Saturday, 6 August 2011

Chelsea Girls (and Boys)



"Everybody passing through here is somebody, if not in the outside world": Patti Smith's memories of the Hotel Chelsea (which she called "her home") are filled with excitement and the rare energy of a place that has witnessed the everyday lives of many icons of the XXth century. Actually before: Mark Twain was said to have stayed at the Chelsea, as well as some of the Titanic's survivors, which were brought there after the catastrophe. But the Chelsea is really synonym with New York's art avant-garde as well as sex, drugs and rock & roll. And the fact that the hotel is closing its doors today for the first time ever is somewhat heartbreaking. It might open again in some time, but right now it feels like the bleak confirmation that a whole era has ended. One thing is certain, though: the guests and the stories at the Chelsea, which gave the hotel its extraordinary spirit, will live on.

Patti Smith and her once roommate Robert Mapplethorpe were snapped at the hotel's fire stairs.

Bob Dylan wrote many of his most successful songs during his stay at the Chelsea. Here he is photographed in his room.


Then of course there were the Factory people. Andy Warhol was the one who started the mitification of the place with his film Chelsea Girls. Not all of the girls in the movie lived there, but they did spend a great deal of time. Edie Sedgwick did take a room, in which she once started a big fire (here she is snapped afterwards, with a hand in bondage). She used to start little fires with the candles she liked to light everywhere around the room. I once heard that Leonard Cohen, when coming into her room and seeing the candle arrangement, warned her it would bring her very bad energy. She didn't believe it.

Here's a picture of Mr. Cohen. He wrote Chelsea Hotel #2, a crude and beautiful song to Janis Joplin.

Janis also lived there, obviously. Here she is in front of the main door, on West 23rd Street.

Also, here is Dennis Hopper with Terry Southern.

The Chelsea was big during the punk era and the CBGB days. Dee Dee Ramone stayed there; the place inspired him to write Chelsea Horror Hotel: A Novel.

Around the same time took place the most famous incident of the hotel's story: the violent death of Nancy Spungen, Sid Vicious's girlfriend. I wonder what their life was like at the Chelsea.

Steven Meisel shot many of the photos in Sex in room 822, with Madonna, who had lived there years before.
Of course, there were many more stories and people who passed by the hotel, some notorious, some private. The place was never really very touristy, and it was unchanged, so it kept its authenticity. I just think it's a shame to cut short a story so long and meaningful.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I've always been interested in those who lived at the Chelsea since I read about those from the factory who stayed there. But I had no idea that its role as a creative hub was this intense! I would love to have walked through its halls with magic happening behind each door!

    Vanessa ^_^

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Thanks for your lovely comments.