With the popularity of the Formula One-centered Drive To Survive on Netflix, other racing series have started renewing their presence in the television and streaming landscape. MotoGP is on the verge of releasing its own docuseries in partnership with Amazon Prime Video. A NASCAR docuseries covering the 2021 Cup Series Playoffs is slated to air on the USA Network. This new wave of content is interesting and exciting. This wave has also pushed previous brief moments that racing has appeared on reality TV into obscurity. Moments like when the hotel where NASCAR was founded was thrust into the national spotlight for a week
Hotel Impossible was a reality TV series that ran for eight seasons and over 100 episodes on the Travel Channel. The show fits the archetype of most business improvement programs, and its premise was similar to Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. Experienced hotelier and hospitality expert Anthony Melchiorri visited struggling independent hotels and attempted to reverse their fortunes. I should also mention that Gordon Ramsey concurrently hosted a similar show on Fox titled Hotel Hell.
The Streamline Hotel was featured on the first episode of the show’s fifth season. The Streamline is where the negotiations led by Bill France Sr. took place and concluded with the creation of NASCAR in 1947. Despite the establishment’s important place in racing history, the hotel fell into disrepair over the decades. During the episode, Melchiorri quoted Daytona’s police chief stating the Streamline was “a hive of nefarious activity.”
As Melchiorri toured the property, he surveyed rusted window air-conditioning units and crumbling ceilings. During the triage tour, the episode’s primary conflict was set up between Anthony Melchiorri and the hotel’s general manager Demetri Karagiannis. Karagiannis is a long-time friend of hotel owner Eddie Hennessy and has no hotel industry experience. While speaking with Karagiannis, the fire alarm goes off and the general manager has no idea how to shut off the alarm or communicate with the guests.
The conflict peaked after the production team filmed candid footage of Karagiannis on a profanity-filled tirade with the IT guy in the parking lot. He complained how the maintenance director and the housekeeper threw him under the bus in front of Melchiorri and said he wanted to punch the show’s host in the mouth. Karagiannis was visibly uncomfortable and angry during the tour, constantly clenching his jaw the entire time.
A big turning point of the episode was during an interlude away from the hotel at Daytona International Speedway. Admittedly, I laughed out loud when Melchiorri called NASCAR “one of the best-run organizations in the world” circa 2014. At the track, Melchiorri and Hennessy spoke with the then-track president Joie Chitwood III. When asked, Chitwood stated that it’s never okay for a business leader to lose control, a pointed reference to the earlier incident with Karagiannis.
The episode quickly dashed to its climax. The mock-up of a renovated hotel room is completed. Hennessy told the staff that they will be out of work during the 30-day renovation, which they are all strangely excited to hear. Hennessy made the episode’s big decision and gave himself the general manager role but kept Karagiannis on as his assistant. The episode ended on a heartfelt note as Melchiorri recommended that Hennessy name the ground floor bar his late brother Olivier.
I wish I could say that things got better for the Streamline Hotel after Hotel Impossible visited. The good news is that the Streamline Hotel is still open. Though, the hotel probably hasn’t been as successful as Eddie Hennessy hoped. In 2019, he listed the hotel for auction online, hoping to sell the property for over $7 million. The bidding never reached that amount and he removed the listing. Hennessy had invested $6 million into the hotel during his time as its owner. He told the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “It stopped at $6.9 million. That’s a very solid number, a very good number, but we’re not ready yet to let it go.”