Catching up with Denny Fitzpatrick: QB still running the show

The way Denny Fitzpatrick sees it, he's still a quarterback taking orders from his coach.

Only now his coach is Merv Griffin instead of Jim Owens, and his playing field is the Beverly Hilton Hotel instead of Husky Stadium.

"I just go out and run the plays he gives me," said Fitzpatrick, who played quarterback for UW from 1972-74 and is now the general manager of the Beverly Hilton Hotel, owned by Griffin.

"Everybody always wants to know how involved he is. He's very involved. But it's pretty much turned over to me to run the hotel."

Fitzpatrick, a native of Spokane who attended Gonzaga Prep High, split time with Chris Rowland at QB for much of the 1973 and '74 seasons — the final two of Owens' 18-year career — saving the best for last.

On an icy field at Joe Albi Stadium on Nov. 23, 1974, Fitzpatrick operated Owens' recently installed option attack to perfection, carrying 37 times for 249 yards, still the fifth-most in UW history and the most rushing yards by a quarterback in Pac-10 history as the Huskies beat WSU 24-17.

"It's amazing how many people still remember that game," Fitzpatrick said. "I remember a lot of other games. We were a mediocre team that year (finishing 5-6) but we beat Oregon soundly (66-0) and UCLA. That WSU game was just one of those days that everything clicked. The holes were there, and I guess I was reading the plays pretty good."

Fitzpatrick might have ended up being Don James' first quarterback at UW except he wasted a redshirt year in 1972 by playing in one midseason game.

Instead, after a brief tryout with the Seahawks in 1976, he got into the hotel business on a whim after getting an offer from UW booster Dave Evans to work as a cashier at the Olympic Hotel.

He's worked up the hotel ladder ever since, including a stint with the Pasadena Doubletree Hotel, which hosts one of the teams for the Rose Bowl every year. When Doubletree and Hilton merged a few years ago, he got an offer from Griffin to run the Beverly Hilton, which opened in 1955 and has gained a reputation as one of the glamour spots in Beverly Hills.

The hotel, which Griffin bought in 1986, was once the Los Angeles spot for the likes of John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe and now is the site of the Golden Globes every January.

Last week, the hotel hosted the Huskies when they played USC and also was the home of a fund-raiser featuring entertainment from Sting, Elton John and B.B. King.

"There's all types that come through that hotel," said Fitzpatrick, who has been married 29 years and has four daughters, one of whom recently graduated from UW.

"I really do just use a quarterback's mentality in being a general manager," he said. "Just like you've got to know your players' strengths and weaknesses as a quarterback, you've got to know your employees' strengths and weaknesses. There are just so many parallels that are the same."