Love Letters to the Hotel Chelsea

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Photo by Tim Fitzwater via Flickr

Some of the beautiful photographs from Linda Troeller's upcoming book Atmosphere: An Artist's Memoir of the Chelsea Hotel are reprinted in the photo gallery that accompanies Tricia Romano's "Down At the Chelsea", a story about some of lesser known, but equally colorful, residents of the hotel. Troeller's book also prints letters to the hotel, from both residents and guests, who felt blessed to have taken shelter there.

Dear Chelsea Hotel,

Nina Hagen, Grace Jones, who can stay anywhere, choose this hotel, as they know they are among artists. Viva was living here and used to hang her clothes to dry on the roof garden. It was my space, but she looked at me, “you’re new here, don’t bother me.” The painter, Julian Schnabel, would sometimes have 30 paintings packed under a tarp under the roof. I’d see Dee Ramone, waiting to be recognized sometimes. I worshiped Richard Bernstein, who has done covers for Interview and I used to work with Arthur Weinstein, who does lighting for clubs. Just like a club you wanted to look good—‘cause you’d be seen in the lobby and it gave you a kind of self-esteem. The staff is really loose and they understood who you are. The hotel is like a nightclub. Stanley is the impression. The transients can be anything but there are the steady regulars, the residents like at membership club. There’s a sexual undertone in the hotel, which also is similar to how people see each other in a club. I think Stanley knows he’s running a club – that he’s really a club operator. He maintains the vibe of the hotel, creates a balance. He is an artist in his own way –dressing in a coffee shop manner – creating a nightclub of intellectual values.

Steve Lewis, Nightclub Owner

Christo and Jean Claude also wrote a note:

Dear Chelsea Hotel,

In 1964 a Paris gallerist told us that when we were going to go to NYC she said artists always stay at the Chelsea Hotel. We came for an exhibition at Leo Castelli Gallery and needed to construct the storefront piece for the show in our room, as we had no money to rent a studio. Since we were from France, we weren't sure if this was allowed so Christo would use his hand saw late at night. One of the storefronts needed a doorknob and we loved the one on our bathroom door, so we exchanged that one for one from the local hardware store. The piece is now in the collection of the Hirshorn Museum in DC.

Christo and Jean Claude, Artists

Madonna also had a history at the Chelsea:

Dear Chelsea Hotel,

Madonna would stop by where I was bartending my first year living at the Chelsea Hotel in 1980-81, (Keene’s, a chophouse on 36th Street.) She was a singer, around 23, quite unknown, but even then carried a method-acting book. We started hanging out and my boss would give me trouble as she’d dance on the bar and we started dating. She’d call me at the hotel to make plans but I would be on the phone with a lot of friends, so Josephine, the front desk person, would interrupt my phoning to tell me there was a woman on the line. When I wasn’t in my room, 915, Josephine left messages; “Madonna called,” in my mailbox. One night she cancelled a date saying she had a gig in Long Island. Somehow I ended up at a bar I didn’t go to regularly and saw her kissing another guy. We arranged to meet at El Quixote Bar, and she didn’t think there was a problem, but I had had it, as I wanted someone more attentive. I told her to come back when she had grown up in five years. Three years later “Holiday” had come out. When I saw the music video where she wore a brown slip, I thought perhaps my photography of vintage slips influenced her. In another video she dances through long hotel halls and I wonder —is it a memory toward her nights with me at the Chelsea Hotel?

Roger Jazilek, Photographer


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