Art

As the Chelsea Hotel Closes to Guests, We Look Back on its 10 Greatest Pop-Culture Moments



While initial reports indicated that he would not convert it into condos, the private developer who now owns New York City's Chelsea Hotel told staff to stop taking reservations as of today, August 2. With new guests no longer welcome at the bohemian outpost and the end of an era in sight, we've rounded up 10 indelible moments that made the Chelsea legendary.
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    Dylan Thomas dies (1953)
    The Chelsea was the Welsh-born poet's penultimate stop. After a whiskey bender and a morphine infusion, he went—not gently—into that good night at nearby St. Vincent's Hospital.

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    Andy Warhol makes The Chelsea Girls (1966)
    The classic experimental split-screen film, which was shot largely in various rooms in the hotel, prefigured then resident Nico's album Chelsea Girl.

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    Bob Dylan writes "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" (1966)
    Ten years after penning this surreal ballad for first wife Sara Lownd, Dylan wrote a song about writing it. On 1976's "Sara", he recalls "Staying up for days in the Chelsea Hotel / writing 'Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands' for you."

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    Arthur C. Clarke publishes 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
    Clarke was occasionally distracted from crafting his sci-fi masterpiece in Room 1008 by fellow residents (and downstairs-bar habitués) Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs.

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    Patti Smith and Sam Shepard write Cowboy Mouth (1971)
    The play is the product of several sleepless nights the couple spent together in the Chelsea just after Shepard left his wife and 1-year-old son for Smith. The title refers to a lyric in Bob Dylan's "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands".

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    Leonard Cohen releases "Chelsea Hotel No. 2" (1974)
    In his inimitable baritone, the singer recalls getting "head on the unmade bed" from a woman whose "heart was a legend"--later revealed to be Janis Joplin.

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    Nancy Spungen is stabbed to death (1978)
    Numerous punks (Iggy Pop, Dee Dee Ramone) checked into and out of the Chelsea but none more conspicuously than Nauseating Nancy, who was found dead on a bathroom floor. Her paramour, Sid Vicious, left in handcuffs.

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    Steven Meisel shoots Madonna's Sex (1992)
    The era-defining book, much of which was shot in Room 822, contained a comic called "Dita in the Chelsea Girl," featuring Madonna indulging in frottage with five leather-clad friends.

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    The Libertines record The Babyshambles Sessions (2003)
    Soon after splitting from his bandmates, troubled co-frontman Pete Doherty gave away tracks from this unreleased cult classic to a fan sitting in the hotel's foyer.

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    Palagia's sex party is cancelled (2011)
    In May, hotel management pulled the plug on a monthly orgy the Greek Madonna look-alike had been throwing for 11 years. Perhaps it was a preview of larger changes in store: the announcement of the hotel's sale came two weeks later.

—By Laurence Lowe

Also on Details.com:
Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame's Soho Outpost
Sean Sullivan of The Impossible Cool on Hanging With Andy Warhol
When Did Alt-Rock Get So Nice?
Credit: Corbis; Getty
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