Illustration by Dutch based artist Michelle Amo for Preppy Trendy Mag
Since the 60’s , The Chelsea Hotel holds the same clout of class. Undeniably known for its avant-garde artists and their avant-garde parties, it also held home to many artists and writers such as Mark twain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Ethan Hawke, Pink Floyd and Leonard Cohen to name a few, who created the timeless pieces that we know of today. Man-Laï Liang owner of Man-Lai events, our host and permanent resident of the hotel for well over forty years, states that “There is knowledge of a Friendly ghost or spirit that is in this building”. She holds a very strong sense of positive energy. This spirit was and still is said to reinvent you in helping you produce your best work. Amid them Man-Lai was a model, a photographer and most importantly one of the first stylist known in the industry in Europe (France and Barcelona) at first, then in New York when she moved here permanently.
Having this in mind, Artists were known to have a bartered deal with their talents to use as rent when they produced a work of art. Although they were many artists and authors residing in the Hotel, the photographers living there were few. Nonetheless, they were always ready for candid shots in the Chelsea.
Photo from Preppy Trendy photo shoot “Channeling the Chelsea Hotel guests through the decades”
They made sure they did not miss the shots of Woody Allen coming in and out on the regular and of Madonna when she was shooting for her book “SEX”. In addition to these big names, some of her neighbors were known for being some of the biggest heroin dealers, drag queens and pimps of their time in the city, they were one of the reasons why the Chelsea was alive and infamously known for their doped drugged dance parties. And how did they keep the parties in the loop of the nightlife ? Well, the fire alarms held some of the highlights from the New York Post. Rumor has it that the original owner’s son Stanley Bard had connections with the NY Post and had hoax alarms to attract limelight. They would pull the fire alarm at a certain time during the party so all the celebrities could gather in the lobby waiting for the fire department where The New York Post would already be waiting for these infamous photos of the rich and famous partying at The Chelsea.
Our host Man-Lai Liang would count us anecdotes of The Chelsea Hotel through the decades and it’s fascinating. She is literally the living oracle of the place. She knows everybody from Uma Thurman who was a resident of the hotel to Warhol perusing the place as if he was strolling through central park after brunch on a Sunday afternoon. Also, many iconic movies were shot in the Hotel, The professional (Leon), The Chelsea girls by Andy Warhol, 9 ½ weeks to name a few.
Preppy Trendy Mag Marie Caroline in Man-Lai’s living room
I had the privilege to shoot a couple of photos in Man-Lai’s living room which reminded me tastefully of the 1960’s.
Among the room left still intact is the new owner’s offices. The door furtively opened during one of my visits and my eyes graced a small corridor ornate of old dark oak wood molding and an extraordinary fauvism wall paper with big palm leaves and small birds that disappeared subtly amid this make belief forest. Just breathtaking!
In 2012, owners changed and Chelsea was sold to a hotel group which is their third transfer of ownership. As of now it is more of a ghost town. And with its current construction the gleam and glamour of Chelsea Hotel is under serious surgery. They are said to have dedicated about 22 luxury condos (which are for sale ). These rooms will all have :Central air, central heating, a modernized and sleek look with the addition of a washer and dryer; none of the things that the hotel built between 1883 to 1885 ever had. In some of the units, the old fireplaces will remain as a decoration or a reminiscing piece of the past.
Fire place in one of the unit being renovated
A few years before the construction and change of ownership in 2012 they started to evacuate the quarters that were apartments so that they could change them into hotel rooms and condos.
Only 14% of tenants still reside there nowadays; it used to be 75% tenant occupied.Though the Chelsea has been home to numerous writers, musicians, artists and actors the hotel no longer accepts new long-term residencies; luckily the building is still home to many who lived there before the change in policy.
Tenant entry way
It will take more than this article to go in the depth of this place that decades ago was an eccentric genuine madhouse or precisely known as the temple of the New York art and entertainment scene of the past decennials because of its location in the theater district before it moved to Midtown.
The subject is extensive. Nevertheless, we are curious of the Chelsea’s fate. Will the reputation remain, vanish or more so rebuild itself after the luxury revamp? Will the Chelsea be written about as part of the history that made New York infamous for it’s party scene throughout the four last decades alongside Studio 54 and the Limelight which were just club scene but equally insane? Or will it be considered swallowed by modernity and the need to transform most of the landmark buildings and places in New York as another development of New York real estate portfolio? Or regain its notoriety as the “Hubert home clubs” as it originally intended to be around 1880?
Our collaborator Drake Pearson interviewing Man-Lai Liang in her apartment at the Chelsea
A decade from now perhaps, it will just be history unknown by the youth, and perhaps just another building in New York city were you just walk on its sidewalk ignorant of its past. I can only hope that the friendly ghost that is said to live there, inspires whomever moves in and purposely perpetuates the artistic spirit that emanates from this place and its walls, and consciously transforms the residence into this artist den it was once before… subconsciously at least…
One of Chelsea’s french door window open to the future
Article by co-writers: Drake Pearson and Marie Caroline
*Preppy Trendy Mag would like to thank Man-laï Liang, producer of our photo shoot “Channeling The Chelsea Hotel guests through the decades” and for the exclusive interview / tour on the Chelsea Hotel.