I took my first trip to New York in 1997 by myself and the hotel I stayed in was the Chelsea. I stayed there because it was cheap, hip, and it had the whole Sid and Nancy history/punk rock vibe. The hotel was filled with artists in residency at the time. I could hear piano playing in the halls and there were giant funky art exhibits everywhere. The world-weary man with the pot belly at the reception desk was grumpy and I liked him that way. My room, which featured a small stove, a sink, and frayed carpet, looked like it’s seen it’s share of parties but was perfectly adequate. I pulled out a piece of toilet paper and a giant roach flew at me. I hurried down to the lobby to report the incident. Our disinterested friend at the front desk raised an eyebrow only slightly when I told him my tale. “It flew? That ain’t a roach, that’s a waterbug.” He’s seen a lot worse, his general countenance seemed to suggest– a whole hell of a lot worse. My complaint was invalid.
Waterbugs aside, I fell in love with New York city and knew that I wanted to live there one day, maybe even at the Chelsea as a filmmaker. Sixteen years later, I moved to New York and celebrated New Years Eve at a house party in a room at the Chelsea where Janis Joplin used to reside. The Chelsea is now closed to guests and rumors are that they are trying to buy out the artists who currently own residences there, much to the chagrin of everyone at the party. “New York city used to be cool,” one of the partygoers complained.
The Chelsea Hotel is currently under renovations. The creative, dysfunctional and rebellious spirit that once seemed to seep through the walls is now being covered up in an unsettling white paint. I don’t believe that by keeping the historic staircase, fireplace, or awnings above the doorway that they will be “preserving the history.” Without the artists and the grit, the beauty of this New York treasure will be white-washed away.
2 thoughts on “The Beauty of Gritty”
Loved the story, pictures and history of the Chelsea! What a shame to change the character and lose the artists!