During its heyday, the Chelsea Hotel in New York City was a home and safe haven for Bohemian artists, poets, and musicians such as Bob Dylan, Gregory Corso, Alan Ginsberg, Janis Joplin, and Dee Dee Ramone. This oral history of the famed hotel peers behind the iconic façade and delves into the mayhem, madness, and brilliance that stemmed from the hotel in the 1980s and 1990s. Providing a window into the late Bohemia of New York during that time, countless interviews and firsthand accounts adorn this social history of one of the most celebrated and culturally significant landmarks in New York City.
"Since 1883, New York's Chelsea Hotel provided safe haven for countless cultural creative," but this exuberant oral history focuses on the period 1980-1995, arguably the landmark's final stretch as a haven for bohemian misfits. Part of the magic, gatekeeper and manager Stanley Bard offered "dirt cheap" rents to artists and often accepted artwork as payment. Lough arranges anecdotes from interviews with dozens of hotel "veterans," whose memories are peppered with cameos of famous fixtures such as punk rocker Dee Dee Ramone or writer and street hustler Herbert Huncke, credited with coining the term "beat" in Beat Generation. Yet, "Some Chelsea celebrities are celebrities only at the Chelsea"; readers will meet obscure personalities like Linda Twigg, the blonde "gangsterette" who ran a gambling parlor from the second floor, or "graveyard artist" Scott Covert whose collages feature rubbings of luminaries' tombstones. Drug-fueled debauchery and artists living "close to the bone" in service to their work fill these reminiscences along with nostalgia for the enclave of "freaks and weirdoes." Lough's conversational style connects narrative threads as he bemoans the creative conditions in contemporary NYC and wonders can "counterculture survive in an atmosphere almost entirely comprised of wealth?"