Over the years The Hotel Chelsea in Manhattan has been home to many famous residents: Mark Twain, O. Henry, Dylan Thomas, Thomas Wolfe, Janis Joplin, Andy Warhol, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Arthur Miller, Patti Smith, Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy, Ethan Hawke, Dee Dee Ramone, Jack Kerouac and Madonna.
The crowd outside the hotel included two puppies and a film crew.
We’d just arrived to move my daughter into the dorms at FIT, The Fashion Institute of Technology, for her freshman year. We’re from LA so finding the film crew working close to midnight wasn’t strange. I walked through the crowd in the lobby, side-stepping a large dog, beneath a pink papier-mâché woman swinging from the ceiling and stood in line to register at the front desk.
A woman wearing a leopard dress and black velvet platform shoes, black silk ties cross-crossing up her ankles, leaned over the front desk. She yelled at the guy behind it, Pete, who my daughter later got to know. Something about it’s an emergency. Pete yelled back at her to call the police, “Dial, 911!” He said.
Alive turned to edgy, raw and slightly scary.
We arranged for our rooms but the question remained…why did the crazy cat-lady have to call 911? Pete said the woman was a mean, crazy cat-lady in a long-standing feud with one of her neighbors, another resident there. Gotcha. I’m sure lots of freshman students have college move-in stories like this. So normal.
The Hotel Chelsea reserves 100 rooms for tourists and the remaining 350 rooms house residents.
We settled in then went to Jake’s Saloon where I drank the WORST iced tea ever, they didn’t blend margaritas and didn’t serve lemonade or Stella. We knew we had to find another bar. Starving, we had some snacks then moseyed back to the hotel only to find the mean, crazy cat-lady and Pete talking to the NYPD.
You know when you wonder what the h*ll was I thinking?
In this case, I wondered what the h*ll was I thinking booking us into this hotel. Even though my daughters gushed over how much they loved the place and the beds turned out to be extremely comfortable, I couldn’t help but feel guilty. I booked a place so rough around the edges, as my husband put it. The rooms featured on their website didn’t look as dilapidated ours. We couldn’t spend a fortune, needing two rooms for five nights in Manhattan. Saving money became the main criteria for booking The Chelsea Hotel as we geared up for a second round of university tuition payments.
When we strolled by the The International hostel a few blocks away it looked like (and probably was) a less-threatening, “normal” hotel/hostel experience. The big topic of conversation about the best beaches in San Paulo met us on our reconnaissance for safe havens should the mean, crazy cat-lady go ballistic.
But four-inch concrete walls at the Hotel Chelsea kept our rooms nice and quiet and gave me the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had in Manhattan.
We began to look at all the positives. The Chelsea’s location, only a few blocks away from FIT made the hotel a slam-dunk. Floor-to-twenty-foot ceilings full of artwork surprised and delighted when we took the time to really appreciate the hotel.
Most of the art pieces had been given in lieu of rent payment to the recently fired owners, The Bards.
The hotel had an awesome guitar shop on one side of its entrance, and on the other a bar called Serena and El Quijote, a restaurant and one-time grand dinning room of The Chelsea Hotel where literary legends noshed. Try the clams if you’re ever lucky enough to dine there. The Chelsea continued to amaze with her jaw-dropping wrought iron grillwork accenting every balcony and staircase. Taking the staircase to our rooms, we discovered residents had decorated their doors with sayings, statues, sculpture, paintings and quotes. The quote on the door next to us said, “Only the pure can understand the pure.” Lots of people had hand-painted their apt./room numbers.
Ghosts roam The Chelsea. Sid Vicious murdered his girlfriend Nancy in room 100.
Interested in reading more? Check out this blog by the hotel residents. Just days before our stay there, a curious incident arose involving the ghost of Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy. What’s even crazier? I think he visited our room. More on that later.
The charming staff and residents helped us with my daughter’s big move by donating the use of one of their luggage carts!
Saved us so much schlepping we had plenty of time to run into Beyonce at Macy’s. So normal.