Hurricane Katrina

Tucked away in the Hard Rock Casino attic are Katrina secrets

TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD 
 Hard Rock Casino was scheduled to open with Hurricane Katrina hit. The casino was rebuilt and a new hotel tower built later.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD Hard Rock Casino was scheduled to open with Hurricane Katrina hit. The casino was rebuilt and a new hotel tower built later. SUN HERALD

Hard Rock Casino Biloxi is completely restored from Hurricane Katrina, except for the attic, where Katrina memories are stored.

Here, with ducts stretched overhead and the walls painted a rich Hard Rock purple, are reminders of Katrina and the events that followed.

"You can't kill rock and roll," is a message written on one of the T-shirts shirts sent from Hard Rock properties worldwide in honor of Hard Rock Biloxi's eventual opening in 2007 -- two years rather than two days after the storm. The resort already had its VIP sneak peek and was nearly ready for its public debut when Katrina hit in August 2005, demolishing the casino barge and damaging much of the resort.

"Think about it. They built this twice with a totally different layout," said Ali Odom, advertising and public relations manager for Hard Rock Biloxi.

Hard Rock properties send T-shirts to all the new cafes and casinos for their openings. They did it twice for Biloxi.

The memories of Katrina don't fit in so well among the rock and roll memorabilia on display throughout the resort. A green and gold electric guitar that belonged to Deimebag Darrell of the band Pantera was found in the Mississippi Sound, still in its display case. Muddied from its encounter in the waves, the case was hung "as is" on the wall of Hard Rock Cafe and despite a plaque that tells its story, one customer chided the housekeeping department for not cleaning the display.

But up in the attic, where only employees generally have access, the imperfect reminders are treasures. The original sign from Vibe restaurant won't light. Rock star pictures fashioned with strips of newspapers and magazines hang on the wall, replaced by new versions in the public spaces. T-shirts are scattered throughout the attic with messages such as "Wishing you guys a fresh start" from Montreal.

"This attic is part of Hard Rock," said Odom, who added two messages on the signature board that stretches across one long wall of the attic. "Every new beginning comes from some other's beginnings end," is one of those messages, giving new meaning to the Semisonics song, "Closing Time."

Even Rita Gilligan, an original waiter from the first Hard Rock Cafe in London, left her mark in Sharpie on the wall when she visited Biloxi. "She is a brand icon," said Odom.

Another treasure the public never sees is back stage at Hard Rock Live, where drumsticks, pictures and VIP passes mix with messages left by Ted Nugent, Brett Michaels, Boz Scaggs, Kid Rock and dozens of other stars who performed there.

"This is a behind the scenes wall," Odom said. "It's the pieces left behind from these magnificent performers since 2007."

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