Legends Chelsea FINAL.qxd:Layout 1 8/27/07 1:28 PM Page vii Contents xi Introduction 1995: CULTURE SHOCK 3 Movado 6 Harry and the Zombie 13 The Swordsman 1996: BOHEMIAN FLOPHOUSE 17 The Truth about Those Fancy Hotels 26 Indie Rockers Cash In: Ryan Adams at the Chelsea 30 Herman Melville at the Chelsea (or Close, Anyway) 31 The Willie Nelson Christmas Album: Harry Smith at the Chelsea 39 How to Score a Pad at the Chelsea 1997: BATHROOM HIJINKS 45 The Manatee: Hiroya, Part I 51 Nanny by Trade 53 The First Punch: Stormé DeLarverié at the Chelsea 58 The Revelatory Work 61 The Eighth-Floor Bathroom: Herbert Huncke at the Chelsea 72 Vicky and Keanu 1998: CRIME AND PUNISHMENT 79 Twilight of the Club Kids: Michael Alig at the Chelsea 84 Junky Joe and the Europe of the Mind 87 Dietary Tips of the Homeless 88 Chelsea Death Cult: Sid Vicious at the Chelsea 100 Cowboy Doc.
Legends Chelsea FINAL.qxd:Layout 1 8/27/07 1:28 PM Page xi Introduction This book came about as the result of a fire. My girlfriend, Debbie Martin, and I were walking up Seventh Avenue one evening, coming home from dinner at the neighborhood restaurant Tello’s.
Legends Chelsea FINAL.qxd:Layout 1 8/27/07 1:28 PM Page 3 Movado My friend was helping me move some stuff into the Chelsea. I was sitting in his van on 23rd Street, out in front of the hotel. A black guy came down the middle of the street. He was hopping around with a jerky sort of walk, gesturing with his arms at the cars that streamed by him. As he got closer he spotted me. He stuck his head in the driver’s window of the van.
Legends Chelsea FINAL.qxd:Layout 1 8/27/07 1:28 PM Page 6 Harry and the Zombie It’s well known that underground filmmaker Harry Smith was also a painter, folklorist, and ethnomusicologist and that he collected string figures and paper airplanes. Less well known is that during his time at the Chelsea, Harry kept a Zombie. A disciple of über- Satanist Aleister Crowley—whom he often claimed, much to his mother’s embarrassment, to be his real father—Harry was a conse- crated bishop in the O.T.O., the Ordo Templi Orientis, a mystical order founded in Germany in 1902 and reorganized by Crowley in 1912. The order is fairly eclectic, embracing all world traditions of magic, and that’s what led Harry to the study of voodoo. Trav- eling to Haiti in the sixties in order to immerse himself fully in the dark art, Harry soon attained the rank of Houngan, or voodoo priest, amazing even seasoned practitioners with the ease with which he channeled the spirit of the powerful snake god Damballah Wedo.
Legends Chelsea FINAL.qxd:Layout 1 8/27/07 1:28 PM Page 13 The Swordsman I remember my first night in the Chelsea. My girlfriend, Susan, and I had just spent hours moving in all our stuff—more than the guys at the desk had ever seen, they said. I was excited and a bit nervous to be in New York. Though I was dead tired, I couldn’t sleep, so as Susan slept I sat up into the wee hours of the morning, drinking beer and listening to the radio.
Legends Chelsea FINAL.qxd:Layout 1 8/27/07 1:28 PM Page 17 The Truth about Those Fancy Hotels PART I: A DIABOLICAL PLOT Those fancy hotels work like this: first, they take your money, say for a week’s stay, in advance. Then they gas you, so you either die or get fed up and leave early. In either case, they get to rent your room out again to some other sucker, thus doubling their money.
Legends Chelsea FINAL.qxd:Layout 1 8/27/07 1:28 PM Page 26 Indie Rockers Cash In: Ryan Adams at the Chelsea There’s a phenomenon my girlfriend, Susan, and I have noticed of late: young singers check into the Chelsea, write a few songs, then use the hip cachet of the hotel to sell records. Good for them—so long as they get out while the getting’s good. Examples include Rufus Wainwright, Keren Ann, and Hank Williams Jr.’s daughter Holly Williams.
Legends Chelsea FINAL.qxd:Layout 1 8/27/07 1:28 PM Page 30 Herman Melville at the Chelsea (or Close, Anyway) Around the corner from the Chelsea on Seventh Avenue, a homeless man, apparently drunk, was mediating a dispute between two of his similarly situated buddies: “Nah, you know the story of Moby Dick, don’t you? They didn’t call him that because he bit his dick off! He bit his leg off! That’s why he walked with a peg leg.” Well, that clears things up. No need to use a peg leg just because you got your dick bit off. I noticed, however, that the man seemed possibly to be confusing Ahab with the white whale.