Born: January 31, 1952 (age 64), Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, United States
Education: Columbia University
Lived: Hotel Chelsea
Awards: Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts, US & Canada
Nominations: Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men's Biography/Autobiography
The Hotel Chelsea – also called the Chelsea Hotel, or simply the Chelsea – is a historic New York City hotel and landmark, known primarily for the notability of its residents over the years.
Address: 222 W 23rd St, New York, NY 10011, USA (40.74431, -73.9969)
Type: Guest facility (open to public)
National Register of Historic Places: 77000958, 1977
Built between 1883 and 1885, Design by Hubert, Pirsson & Company (Philip Gengembre Hubert (1830-1911) and James W. Pirrson (1833-1888))
Opened for initial occupation in 1884, the twelve-story red-brick building that is now the Hotel Chelsea was one of the city’s first private apartment cooperatives. It was designed in a style that has been described variously as Queen Anne Revival and Victorian Gothic. Among its distinctive features are the delicate, flower-ornamented iron balconies on its facade, which were constructed by J.B. and J.M. Cornell and its grand staircase, which extends upward twelve floors. Generally, this staircase is only accessible to registered guests, although the hotel does offer monthly tours to others. At the time of its construction, the building was the tallest in New York. Hubert and Pirsson had created a "Hubert Home Club" in 1880 for "The Rembrandt,” a six-story building on West 57th Street intended as housing for artists. This early cooperative building had rental units to help defray costs, and also provided servants as part of the building staff. The success of this model led to other "Hubert Home Clubs,” and the Chelsea was one of them. Initially successful, its surrounding neighborhood constituted the center of New York’s theater district. However within a few years the combination of economic stresses, the suspicions of New York’s middle class about apartment living, the opening up of Upper Manhattan and the plentiful supply of houses there, and the relocation of the city’s theater district, bankrupted the Chelsea. In 1905, the building reopened as a hotel, which was later managed by Knott Hotels and resident manager A.R. Walty. After the hotel went bankrupt, it was purchased in 1939 by Joseph Gross, Julius Krauss, and David Bard, and these partners managed the hotel together until the early 1970s. With the passing of Joseph Gross and Julius Krauss, the management fell to Stanley Bard, David Bard’s son. On 18 June, 2007, the hotel’s board of directors ousted Bard as the hotel’s manager. Dr. Marlene Krauss, the daughter of Julius Krauss, and David Elder, the grandson of Joseph Gross and the son of playwright and screenwriter Lonne Elder III, replaced Stanley Bard with the management company BD Hotels NY; that firm has since been terminated as well. In May, 2011, the hotel was sold to real estate developer Joseph Chetrit for US$80 million. As of August 1, 2011, the hotel stopped taking reservations for guests in order to begin renovations, but long-time residents remain in the building, some of them protected by state rent regulations. The renovations prompted complaints by the remaining tenants of health hazards caused by the construction. These were investigated by the city’s Building Department, which found no major violations. In Nov. 2011, the management ordered all of the hotel’s many artworks taken off the walls, supposedly for their protection and cataloging, a move which some tenants interpreted as a step towards forcing them out as well. In 2013, Ed Scheetz became the Chelsea Hotel’s new owner after buying back five properties from Joseph Chetrit, his partner in King & Grove Hotels, and David Bistricer. Hotel Chelsea is now managed by Chelsea Hotels, formerly King & Grove Hotels. Restoration and renovation is underway and Hotel Chelsea plans to reopen in 2016.
Notable queer resident at Hotel Chelsea:
• William S. Burroughs (1914-1997), novelist, short story writer, satirist, essayist, painter, and spoken word performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author who wrote in the paranoid fiction genre, he is considered to be "one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the XX century.”
• Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) wrote “2001: A Space Odyssey” while staying at the Chelsea.
• Quentin Crisp (1908-1999), writer and raconteur. His first stay in the Hotel Chelsea coincided with a fire, a robbery, and the death of Nancy Spungen.
• Musician, gay civil rights icon and Stonewall veteran Stormé DeLarverie (1920-2014) resided at the hotel for several decades.
• Poets Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) and Gregory Corso (1930-2001) chose it as a place for philosophical and artistic exchange.
• Brad Gooch (born 1952), writer. His 2015 memoir “Smash Cut” recounts life in 1970s and 1980s New York City, including the time Gooch spent as a fashion model, life with his then-boyfriend filmmaker Howard Brookner, living in the famous Chelsea Hotel and the first decade of the AIDS crisis.
• Herbert Huncke (1915-1996), writer and poet. In his last few years, he lived in room 828, where his rent came from financial support from Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead, whom Huncke never met. Herbert Huncke died in 1996 at age 81.
• Iggy Pop (born 1947), singer-songwriter, musician and actor. Pop’s career received a boost from his relationship with David Bowie when Bowie decided in 1972 to produce an album with Pop in England.
• Charles R. Jackson (1903-1968), author of “The Lost Weekend,” committed suicide in his room on September 21, 1968.
• Jasper Johns (born 1930), painter and printmaker. In 1954, after returning to New York, Johns met Robert Rauschenberg and they became long-term lovers. For a time they lived in the same building as Rachel Rosenthal. In the same period he was strongly influenced by the gay couple Merce Cunningham (a choreographer) and John Cage (a composer.)
• Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), who wrote “On the Road” there.
• Lance Loud (1951-2001), television personality, magazine columnist and new wave rock-n-roll performer. Loud is best known for his 1973 appearance in “An American Family,” a pioneer reality television series that featured his coming out, leading to his status as an icon in the gay community.
• Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989), photographer, known for his sensitive yet blunt treatment of controversial subject-mater in the large-scale, highly stylized black and white medium of photography. The homoeroticism of this work fuelled a national debate over the public funding of controversial artwork.
• Larry Rivers (1923-2002), artist, musician, filmmaker and occasional actor. Poet Jeni Olin was his companion. Rivers also sustained a relationship with poet Frank O’Hara in the late 1950s and delivered the eulogy at O’Hara’s funeral in 1966.
• Patti Smith (born 1946), singer-songwriter, poet and visual artist. On November 17, 2010, she won the National Book Award for her memoir “Just Kids.” The book fulfilled a promise she had made to her former long-time roommate and partner, Robert Mapplethorpe.
• Virgil Thomson (1896-1989), composer and critic. In 1925 in Paris, he cemented his relationship with painter Maurice Grosser (1903-1986), who was to become his life partner and frequent collaborator. He and Grosser lived at Hotel Chelsea, where he presided over a largely gay salon that attracted many of the leading figures in music and art and theather, including Leonard Bernstein, Tennessee Williams, and many others. Virgil Thomson died on September 30, 1989, in his suite at the Hotel Chelsea in Manhattan, aged 92.
• Gore Vidal (1925-2012), writer and a public intellectual known for his patrician manner, epigrammatic wit, and polished style of writing.
• Rufus Wainwright (born 1973), lived in the Chelsea Hotel in New York City for six months, during which he wrote most of his second album.
• Tennessee Williams (1911-1983), playwright and author of many stage classics. Along with Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller he is considered among the three foremost playwrights in XX century American drama.
• Hotel Chelsea is often associated with the Warhol superstars, as Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey 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, Ultra Violet, Mary Woronov, Holly Woodlawn, Andrea Feldman, Nico, Paul America, René Ricard, and Brigid Berlin.
Queer Places, Vol. 1 edited by Elisa Rolle
Release Date: July 24, 2016
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