Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Infamous Chelsea Hotel Is Up For Sale

I really don't know how to begin this post, so I will just roll out the facts of the matter. The legendary Chelsea Hotel in New York City is officially (and sadly) on the market. Recently, I was able to fulfill a lifelong dream and go there.

Why was going to the Chelsea a goal for me? How about this (from Wikipedia):

Built in 1883, the twelve-story red-brick building that now houses the Hotel Chelsea opened in 1884 as one of the city's first private
apartment cooperatives. At the time of its construction, the Chelsea Hotel stood as the tallest building in New York, and its surrounding neighborhood constituted the center of New York's Theater District. However, within a few years the combination of economic worries and the relocation of the theaters bankrupted the Chelsea cooperative. In 1905, the building reopened as a hotel (which was later managed by Knott Hotels and resident manager A. R. Walty). In 1946, Joseph Gross, Julius Krauss, and David Bard became partners in the hotel and managed the hotel together until the early 1970s. With the passing of Joseph Gross and Julius Krauss, the management fell to Stanley Bard (son of David Bard).

Owing to its long list of famous guests and residents, the hotel has an ornate history, treasured both as a birth place of creative modern art and by tragedy catching the public eye. Sir Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey while staying at the Chelsea, and poets Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and Martin Matz chose it as a place for philosophical and intellectual exchange. It is also known as the place where the writer Dylan Thomas was staying when he died of alcohol poisoning on November 9, 1953, and where Nancy Spungen, girlfriend of Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols, was found stabbed to death on October 12, 1978.

During its lifetime Hotel Chelsea has provided a home to many great writers and thinkers including Mark Twain, O. Henry, Herbert Huncke, Dylan Thomas, Dale Beran, Arthur C. Clarke, William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Arnold Weinstein, Leonard Cohen, Sharmagne Leland-St. John, John Patrick Kennedy , Arthur Miller, Quentin Crisp, Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac (who wrote On the Road there), Robert Hunter, Jack Gantos, Brendan Behan, Richard Collins, Simone de Beauvoir, Robert Oppenheimer, Jean-Paul Sartre, Bill Landis, Michelle Clifford, Thomas Wolfe, Charles Bukowski, Marty Matz, Raymond Kennedy, Matthew Richardson, Stephen Mooney, Jan Cremer, and René Ricard. Charles R. Jackson, author of The Lost Weekend, committed suicide in his room at the Chelsea on September 21, 1968. Dylan Thomas collapsed in Room 205 at the Chelsea on Nov 9th 1953 and died a few days later in hospital.

The hotel has been a home to actors and film directors such as Stanley Kubrick, Shirley Clarke, Cyndi Coyne, Mitch Hedberg, Dave Hill, Miloš Forman, Lillie Langtry, Ethan Hawke, Dennis Hopper, Vincent Gallo, Eddie Izzard, Hal Miller, Kevin O'Connor, Uma Thurman, Elliot Gould, Elaine Stritch, Michael Imperioli, Jane Fonda, Gaby Hoffmann and her mother, the Warhol film star Viva, Melissa "Rocky" Matthers and Edie Sedgwick.

Much of Hotel Chelsea's history has been colored by the musicians who have resided or visited there. Some of the most prominent names include The Grateful Dead, Tom Waits, Patti Smith, Virgil Thomson, Dee Dee Ramone of The Ramones, Henri Chopin, John Cale, Édith Piaf, Joni Mitchell, Marty Connolly, Bob Dylan, Alice Cooper, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Peter Walker, Nadia marie Belvanson & the valentines, Canned Heat, Sid Vicious, Vivian Stanshall, Richard Hell, glam rocker Jobriath, Rufus Wainwright, Abdullah Ibrahim/Sathima Bea Benjamin, Indian musician Vasant Rai, and Leonard Cohen. More recently, artists such as Madonna, Falco, Ryan Adams, Camden Blues, The Libertines, The Fuse (UK),Michael McDermott, Melissa Auf der Maur, Tim Freedman, and Anthony Kiedis have spent time at The Chelsea.

The hotel has featured and collected the work of the many visual artists who have passed through. Larry Rivers, Robert M. Lambert, Brett Whiteley, Christo, Arman, Richard Bernstein, Francesco Clemente, Ching Ho Cheng, David Remfry, Philip Taaffe, Michele Zalopany, Ralph Gibson, Rene Shapshak, Robert Mapplethorpe, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Robert Crumb, Jasper Johns, Edie Sedgwick, Candace Campbell, Bernard Childs, Claes Oldenburg, Vali Myers, Donald Baechler, Herbert Gentry, Willem De Kooning, John Dahlberg, Lynne Drexler and Henri Cartier-Bresson have all spent time at Hotel Chelsea. Painter & ethnomusicologist Harry Everett Smith lived and died at the Chelsea in Room 328. The painter Alphaeus Philemon Cole lived there for 35 years until his death in 1988 at age 112, when he was the oldest living man. Hanuman Books founder, editor & art curator Raymond Foye keeps residence here and has worked with many of the hotel's artists since the 1980s. Bohemian abstract and Pop art painter Susan Olmetti creates paintings outside on the sidewalk during her frequent summer residencies at the hotel. Surrealist painter Hawk Alfredson has multiple pieces on almost every one of the 10 floors and is the most visible of all resident artists.

Hotel Chelsea is often associated with the Andy Warhol Superstars, as he directed Chelsea Girls (1966), a film about his Factory regulars and their lives at the hotel. Chelsea residents from the Warhol scene included Edie Sedgwick, Viva, Larry Rivers, Ultra Violet, Mary Woronov, Holly Woodlawn, Andrea Feldman, Nico, Paul America, and Brigid Berlin. Valerie Solanas, the would-be assassin of Andy Warhol, visited the hotel on that very day looking for editor Maurice Girodias, possibly to make an attempt on his life shortly before she shot Warhol at The Factory at 33 Union Square, a brief walk from the hotel. In his memoir of the period he spent living at the Chelsea, Arthur Miller mistakenly recalled Solanas shooting Warhol in the hotel lobby.

Yeah, pretty amazing huh? Well let's all pray it doesn't turn into some hipster/fashionista/silly den like CBGB's when John Varvatos bought it. At least these guys want to help - check them out here.