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.

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