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Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Chelsea

Mantattan’s Chelsea Hotel, a picturesque, red-brick edifice at West 23rd Street, is not only a landmark, but an icon of American culture. Since 1884 generations of artists lived, cohabited and worked there, among them John Sloan, Edgar Lee Masters, Thomas Wolfe, Dylan Thomas, Arthur Miller, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Sam Shepard, Sid Vicious, and Dee Dee Ramone, to name just a few. I heard from the Chelsea in the early 80’s when I worked with Leonard Cohen in Los Angeles. He told me about his time there and his tryst with Janis Joplin whom he had met in the hotel’s elevator (he also has written a song about that episode). One wonders why the Chelsea has become the largest and longest-lived artists’ community in the known world? Now I know, because I just read Inside the Dream Palace, a new book by Sherill Tippins. It is pure joy to read this smart and well-written chronological account of the Chelsea’s history, and I warmly recommend it.

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