TBT: The Chelsea - January 2011
I’ve always loved The Chelsea. Sure, there are much, MUCH nicer hotels in Manhattan - but there’s just something about The Chelsea that makes it so much more “me” than any other hotel. It’s definitely my favorite place to stay in New York City.
Yes… it’s where Sid Vicious killed his girlfriend Nancy Spungen in October of ‘78. The poet Dylan Thomas was staying there when he died in 1953. “The Lost Weekend” author Charles R. Jackson committed suicide there in ‘68. Jack Kerouac wrote part of “On the Road” there… William S. Burroughs wrote “Naked Lunch” there… Arthur C. Clarke wrote “2001: A Space Odyssey” there. Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe lived there together, and it was there that Mapplethorpe took some of his first photographs.
In April of 1912 some of the survivors of the sinking of the Titanic stayed there, partly because the hotel was so close to Pier 54 - where Titanic was supposed to dock at the end of her maiden voyage and where the ship Carpathia finally arrived with the survivors from Titanic’s lifeboats.
Lets just say that there’s a lot of history in those walls. I’ve wandered the halls… walked up and down it’s iconic staircase… gazed at the artwork… and taken hundreds of photographs there. There’s a lot of creativity floating in the air there. That’s why I love staying there… I feel “connected” to it somehow - and I always walk away feeling energized and ready to create.
Our last stay there was a few years ago - shortly before the hotel closed for renovations. We were in Room 512 - at the back of the hotel. Around 3AM there was the sound of someone dropping something metal - like a tray or something - down the stairs. Then we heard screaming coming from the hallway above us. Lots of screaming. Lots of voices… including a woman shouting “PUT THE GUN AWAY! PUT THE GOD DAMN GUN AWAY!”. I just smiled… rolled over… and went back to sleep.
My kids won’t stay there anymore. Our first visit there with them in tow was in Room 124 - just up the hall from the infamous “Sid & Nancy” room. I loved every inch of it - from the prescription meds found loose on the floor in the corner… to the old Victorian-style couch… to the graffiti written on the walls inside the closet. In the middle of the night the very creaky bathroom door opened by itself - and footsteps could be heard on the tile of the small kitchenette. The kids have flat-out refused to stay in the hotel ever since.
One of my dreams is to take a week off and just stay at The Chelsea - just me… all by myself… writing… sketching… painting… creating. Unfortunately that dream will have to wait: The Chelsea has been closed for renovations. The permanent residents are still there - but no guests have climbed the stairs since 2011. According to their website they will be open for business again in 2016 - but will it ever be the same? I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out next year.
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