Legends of the Chelsea Hotel: Living with Artists and Outlaws in New York's Rebel Mecca

Legends of the Chelsea Hotel: Living with Artists and Outlaws in New York's Rebel Mecca

3.8 7
by Ed Hamilton
     
 

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There's a current that courses through the old Chelsea Hotel, an electricity that drives people relentlessly to create. It's an energy that longtime resident and creator of "Living with Legends: Hotel Chelsea Blog" Ed Hamilton will tell you often drives inhabitants to madness. In a series of linked cyanide capsules, Legends of the Chelsea Hotel tells the odd, funny,…  See more details below

Overview

There's a current that courses through the old Chelsea Hotel, an electricity that drives people relentlessly to create. It's an energy that longtime resident and creator of "Living with Legends: Hotel Chelsea Blog" Ed Hamilton will tell you often drives inhabitants to madness. In a series of linked cyanide capsules, Legends of the Chelsea Hotel tells the odd, funny, and often tragic truth of the writers, artists, and musicians — the famous and the obscure alike — who have fallen prey to the Chelsea. Readers enter one of Dee Dee Ramone's flashbacks; meet the ghost of author Thomas Wolfe; learn of movie star Ethan Hawke's mystical powers over women; see the ungodly acts allegedly being perpetrated in the basement club Serena's; and feel the dark aura of Room 100, where punk rocker Sid Vicious killed his girlfriend Nancy. Other Chelsea residents past and present who will be included: Ryan Adams, club kid/murderer Michael Alig, Sarah Bernhardt, the Warhol Factory's Richard Bernstein, Victor Bockris, Charles Bukowski, Leonard Cohen, Lesbian activist Storme DeLarverie, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Herbert Huncke, Janis Joplin, Jack Kerouac, Madonna, Edgar Lee Masters, Arthur Miller, Edie Sedgwick, Sam Shepard, Patti Smith, Dylan Thomas, and Rufus Wainwright.

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Editorial Reviews

Jeff Giles
Hamilton, a short-story writer who has lived at the Chelsea for 12 years, built his book, at times a bit roughly, out of the weekly columns he writes for hotelchelseablog.com. The first time I visited his site, all its video clips—of Hamilton reading aloud, of interviews with some of the strange birds in residence, of goofy re-enactments of life in the hallways—began playing simultaneously. It's a glitch, presumably, but the overlapping voices were eerie and anarchic. In Legends, Hamilton evokes a similar sense that the past and the present are constant bedfellows on 23rd Street. The book may be uneven and overstuffed, but there's something remarkable about the way the author manages to celebrate the Chelsea's singular atmosphere—the exuberant aspiring artists, the divorced movie stars, the disheveled blonde who may have Tourette's who lingers in the lobby hissing like a snake—without ever forgetting how toxic the air is for many of the people who come desperate to breathe it.
—The New York Times
Harp
The Chelsea is often seen as the place people go to escape convention and formality, but in Hamilton's hands it's become something else-a kind of community and, yes, family-in the heart of the big, bad city.
Los Angeles Times
A collection of bizarre tableaux-aging actresses, bathroom high jinks, ghosts and tricksters. It is full of affection for a passing era. Surrounded by creeping gentrification, the Chelsea may not long remain affordable to the kinds of characters Hamilton describes.
Philadelphia Inquirer
Fascinating.An entertaining look at the building's history through the eyes of a resident.Hamilton seamlessly mixes history, reporting and humor to make a patchwork account that conveys the essence of the building.[Hamilton's] blogging style easily translates to book form.His efforts may not be enough to save his home, but will ensure it is remembered in all its bohemian glory.
New York Times Book Review
One of the recurring pleasures of Ed Hamilton's Legends of the Chelsea Hotel is his sly rendering of its former proprietor, Stanley Bard, an eccentric patron of the arts.There's something remarkable about the way the author manages to celebrate the Chelsea's singular atmosphere without ever forgetting how toxic the air is for many of the people who come desperate to breathe it.What really resonates in the book, what makes it so sorrowful at times, is Hamilton's evocation of all the young and old hopefuls who have just enough ambition to push their lives past the point of no return. Legends comes close to convincing you that, as destructive drugs go, self-delusion has heroin beat.
Publishers Weekly

Short story author Hamilton (in the Journal of Kentucky Studies, SoMa Literary Review, etc.) "became consumed in writing [his neighbors'] darkly humorous and often tragic stories" after many years of living at New York's infamous Chelsea Hotel. Arrayed here are 68 of his columns for "Living with Legends," the Hotel Chelsea blog (www.hotelchelseablog.com). Hamilton skillfully interweaves his memories of residents with a history of the 23rd Street hotel, longtime proprietor Stanley Bard (who stepped down reluctantly this year) and the neighboring restaurant, El Quijote. Built in 1883, the Chelsea became a residential hotel for theater luminaries in 1905. Tenants since then have run the gamut from O. Henry and Dylan Thomas to Kerouac and Madonna. Famed books have been written at the Chelsea, including William Burroughs's Naked Lunch, but the establishment has also attracted a great many eccentrics, hustlers and crazies. Recent management changes and the Chelsea's uncertain future make this nostalgic portrait of the hotel's "fabled madness" all the more poignant. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct. 15)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Bob Dylan, Thomas Wolfe, and Sid Vicious have all called the Chelsea Hotel home over the years, reveling in its legendary old New York seediness. But recently, Chelsea resident and writer Hamilton has felt the tide of gentrification bearing down on his adopted home. Prompted by his girlfriend and a duty to chronicle a disappearing way of life, Hamilton launched the blog Living with Legends which forms the backbone of his book. His succinct yet conversational style makes for an engrossing read with crossover appeal for fans of Beat literature, punk music, Warhol superstars, and the gritty underside of Hollywood. The real stars of this story aren't "The Stars" but the colorful eccentrics who have been the mainstay of the hotel for decades-more and more on the wrong side of economics-and their patron saint, hotel manager Stanley Bard, who strives to uphold the building's rich history as a haven for outsiders and the arts. The adaptation of blog posts to a monograph is smooth, and the clipped prose and brief, surreal vignettes make the book only more endearing, a delightful hybrid of journalism and gonzo mythologizing. Recommended for all public and academic libraries. [For a profile of this book, see "Editors' Fall Picks," p. 32-38.]
—Matthew Moyer

Kirkus Reviews
A meandering history of a bohemian landmark. New York City's Chelsea Hotel has been a hipster hangout since it opened its doors more than 100 years ago. Twain, Sartre, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Mapplethorpe, Warhol, Dylan and Hendrix are among the dozens of major pop-culture figures who have made the Chelsea their temporary home. In 1995, journeyman author Hamilton took up residence and soon began keeping a diary of his stay, which led to his blog "Living with Legends: Hotel Chelsea Blog," which led to this debut book. In addition to describing what he considers to be the interesting aspects of living at the Chelsea, Hamilton introduces us to such fellow Chelsea-ites as the flamboyant Japanese graffiti artist Hiroya, faded actress Vicky and her son Keanu and a painter/con artist named Bradley. He also reacquaints us with such contemporary Chelsea celeb squatters as Sid Vicious, Dee Dee Ramone and Ethan Hawke, reporting on their connection with the hotel, then offering thumbnail sketches of their lives and careers. Poorly structured, long on chatty gossip and short on genuine insight, the book is yet another example of the increasing number of disappointing books based on blogs. While the author's escapades, musings and mundane day-to-day activities may work in a frequently updated online forum, they come off as flat and insignificant on the page. And the biographical sketches-which, for the most part, offer only slightly more information than Wikipedia-feel like so much filler. Hamilton proves that you can take the writer out of the blog, but you can't take the blog out of the writer.
From the Publisher

Kansas City’s Pitch Weekly blog, 2/11/10
“I recommend picking up Ed Hamilton’s Legends of the Chelsea Hotel, which has many more stories of the famous landmark where Smith, Mapplethorpe, and many other renowned writers, musicians, and artists stayed.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780306820007
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
11/02/2007
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
694,999
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Ed Hamilton’s fiction has appeared in Modern Drunkard, The River Walk Journal, SoMa Literary Review, The Journal of Kentucky Studies, Exquisite Corpse, Southern Ocean Review, Limestone: A Journal of Art and Literature, Lumpen Times, and Best College Stories. Ed contributes the weekly “Slice of Life” column to “Living with Legends: Hotel Chelsea Blog” (www.hotelchelseablog.com). He has lived at the Chelsea Hotel for nearly 10 years.

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Legends of the Chelsea Hotel: Living with the Artists and Outlaws of New York's Rebel Mecca 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
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PumpkinSD More than 1 year ago
I was born in chelsea and I always wonder how people felt living in The Chelsea. This book answered my question.