dirt, planting pot and seeds. 195.5 grams of marijuana were also seized. The student, Robert Paul Anibal, 52, was arrested and charged with manufacturing marijuana within 1,000 feet of an elementary school; possession of marijuana with intent to deliver within 1,000 feet of an elementary school; failure to affix a drug tax stamp; and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Over the years, Maharishi’s movement has been plagued by other legal problems. In a 1987 case a U.S. District court in Washington D.C. ordered two TM organizations to pay $137,890 to Robert Kropinski. Kropinski charged that the organizations falsely promised that he would learn to fly. He contended that all he learned was to “hop with the legs folded in the lotus position.” Kropinski was not awarded the $9 million he sought in punitive damages for psychological and emotional devastation.
The Dutch news service NOS Teletekst reported on February 15, 2003 that the FND labor union filed a lawsuit against the “spiritual movement” of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The suit, brought by three ex-employees from India, claimed that they were owed 100,000 gilders ($55,410.85) for work they had done for three years for the TM movement. They alleged that they worked seven days a week, were never given vacation, and hardly any salary.
Some ex-TMs have been particularly outspoken about psychological and emotional abuse, brainwashing and manipulation that they were exposed to while members of the TM movement. There have also been allegations reported by former TM members of psychological, emotional and sexual abuse of children.
Despite the critical attention and lawsuits, TM followers and citizens of The Global Country of World Peace are a dedicated, serious and very active group. Even though Maharishi was quoted in a 2002 Chicago Sun-Times article as saying, “I have decided to let the governments do manmade law, but I have knowledge of natural law, God-made law.” Maharishi and his TM movement are serious about achieving his plan for world peace.
Anyone interested in keeping up to date with the developments of The Global Country of World Peace and the furtherance of its agenda can tune in to a press conference every Thursday from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. India time, 11:30 a.m. in Europe and 6:30 p.m. in Japan. The weekly press conference is held live over the Maharishi Channel and via Internet at the same time, with the opportunity to ask questions from Maharishi via telephone or instant messaging. The Global Country of World Peace website indicates that “another press conference will be held at 11 a.m. East Coast Time every Wednesday, as well.” (10 a.m. for interested Tulsans.)
According to the information taken directly from www.globalcountry.org, “Maharishi will provide the highlights of Vedic administration for bringing problem-free prevention-oriented administration in every country, leading to world peace.
Participating in this one hour weekly conference will be the “most noted Physicist of the world,” Dr. John Hagelin, Minister of Science and Technology of the Global Country of World Peace, and Dr. Bevan Morris, Minister of Enlightenment, “most famous for his comments on the world events.”
Dr. Benjamin Feldman, Finance Minister of The Global Country of World Peace, a new star in the world economy, will also participate in this conference and, according to the Web site, “will present the program to bring a new world order of affluence and peace, creating a balanced world economy, taking the world economy out of the mouth of the dragon—capitalism, which is famous for causing for the wealthy the heart palpitations of an unstable economy, while squeezing the life of the poor.”
Additionally, in this global press conference the press will “listen to the interesting other side of the destructive angle projected by America, England, Germany and all the war monger nations of the world.”
Dismissing the negative publicity and what his organizations have referred to as “unsubstantiated claims” made by those who oppose the TM movement, Maharishi and his six million strong followers, according to www.globalcountry.org, “remain committed to establishing global world peace by unifying all nations in happiness, prosperity, invincibility, and perfect health, while supporting the rich diversity of our world family.”
Editor’s Note: This is the third of a multi-part series investigating the demise and possible future of the Camelot Hotel. Once one of the most popular gathering places in Tulsa’s history, and the host one time to President Richard Nixon, the building has become an eyesore and health menace.
The present owner of what was the Camelot Hotel is Maharishi Ayur-ved University, a school for teaching transcendental meditation and the teaching of the founder of TM, the Maharishi Mahesh Yoga.
The building or parts of the property may be turned into a “Peace Palace,” described on www.MaharishiPeacePalace.org, as “a beautiful modular building that is covered in white marble. The Peace Palace will include exhibition and lecture halls, offices, residential rooms and a dining hall.” According to a TM practitioner who recently relocated to Tulsa, “We will be building a Peace Palace on part of the land where The Camelot is located.”
Until the Peace Palace comes to fruition, a Maharishi Enlightenment Center will be opened at 5800 S. Lewis Ave., according to a Maharishi Ayur-ved spokeperson. The Center will teach TM, sell Maharishi Ayurveda herbal products (also available at www.mapi.com) and have a Maharishi Spa for Ladies, whose sister facility can be seen on www.theraj.com.
“Peace Palaces,” similar to the one planned for Tulsa, are an integral part of the Maharishi’s global philosophy.
According to the Peace Palace website, “Each Peace Palace will offer to everyone the knowledge and practical programs for peace and enlightenment, for a healthy, happy, more creative, more fulfilling and successful life through the Transcendental Meditation program. Its benefits in the fields of education, health, social behavior and world peace have been amply documented during the past half-century all over the world.”
The five to ten most prominent families of every city are invited to “join us in becoming founders of the Peace Palace.” Peace Palace construction in the USA is being undertaken by The Global Country of World Peace, a tax-exempt 501©(3) organization.
The Global Country of World Peace is a “virtual” country (not physical) and was established on October 7, 2000. It was created by Maharishi to “establish global world peace by unifying all nations in happiness, prosperity, invincibility, and perfect health, while supporting the rich diversity of our world family.” Its stated mission is to establish Heaven on Earth by raising the quality of life of every individual to complete fulfillment and affluence in enlightenment. It will establish a Global Administration through Natural Law by enlivening the nourishing evolutionary power of Natural Law in the life of every individual and in the collective consciousness of the whole world.
The Capital of The Global Country of World Peace is Maharishi Vedic City, IA, known simply as “Vedic City.”
Maharishi’s goal is to replace what he refers to as “damn democracy” with the peace inspiring politics of The Global Country of World Peace, according to their literature.
His thoughts concerning this issue were published in a TM Bulletin. His opinions are clear from some of his quotes: “Damn the democracy, which is based on the popular will, vote. It is not based on knowledge, it is based on number.
“The man-made constitution, that system of self rule called democracy. They say the Minister is in the cabinet, he has no time to meditate. What does he do in the cabinet? He does opposition.” “If your religion tells you to be a devil, then I would advise you to be a devil, but enjoy life, enjoy life. All those countries who are earning their livelihood by selling arms, Natural Law will take care of all that. Time is different now, they will not be able to save themselves from the fury about the sin they are committing.”
The same TM Bulletin offers Maharishi’s solution to society’s problems, “So, this is what we’ll do, it is the rise of unifying principles through education, this will motivate the creation of leaders in each country, of an ideal character and quality, not like the monsters or dragons of destruction who dominate in nations today.”
For those who aren’t familiar with Maharishi, www.tm.org offers a glimpse of his global achievements during the last 40 years. To list a few:
1957- founded the worldwide Spiritual Regeneration Movement.
1972- inaugurated his World Plan and created a new science, the Science of Consciousness.
1975- discovered the Constitution of the Universe.
1978- created the World Peace Project, sending teams of Yogic Flyers to the most troubled areas of the world, to calm the violence through TM.
1984- sent the first group of 7,000 Yogic Flyers to Fairfield, Iowa. (According to the website, scientific research on this assembly validated Maharishi’s prediction that when the square root of one percent of the world’s population practices the TM-Sidhi program, including Yogic Flying, together in one place, positive trends increase and negative tendencies decrease throughout the whole world.)
1988- formulated his Master Plan to Create Heaven on Earth for the reconstruction of the whole world, inner and outer.
1994- introduced programs for prevention in the fields of health and security creating a Prevention Wing of Yogic Flyers in the military of every country.
1998- The Maharishi Open University was founded offering Total Knowledge of Natural Law to everyone accessible via a network of eight satellites broadcasting to every country on earth.
2003- developed The Global Country of World Peace currency, the “raam.”
The “raam” is currently used in The Netherlands, the base of Maharishi’s empire, and in Vedic City, Iowa. It comes in denominations of one, five and 10. The exchange rate is one raam to ten USD, and one raam to ten Euros. More than 100 Dutch shops, some of them part of big department store chains, in 30 villages and cities have accepted the notes. Shopkeepers can exchange their raam notes at the Fortis Bank branch in Roermond. According to information provided by The Dutch Central Bank, it is keeping a close eye on the raam and allows the raam to be used as long as the notes are not used as legal tender and it stays within a closed-off circuit of users.
Next Issue: A deeper look into the teachings and plans of the Maharishi Mahesh Yoga.
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a multi-part series investigating the demise and possible future of the Camelot Hotel. Once one of the most popular gathering places in Tulsa’s history, and the host one time to President Richard Nixon, the building has become an eyesore and health menace.
Many national and local groups held their meetings and conventions at the Camelot Hotel in Tulsa from its founding in 1965 until the early 1990s. A now-defunct local group called Okon hosted annual science fiction conventions in Tulsa to raise money for charities. There were 15 Okon conventions, running from 1977 through 1992.
In 1988, Okon moved its convention from another Tulsa hotel to the Camelot.
According to the Okon information page on www.burningclam.com, “During the convention at the rapidly decaying Camelot Hotel in 1992, several room air conditioners exploded over the weekend, and many ‘congers’ refused to swim in the sickly-green swimming pool. Late Saturday night, someone set off a smoke bomb in one of the video rooms. Nine Tulsa Fire Department fire trucks responded to the alarm. The entire second floor was evacuated for several hours, and one person was treated on the scene for smoke inhalation. Immediately following closing ceremonies, lightning struck the roof of the Camelot, which soon closed down for good.”
The Tulsa Green Country Rotary Club began holding its weekly meetings at the Camelot in the mid-1980s, when the hotel was in decent condition. By the early 1990s, things had changed dramatically. The air conditioning in the building began to fail, as did the plumbing and food service. After a terrible Rotary luncheon meeting, four of the officers of the club visited the general manager of the hotel to complain about the poor quality food and other issues. The general manager replied in a Southern Asian accent, “I wouldn’t know about the food in this hotel. I refuse to eat it myself.” The Rotary Club moved the next week to the Trade Winds Central.
At this point, the story of the Camelot takes an intriguing, interesting turn.
The building, which was built by Ainslee Pauralt in 1965 and sold to Kinark several years later, was sold by the second owners in 1991 to a company called Lata Enterprises. Lata was foreclosed on, and the building changed hands several times until 1995, when the deed was transferred to the current owner, Maharishi Ayur-ved University, a school for teaching Transcendental Meditation and the teachings of the founder of TM, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
TM leapt onto the world stage in 1968 when the Beatles met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India. Their interest fueled the enthusiasm of many, including celebrities such as Shirley Maclaine, Laura Dern, Heather Graham, director David Lynch, as well as Mia Farrow, Donovan and the Rolling Stones, who spent time at Maharishi’s ashram in the late 1960s.
TM followers say that it brings the practitioner to a special state of consciousness often characterized as “enlightenment” or “bliss.” The method involves chanting a mantra, said to be unique and specially devised for the practitioner. One can purchase his or her own mantra from the Maharishi TM organization for several hundred dollars. There is much more to the TM story that will be dealt with later.
For now, let’s return to the issue at hand, the Camelot, which is not alone in its devastation.
Tulsa is not the only city where the Maharishi’s organization has purchased a property and allowed it to sit for years, only to rot and decay. In a November 2003 article in The Hartford Advocate, Chris Harris reports, “In 1994, the bearded popularizer of TM’s enigmatic and faceless Maharishi Vedic Development Corporation purchased the Clarion Hotel building on Constitution Plaza, and there, in full view of the bustle of I-91, the dilapidated edifice has sat—a vacant, untouched, neglected eyesore, and a billboard advertising Hartford’s urban ruin.”
Harris goes on to write, “There were plans to convert the hotel into one of his Maharishi Vedic Universities, where students would be schooled in the ways of transcendental meditation. But again, no action, and now, in 2003, the hotel lies in wait, its future uncertain.” According to Harris’ article, the Maharishi Vedic Development Corporation purchased the property for $1.5 million and in 1998, after years of decline, put it on the market for $14 million. As of 2003, it remained unsold, but was still on the market although the realtor would not discuss the asking price with Harris. The realtor did offer, though, that he had had several offers coming in from around the world.
Then there’s Dallas. Jeffrey Weiss, Dallas Morning News, reported in October 2002, that the Maharishi-owned “old Hilton hotel at Mockingbird Lane and North Central Expressway was going to be converted into a ‘holistic living and transcendental meditation center,’ The hotel is still there but the only trappings of TM are in the TM Center of Dallas on the fourth floor.”
Chicago is a bit more hopeful. David Roeder of the Chicago Sun Times, reported in March, 2005 that “there’s a plan to breathe new life into the landmark Blackstone Hotel at 636 S. Michigan.” In March, The Blackstone was still owned by the Maharishi. According to Roeder, “He tried to turn the building into a condo property posher than the Gold Coast. Without the Gold Coast location, he couldn’t sell any units.” Negotiations were underway to sell the property to Denver-based Sage Hospitality Group for $24 million. Sage, however, was looking to the city for a substantial subsidy for the project due to the need for a gut rehab which was estimated to cost $100 million. The broker declined to discuss the deal with Roeder.
In a recent conversation with Roeder, he disclosed that, although it has not officially closed, Maharishi has a contract and the sale will most likely go through. He did not know the actual selling price but did confirm that Sage Development had received a subsidy from the city to redevelop the property, believing it to be in the $20 million range.
Unfortunately, no such deal is in the offing yet for The Camelot. According to David Humphreys, the realtor handling the property, “We’ve had some interest but nothing concrete yet. It’s still on the market, priced at $3 million.” The assessed market value is $1.25 million.
Whether The Camelot is sold soon or not, there are plans underway for the property. Apparently the castle is going to be replaced by a Peace Palace.
Next Month: A look into the Mararishi’s organization and the possible future of the Camelot.
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a multi-part series investigating the demise of the Camelot Hotel. Once one of the most popular gathering places in Tulsa’s history, and the host at one time to President Richard Nixon, the building has become an eyesore and health menace. This series of articles looks at the history of the building and its possible future.
During the Kennedy administration in the early 60s, “Camelot Fever” swept the nation. It settled in Tulsa in 1965 at 4956 South Peoria with the construction of The Camelot Hotel. Originally called “The Camelot Inn,” the name was later changed to “The Camelot Hotel,” though it was always affectionately known simply as “The Camelot.”
Back then, it seems an eight-story, 330-room building built in the form of a pink castle, complete with turret, massive iron gates, moat, drawbridge and a swimming pool shaped like the top of a medieval spear was the epitome of luxury and class.
Ainsley Perault, a builder and promoter from San Francisco, who later moved to Tulsa, built the pink castle and oversaw its early reign of glory. Construction began in 1965 and took two years to complete. Prior to its opening, it had a large sign that ran atop of the building that said “Totally Electric.” But because of two electrical fires the sign was taken down, before the doors, or rather entry gates, were opened for business. It was sold in 1968 to the Tulsa-based Kinark Corporation for $68 million. At the time it was the largest real estate transaction in the history of Tulsa.
The Camelot was known in its early years as Tulsa’s hotspot–the “place to be.” It certainly was the place to be on Sundays after church. As Dean Sims, a very active public relations practitioner at the time remembers it, “The Sunday brunch at the Camelot restaurant was quite an event and drew between 200 and 300 people regularly.” Those who could not make it to the Camelot could watch the weekly television show, broadcast from the Camelot on a cable access channel featuring Tulsa’s local movers and shakers.
Sims reflects on the stream of famous guests whose presence graced the hotel over the years, “People today would be surprised to find out that President Richard Nixon stayed at the Camelot when he came to Tulsa in 1971 to dedicate the Kerr-McClellan navigation system. Lt. Governor George Nigh wouldn’t stay anywhere but the Camelot when he was in town and during the National Governor’s Convention held in Tulsa: Mike Wallace chose to stay there. A high-ranking member of the British Parliament even stayed at the Camelot when he visited Tulsa.” Apparently, the British gentleman was amused by the contradictory Robin Hood and King Arthur exhibits in the hotel.
The Camelot also drew plenty of high profile local events such as high school reunions and proms, civic club meetings and family reunions. It was also a popular destination for honeymoons and wedding receptions.
Many children considered the Camelot to be a real treat with its front area moat and drawbridge, and the swimming pool, which was centered in a courtyard in the middle of the U-shaped complex, surrounded by the many hotel rooms.
To many people, the Camelot is most remembered for the popular Red Lion nightclub. It was the home of the “in-crowd.” The lights were low and music played. Everyone mingled, enjoyed cocktails and reveled in the scene. Longtime Tulsa resident Tena Green remembers her days as a regular at the popular bar. “Young professionals, myself included, would often meet after work for a drink at the bar.” She chuckles, “I even had breakfast at the Camelot restaurant every Saturday morning with some of the members of the Tulsa Ski Club. It really was the place to be.” The phrase “the place to be” seems to reverberate the most in people’s minds when they reminisce about the once special hotel.
Those were the days. They’re not now. Now, and for years, what was the glorious Camelot Hotel has become a blight on the landscape of the fair city of Tulsa.
According to Assistant Fire Marshall Ron Fegaly, “A big concern with the Camelot is securing the building. It’s a fire hazard and unsecured. It’s dangerous. Transients are able to move in and occupy it. In the past they have started small fires. This presents a serious danger not only to them but also to our firefighters.” He adds, “Several years ago we contacted the owners and told them they would be required to secure the property. They’ve done this, but with out-of-town owners this always presents a concern.” The current owners of the Camelot list a Kentucky address with the assessor’s office.
A hurricane fence currently surrounds the property and the windows that aren’t boarded up are punctured by bullet holes. A police officer, patrolling the outside of the building, said that at one time vagrants and drug addicts hung out in the hotel, though he noted that now they do not, as there is full-time security.
The Camelot was condemned in 1996, and many people think that the building should be torn down. The building that was made nationally famous with its showing in the movie “Tex” has been deemed by the Tulsa City–County Health Department as a fire and health hazard. The City filed liens against the owners every year from 2000-2004 for cleanup and mowing. The owners paid all outstanding fees in February 2005.
David Gurthet, Inspections Supervisor, Inspections Division, Development Services, Tulsa Public Works Department, explains why the building has not been torn down. “The building has been condemned for habitation. City engineers conducted a thorough investigation of the building and determined that it is structurally sound. Although no one can occupy the building, it cannot be torn down by the city because structurally speaking it is not considered a hazard.
So, the Camelot remains standing as a sad monument to devastated real estate.
A grotesque parody of its former glory. A tragic leftover of remembrance of things past.
Better times. What happened to it? What brought it to its present dilapidated, ruined state? In researching this article I have discovered that, as Churchill would say, “it is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
Sometime during the mid-to-late 1970s the Camelot started to lose its regal appeal. New world-class hotels were built in Tulsa, attracting a fickle and interested public to more modern facilities. By the early 1980s, the oil business had crashed, cutting into the disposable income of many people. The once spectacular and lively social scene dwindled away. People became disenchanted. The era of Tulsa’s Camelot faded away.
The castle languished. The neglected interior, once considered sumptuous and glamorous, turned shoddy. It became more difficult to rent rooms. The swinging Red Lion bar and popular hotel restaurant had lost their appeal. The television show was cancelled. Eventually, by the mid-1980s, the Camelot was nothing more than a place for various groups to hold meetings and conferences.
Next Month: The Camelot has become a mysterious place, one possibly controlled by what some call a worldwide cult. An investigation into what may be the Camelot’s future will be highlighted in the Mid-August GTR Newspapers.