Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hotel Chelsea

On October 12, 1978, Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious allegedly stabbed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, in the abdomen causing her to bleed to death.

On the night of her murder, Vicious was so drugged up that he lost consciousness. He claimed that when he came to he found Spungen's lifeless body on their hotel room bathroom floor. He also claimed he didn't know what happened to her.

The hotel where Spungen was murdered was the Hotel Chelsea located at 222 West 23rd Street smack between Seventh and Eighth Avenues in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea in New York City.

I was recently in New York and decided to take the long walk from my hotel on 45th Street and Fifth Avenue down to Chelsea as a sort of personal pilgrimage to the place that served as inspirational flophouse to a long list of artists, musicians and writers.

When I went down there, it was pushing about 100 degrees, so the streets were relatively empty and I'm not sure how bustling this area truly is. But it does seem to have retained an artistically bohemian feel - despite real estate prices ranging from $160,000 for a studio to $3.5 million for a 2 + bedroom townhouse. So, these days, living bohemian in this neighborhood is really just a label unless your idea of the bohemian lifestyle includes a fat wallet.

The Hotel Chelsea, with 250 rooms, is now tagged "boutique," and no longer accepts long-term residencies (although transients can stay up to a maximum of 24 nights at the Chelsea). But you can get a studio with shared bath for $169 per night or up to a two bedroom suite for $389 a night. So, for New York, pricing is incredibly reasonable. Plus, who knows? You may get lucky and sleep in the room where Sid and Nancy did their thing.

Or the room where Arthur C. Clarke penned 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Or any room occupied by other notable residents that crashed at or were inspired by the Chelsea, including: Allen Ginsberg, Charles Bukowski, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Janis Joplin, Robert Mapplethorpe, Dylan Thomas, O. Henry, Thomas Wolfe, Stanley Kubrick, Dennis Hopper, Uma Thurman, Jane Fonda, Edie Sedgwick, Vincent Gallo, Madonna, the Grateful Dead, Dee Dee Ramone, Edith Piaf, Tom Waits, Richard Hell, Phil Lynott, Robert Crumb, Jasper Johns, etc, etc. etc.

So if you're looking for artistic pedigree, the Chelsea's got it.

So what of Sid Vicious?

While he couldn't remember exactly what had happened the night Nancy Spungen met her demise, he was arrested for Spungen's murder and was released on bail. Four months after Spungen's death, Vicious died of a heroin overdose - before a trial could take place.

The party responsible for the death of Nancy Spungen has never been definitively determined.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Dakota

On a recent trip to New York City, one of my must-see destinations was to visit the Dakota, which is located across from Central Park on West 72nd Street. I wanted to see it for a couple reasons: 1) it's where John Lennon lived and died and 2) it was used in one of my favorite films - Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby.

The Dakota is a foreboding place, surrounded by wrought iron and scary-looking sculptures but it is also inviting in a gothic sort of way.

Here's how the Dakota is described on the Wikipedia website:

The building's high gables and deep roofs with a profusion of dormers, terracotta spandrels and panels, niches, balconies, and balustrades give it a North German Renaissance character, an echo of a Hanseatic townhall. Nevertheless, its layout and floor plan betray a strong influence of French architectural trends in housing design that had become known in New York in the 1870s.

While standing at the Dakota's entrance I imagined the night of December 8, 1980, when John Lennon was shot to death while returning home with Yoko Ono. Their album "Double Fantasy" had been released just three weeks prior.

I imagined Mark David Chapman waiting outside the apartment building, plotting. The feeling was oppressive and profoundly sad - Chapman destroyed one of world's greatest artists on a psychopathic whim.

Across the street is Central Park's Strawberry Fields. Vendors hawk Lennon pins, etchings and posters at the Park's entry way.

Go further into the park and the vendors disappear, giving way to this quiet homage:

I overheard a tour guide wrongly identify the song "Imagine" as one of the Beatles most popular. I felt a slight twinge at this mistake but not so much that I felt the need to correct him.

But just to set the record straight, it was John Lennon who wrote and recorded "Imagine." Not the Beatles.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

You can always count on HAL 9000

When challenged with finding the right words in almost any given (and possibly stressful) situation, you can always turn to the brilliance of HAL 9000, the super computer featured in Arthur C. Clarke's and Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Drive your tormentors nuts with these icy responses best delivered in a HAL 9000 intellectual monotone.

Let's say you've been told that your work (on the job, at home) isn't quite up to speed. Reply:

"I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do."

If a co-worker or customer starts yelling about the failings of program, website or any other computer generated mechanism that you've developed, just say:

"It can only be attributable to human error."

Say that you are on the unfortunate end of gossip and you need to confront the person talking smack, go here:

"Although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move."

And finally, when someone is ramping up and their anger is starting to reach levels of out-of-control insanity, tell them:

"I can see you're really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Alamo Drafthouse - my hero

I've never been to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas. In fact, I've never been to Austin, Texas.

But I've always wanted to go to both and will someday. The Alamo shows a real appreciation for cinema, with an affection toward the finest grindhouse films. The Quentin Tarantino (QT) Film Fesival has been held at the Alamo.

But this bumper solidifies the Alamo as a really great theater.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Business Marketing Association 2011 International Conference

Just came off of the Business Marketing Association's (BMA) 2011 International Conference, "Unleash".

The conference took place June 1-3 at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers in Chicago. Three days of presentations and networking events topped off with a couple late nights. I have to admit I'm wiped.

Things I learned: business-to-business (b-to-b) marketing attracts wildly creative and highly intelligent people. Mutual respect is ever-present. Speakers are truly experts in their field, if not on the cutting edge of innovation.

  • Roy Spence, Co-Founder and Chairman, GSD&M, is hilarious and encouraged Southwest Airlines to stop charging extra $$$ for luggage. A whole advertising campaign was based on this shift in thinking and the airline has benefited enormously by this.
  • Josh Bernoff, co-author of the influential Groundswell, almost walked away with the venue's PowerPoint remote.
  • Roy Vallee, CEO, Avnet, made it a point to attribute much of the company's success on the content-driven philosophy of Chief Communications Officer Al Maag (who was just named BMA's Chairman).
  • Jim Lecinski, Managing Director, Google, is a jazz aficionado and his love for jazz has influenced much of Google's innovation.
  • While luncheon keynote Seth Godin was inspirational, he was in a hurry to hit the road once his 40 minutes were up.
  • Trevor Bayne, who made an appearance with his Avnet/BMA sponsored Ford Mustang NASCAR, is a nice kid.
  • My co-workers are great to hang out with, even in the most stressful of moments.