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Saturday, June 29, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Don Wright, Beatles' host at Edgewater

Seattle Times staff reporter

Don W. Wright, longtime owner and manager of the Edgewater hotel, was well-known for bringing major entertainment acts such as the Beatles to Seattle.

But to many people he was just "Dad Wright," said daughter Cathy Baker. "People would call and ask for 'Dad Wright.' I would think to myself, 'He's not your daddy — he's my daddy!' "

Mr. Wright died last Saturday (June 22) of colon cancer. He was 68.

Born and raised in New Mexico, Mr. Wright attended the University of New Mexico, studying political science, but left before graduating. He entered the hotel business in 1962, becoming manager and part owner of the financially struggling Edgewater. He established himself as a visionary in the hotel business, attracting major bands such as the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five and, most famously, the Beatles, to the hotel.

"Don was known to do things to get the old guard to move. He didn't have the sense of arrogance that other hotel people had at that time," said close friend John Limantzakis, who worked with Mr. Wright at the Edgewater from 1962 to 1973, starting as a waiter and eventually becoming general manager.

Mr. Wright showed no fear when he invited the Beatles to stay at the Edgewater in 1964. Other Seattle hotels had refused to accommodate the band, fearing damage by overwrought rock fans, who at the time had just caused thousands of dollars of damage at a San Francisco hotel. As a result, the band's Seattle appearance was in jeopardy. The Beatles "were coming, and everyone was afraid of them," said Mr. Wright's wife, Ann Wright. "Don heard about it and said, 'I'll take 'em!' "

To safely accommodate the band, Mr. Wright constructed a barricade of plywood and barbed wire in front of the hotel, on Pier 67. Everything went smoothly until it was time to transport the Beatles back to the Edgewater after their performance: Fans mobbed the limousine they thought would carry the band and crushed its top. An ambulance picked up the band and brought the group into the hotel through the service entrance.

In 1978, Mr. Wright left the hotel business and started his own insurance-marketing firm, using his dynamic speaking voice to train other insurance firms' employees. Mr. Wright was president of Western General Marketing, which had expanded to do business nationwide, at the time of his death.

Another passion of Mr. Wright was participating in the Freemasons. He was active in the Order of DeMolay, a worldwide fraternity that is usually associated with Masonic groups, during his youth in New Mexico and joined the Masons when he turned 21. He was master of Frank S. Land No. 313 and in the early 1980s served as the international grand master of the Order of DeMolay. During his tenure he started DeMolay in Brazil. Now that program has more than 50,000 members.

"He was very interested in young people and their opportunity to learn and grow," fellow Mason Bill Miller said.

Besides his wife and daughter Cathy, Mr. Wright is survived by daughter Debi McClay of Kent; and three grandchildren. A memorial service is planned at 4 p.m. tomorrow at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center, 1155 Broadway E., Seattle.

Donations in Mr. Wright's memory may be sent to the Washington DeMolay Foundation, P.O. Box 1145, Renton, WA 98057-1145.

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