Saturday, April 17, 2010

Chelsea Girl, Sort Of

For the past several days, I've been looking for a new home and studio. I've schlepped from one part of the city to another for inspections, only to be herded, somewhat brusquely, with scores of other house-hunters through rooms so small they could be mistaken as closets. None was anything like what I had in mind.
While waiting in yet another queue of hopeful tenants-to-be outside a pigeon-infested, non-descript apartment block, I got to thinking about how several of the artists, writers and musicians I most admired had lived for months, even years, in New York's Chelsea Hotel.
Australian painter Brett Whitely, a doomed, Jim Morrison-like figure (one of his works shown above) – part madman, part visionary, part rock star, part fake – kept an apartment at the Chelsea during the late Sixties. Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin lived on the same floor. Years before, the hard-drinking poet Dylan Thomas had lived and died (of alcohol poisoning) there. Years after, the nascent stars of New York's downtown art scene – including photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, punk rock godess Patti Smith, actor and playwright Sam Shepard and artist, musician and film-maker Larry Rivers – honed their art and concocted their personal legends in its warren of high-ceilinged rooms and dingy corridors; some even paid their rent with artworks. In one of the rooms, The Sex Pistols' Sid Vicious stabbed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, to death in a drug-fucked stupor.
There is no equivalent of the Chelsea in Australia. But I thought, fuck it, I'd just come up with my own.
I threw away the handwritten list of addresses and real estate agents I'd collected and went looking for the right hotel. I found one small enough to be considered boutique and yet dilapidated enough to be cheap and unpretentious. Its exterior could never match the Chelsea's high, faux-Gothic, red brick facade but its low-rise, art deco entrance had curb appeal. I paid a month up front in cash. It was less than I would have forked over as a deposit on a shoe-box-sized studio apartment: even better, the utilities were free and I didn't have to wash my own linen, take out the trash or make my own bed, The city's largest art supplies shop was just down the street.
I now live in the hotel's penthouse, a single, large, somewhat down-at-the-heels room decorated in white. Creaky French doors open onto a small terrace with a pretty, wrought-iron railing, over which I have an uninterrupted view of a long strip of caf├ęs and a street dotted with hookers, dealers, drag queens and the occasional, fabulously uncategorisable freak. I no longer have a personal assistant but instead, there's a defacto 'front office' in the form of a concierge who takes messages, receives packages and for a tip, can recommend even the most arcane services. Everything else I could possible want is nearby, including take-away brown rice sushi and pistachio ice cream.
I can stay as long as I want. I can leave within a moment's notice and still be welcomed back. In a period during which I want to make radical changes in both my life and art, it's the perfect place to call home.

14 comments:

cm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kate said...

go Hazel - sounds perfect!

Maureen said...

I just finished reading Patti Smith's memoir "Just Kids" in which she writes of life with Mapplethorpe at The Chelsea. How they got into the hotel is rather humorous. A lot of what went on there was not. And they always had each other.

Wishing you the best, in whatever ways you choose to use your incredible talents.

rino said...

Legend! Bring back haute (or low) hotel culture. If it was good for Henry Miller, Nabokov and so many greats...

Neo said...

This is so good.

You REALLY rock. Rockstar!

I'm so looking forward to your new-Dooney adventures/art/writings.

:)

erinrichardson said...

Sounds like heaven to me - Enjoy!

Elizabeth said...

The perfect place to be.

Gretchen Kelly said...

cool!

C. k. Agathocleous said...

WTG ~ sounds just right!

Anonymous said...

Bohemianism at its best!

I can't wait to see what you
create at this place.

-M

Faith Rhyne said...

Some places become characters. My name is faith. my weblog can be found at mynameisfaith.net

I am just emerging and you strike me as brave.

Glad you exist. Good luck with home.

PROZAC said...

Somehow I feel Leonard Cohen needs to be mentioned in context with the bright minds who have emerged from the Chelsea Hotel.

the last conservative said...

I sent an email to you...did you get it? I'm not sure if you have the same email address as last year. I asked Kathy M. if what I had was correct but apparently she is on holiday. I have to sign in here w/google but use my hotmail acct if you want to reply. Glad to see you're doing well.
Jared

gregory said...

motel 268 in shanghai .. studio just down the street, free wifi, don't need to register my address with the cops .. love hotel living ... except for nowhere to cook ..