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HIWAY AMERICA- THE CHELSEA HOTEL -AND LEONARD COHEN’S CHELSEA. NYC

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Dave Christy, my late husband and I regularly stayed at the Chelsea. We made many happy memories that I always will treasure.

Where The Walls Still Talk
Tales from the legendary hotel-slash-commune that housed Jackson Pollock, Dylan Thomas, Arthur Miller, Bob Dylan, Robert Mapplethorpe, Patti Smith, and Sid Vicious—told by residents like Rufus Wainwright, Betsy Johnson, R. Crumb, and Andy Warhol.
BY NATHANIEL RICHOCTOBER 8, 2013 12:00 AM

Anita! Soon this Chelsea Hotel

Will vanish before the city’s merchant greed,

Wreckers will wreck it, and in its stead

More lofty walls will swell

This old street’s populace. Then who will know

About its ancient grandeur, marble stairs,

Its paintings, onyx-mantels, courts, the heirs

Of a time now long ago? . . .

—“The Hotel Chelsea” (1936), Edgar Lee Masters

Today the halls of the Chelsea Hotel are salted with dust. The hundreds of paintings that adorned its walls have been locked away in storage. The doors to abandoned apartments are whitewashed and padlocked. Hotel operations ceased in 2011 for the first time in 106 years, and now the few remaining residents roam the echoing corridors like ghosts. They have watched workers haul out antique moldings, stained glass, even entire walls. Ancient pipes ruptured during renovations, flooding apartments, and neighbors returned home from work to find their front doors sealed in plastic wrap. The Chelsea’s new owners say that the building had fallen into dangerous disrepair, and they are restoring it to its original condition. Some residents believe that they are being forced out, and that the Chelsea as they know it—and as it was known to residents from Sherwood Anderson and Thomas Wolfe to Sid Vicious and Jasper Johns—will soon vanish before the city’s merchant greed.

Dystopias always begin as utopias, and the Chelsea is no different. Though in its current state it bears an unfortunate resemblance to Los Angeles’s Bradbury Building as transfigured in Blade Runner, the Chelsea was originally conceived as a socialist utopian commune. Its architect, Philip Hubert, was raised in a family devoted to the theories of the French philosopher Charles Fourier, who proposed the construction of self-contained settlements that would meet every possible professional and personal need of its inhabitants. After the stock-market crash of 1873, Hubert decided New York was ready for its own Fourierian experiment and devised a plan to build cooperative apartment houses in New York City. Tenants would save money by sharing fuel and services. Hubert’s creations—New York City’s first co-ops—were tremendously successful, and none more so than the Chelsea, which opened in 1884. Keeping with Fourier’s philosophy, Hubert reserved apartments for the people who built the building: its electricians, construction workers, interior designers, and plumbers. Hubert surrounded these laborers with writers, musicians, and actors. The top floor was given over to 15 artist studios. Hudson River School paintings hung in the common dining rooms, and the hallways and ceilings were decorated with natural motifs. At 12 stories, the Chelsea was the tallest building in New York. (For a full history of the Chelsea Hotel and its origins, see Sherill Tippins’ forthcoming Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York’s Legendary Chelsea Hotel.)

But Hubert’s grand experiment went bankrupt in 1905, and the Chelsea was converted to a luxury hotel, which was visited regularly by guests such as Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, and the painter John Sloan. After World War II, as the hotel declined and room prices fell, it attracted Jackson Pollock, James T. Farrell, Virgil Thomson, Larry Rivers, Kenneth Tynan, James Schuyler, and Dylan Thomas, whose death in 1953 further enhanced the hotel’s legend. (“I’ve had 18 straight whiskies,” said Thomas, after polishing off a bottle of Old Grandad on the last day of his life. “I think that’s the record.”) Arthur Miller moved into #614 after his divorce from Marilyn Monroe. Bob Dylan wrote “Sara” in #211; Janis Joplin fellated Leonard Cohen in #424, an act immortalized in “Chelsea Hotel #2” (“you were talking so brave and so sweet/giving me head on the unmade bed”); Sid Vicious stabbed Nancy Spungen to death in #100. Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Chelsea, William Burroughs wrote The Third Mind, and Jack Kerouac had a one-night stand with Gore Vidal. In 1966 Andy Warhol shot parts of Chelsea Girls at the hotel. In 1992, Madonna, a former resident, returned to shoot photographs for her Sex book. Christo and Jeanne-Claude once stole the doorknob from their bathroom door for an art project; the doorknob is now in the permanent collection of the Hirshhorn Museum.
In its last half-century, the Chelsea was run as an informal artists’ colony. Artists traded paintings for rent, or lived for free, subsidized by the exorbitant rates paid by the troubled children of the hyper-rich—another demographic that has historically been drawn to the hotel. Tourists from all over the world paid for cheerless rooms and the opportunity to sit in the moldering lobby and gawk. The curator of this living museum, the gatekeeper responsible for deciding who should be allowed admittance and for how much, was Stanley Bard. His father, David, had been one of three partners who bought the declining hotel in 1943; Stanley assumed management in the early 1970s. An institution himself, he’s been called everything from “the best loved landlord in history” to “the biggest starfucker of all time.” But six years ago, he was forced out by the heirs of the other two ownership families, who wanted to sell the hotel against his wishes, and two years ago the Chelsea sold to the real-estate magnate Joseph Chetrit for approximately $80 million. Chetrit, who refused to talk to the press, has recently sold the property to King & Grove, a boutique-hotel chain, which is currently overseeing a $40 million renovation.

So far, the promised “re-invention” of the Chelsea has not gone well. Some of the building’s remaining tenants, alleging that Chetrit had tried to bully them into vacating their apartments, filed a lawsuit alleging hazardous living conditions and intimidation. The tenants’ efforts drew the support of former residents, architectural historians, and local politicians. That suit settled two weeks ago, but the building still resembles a construction site, and tenants who did not receive a settlement complain that little has changed. I set out to chronicle its history in the words of those who have lived, worked, caroused, and died there. This is the story of the Chelsea Hotel as told by its past and future ghosts.

NICOLA L.(Artist, current resident): The first time I came to the Chelsea, I was invited to New York to perform at La MaMa in 1968. I remember the first floor was only prostitutes and pimps. One pimp had pink shoes. For me it was unbelievable. It made Paris look like the provinces by comparison. But prostitutes and pimps were a part of the package of the Chelsea. And artists—I will not say that they are prostitutes, but they are selling themselves.
Former longtime manager Stanley Bard, in the lobby of the Chelsea. He was known for his lax leasing system, which allowed struggling artists to live and work in the hotel for decades., By Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.
SCOTT GRIFFIN(Theater producer and developer, former resident): You had a constantly changing cast of residents, some of whom had been there for a hundred years, some who were only there for a month. There was an incredible cross-pollination of people of all ages, social classes, and levels of accomplishment. And it was all curated by Stanley Bard. It was a vibrant, dynamic place to be, particularly as a young person. You could go to one floor and talk about the theater with Stefan Brecht and go to another floor and talk to Arnold Weinstein about poetry and then have dinner downstairs with Arthur Miller. There aren’t many buildings in New York like that.
GERALD BUSBY (Composer, current resident): Stanley Bard had a sense of who was really an artist. He also had a sense for rich dilettantes. He himself was a dilettante who wanted to be part of the artistic scene and wanted to be identified with it. So he became the landlord daddy for artists. It was an astonishing role that he created for himself. His relationship with every tenant was personal. That was the way he behaved—he took everything personally.

MILOS FORMAN (Film director): I finished a movie in 1967, and I didn’t have any money. Somebody told me that Stanley Bard would let me stay at the Chelsea until I would be able to pay him back. At the time all I knew about the Chelsea was that some people in the hippie world were staying there. But I didn’t know that it had the slowest elevator in the whole country.

NICOLA L.: Anything could happen in the elevator. It was either Janis Joplin or the big woman from the Mamas and the Papas who tried to kiss me in the elevator. I can’t remember which. It was a crazy time.

MILOS FORMAN: Once I was going up in the elevator to my room on the eighth floor. On the fifth floor the door opened, and a totally naked girl, in a panic, ran into the elevator. I was so taken aback that I just stared at her. Finally I asked what room she was in. But then the elevator stopped and she ran away. I never saw her again.

And I remember in the floor above me there was a man who had in his room a small alligator, two monkeys, and a snake.

GERALD BUSBY: There were rooms kept aside for black-sheep children from rich families, who paid Stanley to babysit. The most auspicious of these was Isabella Stewart Gardner’s grandniece, who had the same name: Isabella Stewart Gardner. She was an excellent poet—a poet laureate of New York in the 70s—and married to Allen Tate. She was also mad as a hatter, a total masochist, alcoholic. She’d get drunk and meet someone and he’d take her up to her apartment and fuck her and beat her up and steal something, and then she was totally happy.

BOB NEUWIRTH(singer, songwriter, producer, artist): That was the period in which the Chelsea Hotel began to take on a tabloid character. It moved from the realm of a bohemian hotel to a kind of hot spot. Rock-and-roll people began to stay there. Andy Warhol and the people who hung out in the back room of Max’s Kansas City were discovering the place.

GERARD MALANGA (Poet and photographer): When Andy and I traveled, it was pretty much first-class, but then we weren’t actually “living” in those hotels. The Chelsea was different. It appeared a bit rough at the edges. Quite seedy. Paint peeling. Throw rugs needing a cleaning. I don’t recall if the maid ever turned up the sheets. But nothing I couldn’t live with.

Chelsea Girls was one of those divine accidents. When we first started filming, we had no title or concept in mind. We were shooting wildly, you might say. Somehow we found ourselves continually going back to the Chelsea to film. It was our instant set. Andy liked the idea of shooting “on location.” So that’s how the title for the movie pretty much evolved. Not all the sequences were shot there, but structurally when we pieced the sequences together, it gave the appearance that they were shot in different rooms.
BETSEY JOHNSON(Designer): I left a husband [John Cale] in 1969 and went to the Chelsea with a toothbrush. I meant to stay for a couple of days, and I stayed eight months.

I had a huge loft, and I was making costumes for the movie Ciao! Manhattan. I would dress up in them and sit in the lobby to see if they got any reaction. I sat there with cone ears, cone tits, cone knees, in a stretch black knit. I looked a little strange, but I can’t remember any laughing or harassment. It was no big deal.

MILOS FORMAN: One night, around two in the morning, a fire alarm went off. It was a few days after a horrible fire in Japan, and we’d seen on television people jumping to their death from a burning building. So I panicked. I ran into the corridor to see what was happening.

There were other doors opening and people asking questions, and suddenly I heard a bang: I had a window open and the draft closed my door. My key was inside, and I was naked in the corridor, which was beginning to fill with people.

Across the corridor there was a lady. I said, “Do you have any pants?” She said, “No, I don’t.”

I tried to call downstairs, but they just yelled back at me: “The building’s on fire, and you want us to bring you a spare key!” So this lady said, “Well, I can lend you a skirt.”

I put on the skirt. By this point I can see down the long spiral stairwell that everybody is going to the rails to see what’s happening. I was on the eighth floor, and we could see, on the fifth floor, that firemen had started to blast an incredibly powerful water cannon through the door of an apartment to extinguish the fire. From above we saw water running down the stairwell through the different floors, like a cascade. It was like a Niagara Falls.

Then we saw the firemen carrying out an old lady. We didn’t know if she was dead or not—to this day I don’t know if she was dead—but they had blasted her apartment with so much water that she might have drowned.

It seems cynical, but when they were pouring the water in, all of us on the floors above were just standing and watching, as on a balcony in a theater. A bottle of wine was passed around, and some joints, and everyone drank, smoke, talked, and watched the waterfall.

But when they brought out the body everything stopped. There was total silence except for the sound of the water running down the stairs. We all waited for the elevator—the slowest elevator in the world—to come up to the fifth floor. Finally it came, and the fireman took away the lady. And then, the moment the elevator door closed, bang: bottles of wine, joints, everybody talking, and the show went on.

JUDITH CHILDS (Current resident): Edie Sedgwick set her mattress on fire. She was staying across the hallway from our apartment. We had a very alert fellow at the desk that night, and he hadn’t liked the way she looked when she came in, so he went to check on her and found the fire. Later, after the firemen came, we were all in the lobby, mostly in our nightclothes. When the firemen said everything was O.K., we all went into the El Quijote [the Spanish restaurant on the hotel’s ground floor] and had a drink—in our nightclothes. Now that was very fine. That was the moment when we got to know a lot of the people in the hotel.

BETSEY JOHNSON: In those days, nobody was famous. Nobody was like whoa, except for Andy and Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger. Everyone else was on the same plane of having an idea, believing in it, and going for it. Needing to talk about it, needing support from other people in the same boat. It was a clique, but it was based on talent and passion rather than who you knew or how much money you had. It felt real homey and droll and addictive. I made handmade clothes for Nico. I was working with the Paraphernalia clothing boutique, and my fitting model was Edie Sedgwick, who also was staying at the Chelsea. That’s when, somehow or other, her room caught on fire. She was wearing my dress!

It was very comfortable because there was no scrutiny; there was no “you’re too weird for us.” Do you remember that Buñuel movie, where the dinner guests can’t leave the party—The Exterminating Angel? That’s what the Chelsea was like.

WILLIAM IVEY LONG (Costume designer): I moved to the Chelsea because I knew that Charles James lived there—the great Charles James, the Anglo-American couturier, designer, friend of Cecil Beaton’s, friend of everybody. He lived there in great squalor and never accepted assistants or interns.

Mr. James had two rooms in the Chelsea Hotel. There was peeling paint, maquettes of dresses hanging from the ceiling. He dyed his hair with shoe polish because it would drip like in Death in Venice. It probably wasn’t shoe polish, but I called it that. He had a dog, Sputnik, who had an infection and wanted to scratch his ear. So he wore one of those big Elizabethan collars.

I would do things like get him food or cook, and he would eat dinner at my apartment. I’d walk the dog. He already had an assistant, so I was just a gofer. I worked with him until he died, in ’78. I’ve known about five world-class geniuses. One of the traits of genii is they dare the world to understand them. Many of them are belligerent and stubborn and unpleasant. This is justified because the aura that they give off is so appealing, so compelling, that you’re drawn to them. It’s a little test because they’re aware of their special gifts. Charles James’s particular test was that he was an asshole to everybody.

BETSEY JOHNSON: Charles James! We used to send notes to each other. He was a private guy—I never saw him. I would invite him to the shows, and he’d write a note about how he loved my work but he wasn’t feeling well so he couldn’t come. It was an old-fashioned thing—you’d leave a note in his hotel mailbox. I wish I’d had the money to have him make me a gown.

RENE RICARD (Painter, poet, critic, current resident): Charles James was a dear friend of mine when I was a little boy—17, 18. He was mad as a hatter. I had no idea how famous he was. We used to go to Max’s together. One night Charles was at a booth with me in the back room and someone sent over a bottle of champagne with a glass. I don’t know who the person was, but Charles started shaking. He turned the glass over on the bottle and told the waiter to take it back. Everybody was trying to help Charles, and you couldn’t help Charles.

He spoke with a beautiful Mayfair accent, very much like Joan Greenwood in The Importance of Being Earnest. Which was rather interesting considering that he came from the Midwest.

GERALD BUSBY: I arrived here in 1977. Virgil Thomson was my mentor, and he called up Stanley Bard—the famous, outrageous, phenomenal creature that he was—and said, “Stanley, this is the kind of person you’re supposed to have here.” So that was that.

The Chelsea then was bizarre and wonderful and strange. It was just coming out of its super drug haze. I remember there was a guy who sold grass. He had a five-foot-high pile of grass in the middle of his living room with roaches running out. It has always been a place where, because of Stanley, you could do virtually anything short of murder, though that took place too. There used to be a murder, a suicide, and a fire every year. You’d go into the elevators, and you’d see a shoe and a sock. Somebody had committed suicide by jumping down the stairwell and, on the way down, lost a shoe.

My boyfriend and I lived across from an apartment that always had young married couples who fought bitterly, screaming and slamming doors. I came out one day and a man from one of the most vociferous couples was leaning against the wall, drinking a can of beer. He looked flushed and weird. He said, Hi. I said, Hello. I approached the elevators, and 20 policemen came rushing up and grabbed him. The man had just shot and killed his wife, you see, and he had been waiting for the police to come.

If you paid your rent and didn’t cause too much trouble with the manager, you could get away with almost anything. Many people became drug addicts here—including me for a period, when my partner died of AIDS—because you can do anything. The atmosphere encouraged outrageous adventures. That was because of Stanley.

JUDITH CHILDS: My husband, Bernard Childs, died here. The ambulance came. On that late afternoon, after I got back from the hospital, all of the neighbors visited, even those who didn’t know us, who weren’t personal friends.

Something else happened that I always will be grateful for. The housekeeper—at that time we still had maid service—came in and took away all of my husband’s underclothing. She changed the sheets and I never saw the underclothes again. That was a beautiful, incredible thing.

GERALD BUSBY: It was a perfect place for me mainly because of Virgil. He lived there like a graduate student. He had a wonderful, six-room apartment, in its original condition from 1884, but it had been part of an 11-room apartment. He got the part that didn’t have a kitchen. So he built a makeshift kitchen in the linen closet.

I met Virgil when I was working as a cook. After I had an experience cooking for him, I said, “Oh, Virgil? I’ve written a few pieces and I wondered if I could show them to you.” He said: “Not until I taste more of your food. I need to see if you can put things together and turn them into something else.”

He’d call when he held fancy dinners at his apartment—when he would entertain Philip Johnson and his sister, for instance. He would say, “Can you run up a crème brûlée?” And I’d run him up a crème brûlée. So our relationship was mainly about food.

GRETCHEN CARLSON (Current resident): My husband, Philip Taaffe, was living in Naples in 1989, and he wanted to move back to New York. A friend was living here, and she told us that Virgil Thomson’s apartment was going to be up for sale. He had just died. The idea was to leave the apartment in its original state. It’s one of the few apartments that wasn’t chopped up into little pieces when the hotel became a flophouse in the Depression. Virgil is present in this place. Like a benign, gentle ghost. He died right here.

WILLIAM IVEY LONG: I had this fabulous apartment in the front: #411. It proved to be very exciting, because it’s also the number that people dial for information. I was always answering people’s questions in some strange way. Sometimes, though, I would actually give them the number they wanted. I would look it up for them.

My next-door neighbor was Neon Leon. He had a white girlfriend and a black girlfriend and, I think, children with each. They would take turns fighting with him and setting fire to the mattress. I would take gaffer’s tape and tape around my door because the smoke would be coming in, but I would be too busy to evacuate. There would be foghorns and people yelling, “Everyone out!”

VIVA (Writer, painter, actor, dilettante): There were a lot of suicides out those windows. One night, a guy from a floor above us landed on a metal table in the courtyard—on his head.

The very next day another guy jumped out the window onto the synagogue next door. It was just after John Lennon was shot. But this man didn’t die—he was bloody but conscious. He was being carried down the hall on a stretcher. I asked him, “Why did you jump out the window?” He said, “Because John Lennon was shot.”

GERALD BUSBY: I was cooking dinner one night for Sam, and I noticed that the flame on the stove was turning a very strange color. The atmosphere was palpably different. You couldn’t quite define it. What was happening was that there was a fire on a lower floor and enormous billows of smoke were coming up the stairwell. When we opened the door, a black cloud of smoke came in. We ran to the windows to breathe. There were people outside shouting at us, “Jump!”

It turned out that a country-Western singer had a fight with his girlfriend. She poured kerosene all over his fancy shirts and set them on fire. He was asphyxiated, and the whole hotel was filled with smoke.

We went out on the fire escape and were rescued by cherry pickers from fire trucks.

ED HAMILTON (Writer, author ofLegends of the Chelsea Hotel: Living with Artists and Outlaws of New York’s Rebel Mecca,current resident): I loved it immediately because it was my ideal of bohemian heaven. People left their doors open; they’d invite you in for a glass of wine. It had a vital energy. At the same time, it was a little bit scary because, in addition to the artists and writers, there were all these crazy characters, schizophrenics and junkies and prostitutes. Mine is an S.R.O. room, so it’s got no kitchen, and the bathroom, which is shared between four rooms, is next door. Junkies would break the lock and go in and shoot up all the time. That was the biggest problem. They’d stay there for hours because they would nod off on the toilet, and they’d leave needles and blood on the floor.

And the prostitutes—it doesn’t sound so bad that there would be prostitutes. But the way it works is that three or four of them rent a room and they take turns with their johns, a john every half an hour, so there’s a steady stream of people that you don’t know. When one of the prostitutes is working, the others have to hang out somewhere, so they usually go to the bathroom. They’ll stay in there for hours. I’ll ask them, “Why are you always in the bathroom?” And they’ll say, “I’m using the toilet. What’s your problem? If you need to use the bathroom, just knock.” But you get sick of knocking on the bathroom all the time to get rid of the prostitutes.

They also have a habit of hanging their underwear in the bathroom. There’s underwear hanging all over the mirror and the sinks and the tub and the shower rod. They have a lot of underwear, prostitutes do. That’s something I’ve noticed.
The lobby before renovations, which caused a huge uproar when the artwork was taken down and put into storage. Now only the girl-on-the-swing sculpture by Eugenie Gershoy remains., By Cindy Marler/Redux. © Hollandse Hoogte.
GERALD BUSBY: There were no leases. Stanley would let you get behind in your rent. If you were really an artist, you could get behind for a month or two or three. But he had this wonderfully bizarre sense of timing: you’d be alone in the elevator and just as the door was closing, he would dash in and you were stuck. Or he would yell after you in the lobby, to embarrass you. Viva used to have these loud, screaming arguments with him in the lobby. Stanley loved that. He liked confrontation. She would say, “You fucking asshole! I don’t know why you think I’m supposed to pay you any more rent!”

NICOLA L.: One day Viva decided that her apartment was too small. The room next door was empty, so she broke through—she made a big hole in the wall. There was a big duel with Stanley about that. She always chose the best moment to fight with him, like noon, when all the tourists were checking out.

ANDY WARHOL (diary entry, October 12, 1978): The police just arrested Sid Vicious for stabbing his 20-year-old manager-girlfriend to death in the Chelsea Hotel, and then I saw on the news that Mr. Bard was saying, “Oh yeah. They drank a lot and they would come in late. . . . ” They just let anybody in over there, that hotel is dangerous, it seems like somebody’s killed there once a week.

RENE RICARD: Sid Vicious was the sweetest, saddest boy. He didn’t know what happened to him. It was so sad. He was so sad.

WILLIAM IVEY LONG: I remember walking past a body. It was not the first body I had seen—when you live in an old S.R.O., which part of the Chelsea was, old people die. But they usually don’t sit in the lobby. A policeman was guarding it. When I asked about it, they said, “That’s that rock-and-roller’s girlfriend.”

Everybody said, “Oh, Sid Vicious killed her, slashed her throat.” But I didn’t see any blood. The body was on a gurney, covered by a sheet. A low gurney, I remember, knee-high. Not one of the ones they use for living people.

RENE RICARD: Stanley denied everything. “Killed his girlfriend in my hotel? Nobody ever killed his girlfriend in my hotel.” “Fire? Edie never had a fire.” He’s totally rewritten the history. I think that’s how he lives with himself.

EDDIE IZZARD (Actor and comedian): The first gig I ever did in America was in Memphis, around 1987. It was a street-performing gig, and a British woman there said, “If you’re ever going to go to New York, stay at the Chelsea Hotel. It’s crazy. You gotta go there.”

So I thought, “O.K., I’ll go there.” I hadn’t heard of it before.

The rooms were bonkers. The rooms were so bonkers. You’d go down a hall, which used to lead to a door, but they closed the door off, so it was just this bit of corridor that was useless. Every room had its own theme, but the themes were usually just whatever they’ve managed to get into that room. I remember staying there when I was performing Dress to Kill at the WestBeth Theater. I was walking around with makeup, dressed in heels, and I think I just blended right in. It was just odd, fucking odd, but I liked it.

LINDA TROELLER (Photographer, current resident): I moved in around 1993. I’d broken up with my French boyfriend, and my collector, who always stayed at the Chelsea Hotel, said, “Why don’t you see Stanley Bard?” I did, and he said that he happened to have something, but only if I moved in by two o’clock the next day.

It was room #832. He told me it was a writer’s room, that it had a big history. He showed me the bedroom and the bathroom, which was beautiful. Then he opened the closet and there was a huge black snake. It was rattling in a cage. Stanley closed the closet door. He said, “Don’t mind that. There were Goths staying here, but we’re getting them out!” He was a great salesman.

RENE RICARD: After September 11th, I was homeless. I was walking down 23rd Street, and just by coincidence I had $3,000 on me. Stanley Bard is standing outside the hotel. He says, “Rene, why don’t you move in?” Every time he saw me he’d ask me to move in. He’d come on with a big smile—you know, the host extraordinaire. But this time I said, “Sure, absolutely. Show me a room.”

He showed me the smallest, worst room they had. I ask how much it was, and it’s as if he could read what was in my pocket: “$1,500 a month,” he said. He says he needed one month’s rent and one month in advance. That’s $3,000. I just emptied my pocket and gave him the money. If you could see the old payment system, what the documentation looks like when you pay your checks—it’s incomprehensible. It’s state-of-the-art somewhere. Perhaps Romania.

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT (Musician): I was at the Chelsea for about a year, writing my second album, Poses. I was gathering material and anecdotes and songs and boyfriends. I used to party a lot with Alexander McQueen there, and I fell in with Zaldy Goco, Susanne Bartsch, Walt Paper, Chloë Sevigny—that set. The nightclubbing, Limelight, club-kid culture. Those who had survived the 90s.

I felt that for the album I was writing, there was no better address to have in terms of communicating decadent, sad 20s esprit. I mean, you can’t talk about the Chelsea and not talk about drugs. I don’t do drugs these days, so it’s fine, but it was my last grasp at extreme youth, with all the trimmings: not just the drugs, but the alcohol, the sex, everything. I was approaching my Saturn return and things were starting to get a little darker and a little more sinister. There’s nothing like those high ceilings at the Chelsea Hotel to accentuate that—the phantoms up near the trellises. I couldn’t have asked for a better place.

ARTIE NASH (Author, activist, gadfly, current resident): Rene Ricard was the first person I met after I moved in. I woke up to someone singing opera in the shared bathroom. It might as well have been right outside my door. It was four a.m. He told me that a 15-year-old hooker had lived in my apartment before me, which was both sad and fun at the same time. He loved my room, he said. He assured me that only the best people had committed suicide there.

GRETCHEN CARLSON: That’s what they called the little rooms: suicide rooms. This was a place that drew people who’d hit bottom. For some reason, they had it in their mind that they should come here.

ED HAMILTON: Dee Dee Ramone was about the craziest person I’ve met at the Chelsea. He was staying next door from me, and I didn’t know it was him. There were construction workers upstairs, and he started banging on my wall, “Shut up, shut up!” Then he came to my door, dressed in just his jockey shorts and covered in tattoos. He said, “Shut up with that racket!” I said, “It’s not me, Dee Dee. It’s those guys upstairs.” He ran back into his room and threw open his window and started yelling at them, “You shut up, up there! Motherfuckers! I’ll come up there and kill you!”

Of course they deliberately made more noise, and that just drove him nuts.
Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his manager-girlfriend Nancy Spungen in 1978, the year he stabbed her to death in one of the hotel’s most famous murders (there were a few . . .)., By Chalkie Davies/Getty Images.
R. CRUMB (Artist): A bunch of really crazy people hung around the Chelsea. You could tell that people were going there just because of its reputation—poseurs with artistic pretentions or European eccentrics with money. There’d be poseurs sitting around the lobby. The lobby was really annoying.

I only started staying there about 10 years ago. It was always when somebody else paid for it. I never could afford to stay there—even 10 years ago, it was too expensive. Except for the old residents who clung desperately to their rooms and by some law were not allowed to be kicked out, the guests there were all arty-farty pretentious people with money who wanted to stay there because Sid and Nancy lived there. That was my impression, anyway. The whole thing seemed extremely self-conscious to me.

LOLA SCHNABEL (Artist, former resident): My father had always rented a room in the Chelsea. Guests would stay there, and collectors. He always dreamed of living in the Chelsea, but he was in a different part of his life, he had a family, so it just sat there. When I was 22, I got a scholarship to Cooper Union. My father figured I was on a good track and could come up with the rent, so I moved into the Chelsea. I would do my homework at the bar of El Quijote. I would always order a croquette, until one day, when I found a human tooth in my croquette. Then I stopped eating food there. But I still sat at the bar—it’s a great place to do homework.

ED HAMILTON: As the 90s moved into the aughts, Stanley started renovating the place. It needed it. It was run-down. They had fluorescent lights in the hallway, checkerboard linoleum.

He replaced the lighting and the linoleum. There was a lot of pressure on him from the board to make more money. Some of the marginal characters got edged out, especially the junkies and the prostitutes who didn’t pay their rent. The people in the tiny rooms got squeezed out, and the rooms were combined for people who could pay more. It was the same story all over New York.

JUDITH CHILDS: Some people say it was all over long before Stanley Bard left in 2007, but it wasn’t.

When the Chetrits came in and fired everyone who worked here, the whole staff, we went through a mourning period. They were part of our family. The day that happened, everybody was hugging and crying in the lobby. It was shocking. Then they closed the hotel. And finally they took down all the paintings. We were unbelievably sad. It was like the Panzer Division moving into Poland. And they know that we feel that way.

LOLA SCHNABEL: It’s sad to see the bare walls and to walk in the lobby and see an unfamiliar guy at the desk who doesn’t even say hello. The staff used to look out for you. If you were breaking up with your boyfriend, they’d give you a pat on the back and say, “It’s only a setback.” They would help you if you were carrying too much stuff—they don’t do that now. The doormen used to always give me comments about my outfits. I have this one pair of boots that I can’t take off by myself, and it was nice when the old management was there, because I had someone to help me take off my shoes.

ED HAMILTON: They took down all the art and put it into storage.

ED SCHEETZ (Founder, King & Grove [new owner of the Chelsea]): The art has not disappeared. It’s all stored, catalogued, and being taken care of so it doesn’t get damaged during the renovation. It’s not sold, it’s not gone, nothing.

As a hotel person, I’m involved with a lot of hotels, including iconic ones like the Delano in Miami. The Chelsea is a dream deal for someone in my career. It’s a fantastic investment, but it’s also just a lot of fun to help shape its future and its renaissance. Some people say, “Don’t change anything. You’re ruining the Chelsea!” That’s Luddite. It’s ridiculous. Are we destroying the spirit of the Chelsea? No. It was not destroyed, but it was trampled on for many decades, and we’re trying to bring it back. I think we will successfully do that.

We’re going to have $130 million or something invested in this building, plus all this time and energy. People act like it’s in our interest somehow to destroy it. Even if you say, like everybody does, that we’re just greedy developers, well, the best way for us to make money, and create something that is long lasting, is to do the right thing. That’s what is going to attract guests, people to the restaurants, visitors, tenants. That’s what’s going to make the most money. There is no incentive for us to do a bad job or make it into shiny glass condos. Staying true to the spirit of the Chelsea is not just the right thing—it’s the most profitable thing.

SCOTT GRIFFIN: The thing that is very hard to grasp about the Chelsea is that it’s all about the mix. It doesn’t matter whether people are paying a lot or a little, it’s about the mix, and the minute the Bards walked out that door, that mix was gone. Without that mix, the building just doesn’t work. If the new owners can quickly grasp the importance of the building’s history, if they can think outside of the box, as all smart people do, and learn to embrace the many eccentricities and unusual opportunities that this building presents—if so, they could be great landlords.

But in the last two years, the building has continued to deteriorate. I moved out in April—I feel it’s dangerous to be there now. The workers are routinely causing flooding, shutting off power. They’re destroying the building.

ED SCHEETZ: I understand that the renovations are disruptive and aggravating. But it’s a short-term inconvenience for a long-term permanent improvement. The building is a mess right now. It’s amazing they even allow people to live there. It is not complying with fire codes. It’s not complying with electrical codes. It does not comply with anything. It’s not safe; it’s not modern; it doesn’t have air conditioning; it doesn’t have working, functioning plumbing and heating. When you put in plumbing and air conditioning and modern electrical systems and comply with fire codes, yeah, that’s a pain. But it needs to be done, and it’s for the benefit of everybody, including the current residents. And we’ve done everything that anybody has asked us to do to minimize the intrusion. If they say, “Hey, a pipe broke and it leaked. Can you clean my apartment?” We say, “Sure.”

R. CRUMB: At a certain point you just give up on Manhattan. What can you do to stop it? Nothing, unless the whole fucking economy collapses. Manhattan is going to keep pushing in that direction, more and more expensive condos, apartments, hotel rooms. Then again, it’s always the end of some era in New York. They’ve been saying that about New York since before the Civil War.

MILOS FORMAN: These things are unstoppable. And it’s a pity. Greed is overwhelming.

GERARD MALANGA: Whenever friends planning a trip to New York would ask me about the Chelsea, I’d recommend they reserve a room at the Gramercy Park. In fact, until 15 years ago, the Chelsea rates were higher than those of the Gramercy Park. I have no sentimental attachment, none whatsoever to the Chelsea. I think the best thing that can be done with it—and I say this with the hope that its architectural integrity be preserved—is that some hotelier take it over and transform it into the luxury hotel it’s begging to be.

WILLIAM IVEY LONG:I’m very sentimental about it. Stanley Bard and the Chelsea Hotel saved my life. He certainly saved my artistic life. Stanley accepted the Bohemian biorhythm. This biorhythm is endangered. Stanley was determined that he wasn’t going to be the one to put the lid on anyone’s career. The people who could pay, did pay. The rich Italian tourists paid. The even richer rock-and-roll people paid. The people who couldn’t, he supported them. I had some depressive moments there. But Stanley was one of the few people in New York saying, “You can do it.” His belief in talented people will be his legacy.

ARTIE NASH: I’ve lived here since late 2005. I’m the last resident to get a lease under Stanley Bard. I live in Dylan Thomas’s old apartment. For a year or two, when Stanley was still here, it was as nurturing an existence as you could hope for. I’ve heard it described as a vortex. People do their best work here. But the spirit of the place, what inspired people to live here, has been drained.

MICHELE ZALOPANY (Painter, current resident): It’s a tomb now. There’s no life anymore. The human energy has changed completely. I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone.

ED HAMILTON: It’s hard to say where I’d end up if I had to leave the Chelsea. This place is synonymous with my experience in New York. Certainly I wouldn’t be able to find another place for $1,100. Not in Manhattan—probably not in Brooklyn, either. And I’d never find a place like this where everybody’s an artist. There are no places like that. Yeah, it’s a shame. This is the last outpost of bohemianism in New York.

 LEONARD COHEN’S CHELSEA HOTEL AT MIDNIGHT

or Somewhere In The Suburbia Of Manhattan

The Story of a Legendary New York City Hotel

Text and photos by Christof Graf

For some, they are the odd spots of boredom, for others havens of relaxation. For some they mean necessary evil, others use them as roadside rests on a long journey. Then again others use hotels and make them the center of their living.The Chelsea Hotel even became an oasis within the breeding grounds of New York’s Beat Generation.New York City is the biggest concert arena, the largest open air festival on earth and it’s not long-haired hard rockers or skinny techno freaks who are the main actors but the canyons of houses, the skyscapers and the frantic pace of a postmodern society that is setting the trends for the rest of the world. This is the center of the universe, this is where it all starts. Arts, culture and commerce. Pure Rock ‘n’Roll. New York, New York is swinging, jazzing, rocking and rolling.

Who’s talking ‘New York’ actually mostly talks about Manhattan, although the other parts of N.Y., The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island are accounting for most of its space and population. But Manhattan is like nothing else. Nowhere else, you are so stunned and impressed by people and architecture, technics and art, speed and rhythm. This city is a child of Rock’n’Roll in every way, the constant “Walk On The Wild Side” that Lou Reed used to sing about. This is equally true for stock brokers, businessmen or visitors as for writers, painters or musicians.

One of the crucial points is to find one’s own natural rhythm which for europeans also means to turn back the clock six hours upon arriving at Kennedy Airport, which is located about 90 minutes outside of downtown New York.

Beginning at this point, you’re irritated by a fact that happens to bewilder most first time european visitors in the U.S., that is that you’re adressed very friendly by people completey unbeknownst to you, telling you about their friends and family and all kinds of things. Some of them tell you things you would’t even want to tell your friends back home about.

You might think, what a friendly crowd and might want to offer your heartfelt friendship. But what Europeans are getting wrong is that Americans are very well able to distinguish between openness and frienship ,that they just have a different understanding of what, and how much to tell strangers. What one is saying is not necessarily what the other is understanding. What’s happening is that Americans are surprised to learn how easy Europeans offer their friendship, thinking of them as rather superficial. Got the picture ? OK then, let’s start our trip to Manhattan because we will encounter this situation again, masterfully re-created by Woody Allen in his movies again and again. The second, everlasting impression of the city is equally impressing: everything is bigger, brighter, louder, no matter if it’s day or night. It is ‘The city that never sleeps’.

For those who can deal with all those impressions, who are swinging with the rhythm of the city, who are playing their own Rock’n’Roll instead of getting the blues, their first won’t be the last visit in New York. He’s addicted from now on. The city becomes most beautiful if you let yourself float with the stream. It’s the only way to discover the real New York City away from the sightseeing trips and tourist attractions and to get in some sort of pioneering spirit.

A sightseeing tour for free is offered by the Staten Island Ferry crossing the river between Staten Island and Manhattan. Every half an hour it brings a stream of busy people to and fro at free of charge. Those who also want to enjoy the long, sand beaches of Staten Island should reckon about half a day for this trip. Back in the buzz of the Urban Jungle it is useful to take the same points of orientation as the drivers of the famous yellow cabs. The southside of Manhattan is consisting of the Financial District, including Wallstreet and the World Trade Center.

Then, next to Tribeca (the Triangle Below Canal Street), we have Chinatown and SoHo, Little Italy and the Lower East Side heading up north. After this we’re getting to Greenwich Village and Chelsea, the bohemian and artists quarters. It’s here that the characteristic rectangular system of streets begins. It exists since 1811 and it reaches way up to even include 155th Street.

Fifth Avenue is, besides Park Avenue, not only a very glamourous avenue, but it also divides East and West in the city (From right -West- to left -East- we have First to Eleventh Avenue, from bottom -South- to top -North- we have First to 155th Street). By the way, Central Park starts at 59th Street.

If you want to check out the trails of the Beat Generation in nowadays New York City, you can’t avoid to visit Greenwich Village and Chelsea. The ones who are looking for Rock’n’Roll history, searching for the spirits of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Jim Morrison, Nico or Patti Smith are likely to find some of it within the red brick walls of the Chelsea Hotel, located at 222, West 23rd St. between Seventh and Eight Avenue, where in the past many a famous song has been written.

Greenwich Village is one of the very few areas of Manhattan that does neither have the rectangular street pattern nor is part of his numbering system. Here, the streets still bow and bend at will and also, there still are a lot of green surroundings everywhere. People were living in Greenwich Village long before the decision was made to pave ways and build houses up to 155th Street. This is why the european character of the ‘Village’ is still intact in spite of the skyscrapers up north. But building modern Manhattan has threatened to destroy the quarter.

Only thanks to the imigration of artists, creative and critical spirits to the Village around the turn of the century, its charme could have been preserved. In the fifties, the Village became attractive for the beatnicks. In the sixties, the hippies came. In the seventies and eightees, it was the Rock’n’Rollers and everybody who wanted to be hip who made Greenwich Village and neighboring Chelsea symbols of the New York way of life. One of the particular spots is the Chelsea Hotel, meanwhile under national protection. This place is talking more about popular culture and its artists than any other spot in the Village.

The Chelsea was famous even back at a time when Mark Twain was living in one of its rooms. Thomas Wolfe and Arthur Miller have been living and writing there. Miller, who stayed six years at the Chelsea described the famous artist’s hotel like this: This hotel does not belong to America. There are no vacuum cleaners, no rules and shame…it’s the high spot of the surreal. Cautiously, I lifted my feet to move across bloodstained winos passing out on the sidewalks–and I was happy. I witnessed how a new time, the sixties, stumbled into the Chelsea with young, bloodshot eyes.

Until 1884, the Chelsea Hotel was the highest building in New York City. Today it is burried somewhere in the suburbia of Manhattan. The glamor of ancient time has been nagged away by the destruction done by the years. Only the main entrance with its memorial plates is reminding us of the great past of the hotel. The lobby is resembling an art gallery consisting of objects that sometimes were kept by the hotel management in lieu of payment for a rent long overdue.

The reception desk looks like straight out of an old black & white Hollywood movie. Both lifts seem to move in slow motion up and down the ten-story building. Sometimes, the inside of the hotel looks like a barracs. But holes in the floors, sqeeking waterpipes or breathing heatpipes only add to the ambiente of the hotel. Nonchalance is being cultivated in this place. Luxury is unwanted. Usefulness, atmosphere and non-conformism are dominating.

Pompousness is looked down upon, nonetheless there is tidyness all over the place. In the last five years, a lot of money has been spend upon the restauration of the victorian-gothic building with its many oriels.

Even today, only 100 of the Chelsea’s 400 ‘units’ are available to ‘normal’ New York visitors, the rest of them is occupied by permanent residents. The most beautiful of all (# 600) is a luxury suite which has a marble floor and a bronze fireplace and is currently rented to the gay couple writing love stories under the moniker “Judith Gould”. If you want to stay at the Chelsea, you’d be better adviced to book at least two months ahead, even if it’s only a ordinary room. You rather pay for the famousness of the hotel than for the rooms themselves. You can get a room facing the street at about $ 140 and the Chelsea is highly recommended for people who love something special.

Every room at the Chelsea tells its own story. In # 205, welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who reputedly inspired young Zimmerman to change his name to Bob Dylan, fell into a fatal coma after having 18 whiskies in a row. # 100 was once occupied by Sid Vicious, bass player with The Sex Pistols, and his girlfriend Nancy Spungeon. On the morning of October 11, 1978 Spungeon was found in the bathroom, stabbed to death.

Viscious, arrested under suspicion of murder, died shortly thereafter of a heroin overdose. Jimi Hendrix lived, loved and experimented here, with drugs and other things. Janis Joplin did not only have a love affair with Southern Comfort but also had a short liaison with Leonard Cohen. The canadian rock poet, too, loved the hotel: It’s one of those hotels that have everything that I love so well about hotels. I love hotels to which, at four a.m., you can bring along a midget, a bear and four ladies, drag them to your room and no one cares about it at all.

His song Chelsea Hotel is not only a remembrance of past loves with the likes of Janis Joplin or Nico, it’s also a declaration of love towards the hotel:I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel/ You were taking so brave and so free/ Giving me head on the unmade bed/ While the limousines wait in the street/ Those were the reasons and that was New York/ I was running for the money and the flesh/ That was called love for the workers in song/ Probably still is for those of us left.

The list of Big Names of literature, music or the arts scene who stayed at the Chelsea is seemingly bottomless: Jane Fonda, Jackson Pollock, Brendan Behan, Sarah Bernhardt to name but a few. They all encountered tragedies and comedies. They wrote short stories, movie scripts and novels and painted their pictures. They completed their movies within their heads, long before the actual shooting took place. Some of them had fatal endings…

For many, the Chelsea was a hideout or regular adress for many years, remembers Stanley Bard, who’s been the hotel manager for almost 40 years now. Some of them lived here over decades. It was only recently that punk-icon Patti Smith moved out.

Stanley Bard appears to be friendly but keeps distance, on the other hand he’s happy about reminicing every once in a while and he points out the bookcase in his office. I’m collecting every book that has been written in my hotel, he says taking out Thomas Wolfe’s novel You Can’t Go Home. Many things have happened here, he continues. Jim Morrison, Hendrix and Janis Joplin were having their drug parties here. Today, there’s a ‘No Smoking’ sign in the hotel lobby.

For many years, Bob Dylan used to live in suite # 2011, # 411 was Janis Joplin’s suite. Over the years, Leonard Cohen has lived in many rooms. I like to think of him, back then. He was one of the very few calm ones in these tumultous times. But perhaps his restlessness was better hidden than that of the others. Most of his time in New York in the sixties he was living at # 424. Long after this, Jon Bon Jovi wrote the song and shot his video for ‘Midnight At Chelsea” in suite # 515.

But Bard refuses to talk about the mysterious Viscious/Spungeon murder case. That’s a different story, he says but he’s proud of Andy Warhol’s love for the hotel. In the 60s, Warhol and Nico have done a movie, Chelsea Girl, at the hotel. All in all it has been a turbulent time back then, Stanley Bard resumes and wistfully finishes, I don’t want to have missed any moment in the life of the Chelsea Hotel.

There’s hardly been an artist who has lived in the Chelsea that was not in some way captured by its flair, says Patti Smith. Of course, Leonard Cohen is amongst them and with his song Chelsea Hotel No.2 he not only remembers his former lover Janis Joplin but also puts up a monument to his former hunting trails.

Nonetheless, the song has not been written at the Chelsea. I wrote this for an American singer who died a while ago. She used to stay at the Chelsea, too. I began it at a bar in a Polynesian restaurant in Miami in 1971 and finished it in Asmara, Ethiopia just before the throne was overturned. Ron Cornelius helped me with a chord change in an ealier version, Cohen remarks in the liner notes ‘Some Notes On The Songs’ of his 1975 Greatest Hitscompilation.

Cohen recorded the song in the studio as late as 1974 at the sessions for his album New Skin For The Old Ceremony but premiered the song live on March 23, 1972 at the third show of his London, Royal Albert Hall residency.

Chelsea Hotel No.2, yes, but is there a Chelsea Hotel No.1 ? The answer is No, at least where Cohen’s ‘official’ records are concerned. But, like Bob Dylan, who is varying his set list at every show to keep in fans constantly on their toes, Cohen, too, not seldomly presents radically different versions of his songs, changing lines or adding whole verses. The following version, differing from the officially released one, is commonly known as Chelsea Hotel No.1 and is featured in Tony Palmer’s 1972 tour-movie Bird On A Wire. Cohen also performed this version at his show in Frankfurt on April 6, 1972.

The Chelsea Hotel in 1998
222, West 23rd St, New York City,
Manhattan

Lobby of Chelsea Hotel…

Some details in the lobby *)

Art in the lobby *)

…and the foyer

Leonard Cohen singing
“Chelsea Hotel # 2”

Bob Dylan lived in
the hotel (in room # 205)…
in the Sixties

Joan Baez

Jon Bon Jovi’s movie
“Chelsea At Midnight” was
inspired by the well-known
New Yorker Hotel

Photos © by Christof Graf.
Photos marked with *
by Dick Straub & Lizzie Madder.
Used by permission.
And thanks to Lizzie
for the postcard.

Visit the website of the Hotel

Chelsea Hotel # 1

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
You were taking so brave and so free
Giving me head on the unmade bed
While the limousines wait in the street

(And) Those were the reasons and that was New York
I was running for the money and the flesh
That was called love for the workers in song
Probably (It) still is for those of us/them left

But You got away, didn’t you baby
You just threw it all to the ground
You got away, they can’t pay you now
For mailing your sweet little song

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
In the winter of sixty-seven
My friends of that year they were all trying to go queer
And me I was just getting even
And me I was just getting even
And me I was just getting even

(And) those were the reasons and that was New York
I was running for the money and the flesh
That was called love for the workers in song
Probably (It) still is for those of us/them left

But you got away, didn’t you baby
You just threw it all to the ground
You got away they can’t pay you now
For making your sweet little sound

© by Leonard Cohen.
Reprinted with permission.

Chelsea Hotel # 2

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
you were talking so brave and so sweet,
giving me head on the unmade bed,
while the limousines wait in the street.

Those were the reasons and that was New York,
we were running for the money and the flesh.
And that was called love for the workers in song
probably still is for those of them left.Ah but you got away, didn’t you babe,
you just turned your back on the crowd,
you got away, I never once heard you say,
I need you, I don’t need you,
I need you, I don’t need you
and all of that jiving around.

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
you were famous, your heart was a legend.
You told me again you preferred handsome men
but for me you would make an exception.
And clenching your fist for the ones like us
who are oppressed by the figures of beauty,
you fixed yourself, you said, “Well never mind,
we are ugly but we have the music.”

Ah but you got away, didn’t you babe,
you just turned your back on the crowd,
you got away, I never once heard you say,
I need you, I don’t need you,
I need you, I don’t need you
and all of that jiving around.

I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best,
I can’t keep track of each fallen robin.
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
that’s all, I don’t even think of you that often.

© by Leonard Cohen.
Reprinted with permission.


Christof Graf is the author of three books on Leonard Cohen:
So long, Leonard, (Germany 1990)
Partisan der Liebe, (Germany 1996
Leonard Cohen – Eine Hommage/Un Hommage, (Germany 1997)

 

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‘Weaponized weed’ triggering nude, psychotic rampages in NYC

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‘Weaponized weed’ triggering nude, psychotic rampages in NYC

Weaponized weed’ triggering nude, psychotic rampages in NYC

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton warned Tuesday about the rise of what he called “weaponized marijuana” — synthetic pot known as “K2″ or “Spice” on the streets — which makes users psychotic while giving them superhuman strength.

The drug, which cops say is prevalent in the homeless community, is a cheap high that also increases body temperature, leading users to strip naked.

“A better term for it might be weaponized marijuana,” Bratton told reporters at a press conference at police headquarters.

“A number of individuals, when under the influence of this drug, are relatively impervious to pain and also have significant enhancement of their physical strength,” he said.

“So our officers encountering these individuals face more significant risk of having to subdue these individuals and potentially receiving injuries.”

Spice users are impervious to traditional takedown methods used by cops, such as tasers and mace, officials said.

Bratton illustrated his point by showing two videos of people high on the chemical-laced substance, including one in which a naked man is seen squatting in the middle of the street and screaming in front of an NYPD van.

 watch below
Direct Link:
Embed Code://players.brightcove.net/4137224153001/default_default/index.html?videoId=4399154313001″ />

Another video showed cops from out of state struggling to bring down a high, naked man who put his fist through a picket fence before they maced him. The rampaging man still managed to put up a fight as three officers wrestled him into submission.

“You’re going to see much more of it in the short term,” Bratton said of the drug. “Our concern in the potential overdose and death, the incredible number of people going to hospitals as well as those that we take into custody.”

Bratton added that while local politicians look to loosen marijuana laws, the synthetic stuff is wreaking havoc across the city.

“Ironically, even as the trend is to decriminalize and effectively pay less attention to marijuana, the synthetic marijuana issue is one of great and growing concern here in New York City,” he said.

NYC Waitress Gets $3,000 Tip On $43.50 Bill

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NYC Waitress Gets $3,000 Tip On $43.50 Bill

042915bigtip.jpg
(via Twitter)

A waitress in Times Square was the beneficiary of a touching pay-it-forward campaign last week when she was given a 7,000% tip on a bill under $50. A regular named Mike left the server $3,000 on a bill of $43.50 to help combat an eviction notice that the woman was recently served, according to Good Morning America. Even more sweet, the gesture was inspired by Mike’s 8th grade science teacher, who began an organization called ReesSpechtLife following a personal tragedy.

BEATNIK HIWAY-TIMES SQUARE N.Y.C.

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 images (7) images (3) images (2) images (1) images New-York-Time-Square Times_Square_New_York_City_HDR

THE HISTORY OF TIMES SQUARE

Humanity Not at its Best, or Worst – but

at its Most

Times Square is the intersection of spectators and performers, tourists and locals; all the diversity of the city, the country, and the world interacting. Times Square accommodates many activities both planned and spontaneous, and connects streetscapes, underground passages, and penthouses. Finally there are the layers of history that lie under the streets and behind the facades of theaters, diners and stores. The density and the congestion are part of what is authentic to a place where art, life and commerce quite literally collide.

Much of what constitutes modern American culture has been invented and reinvented, tested, and displayed in the few blocks that make up the Times Square district. This is where Americans devise new ways to entertain themselves. By 1928, some 264 shows were produced in 76 theaters in Times Square. These theaters showcased not old-world opera, but the new popular culture born of America’s immigrant stew – vaudeville and musicals, jazz and the movies. Today it remains the busiest theater district in the world, and is also home to MTV, ABC, B.B. Kings, Hard Rock Cafe, Best Buy Theater, and Madame Tussaud’s.

The most popular spectacles of Times Square have always been free – the dazzling electrical signs that gave Broadway its reputation as “The Great White Way.” Over the course of the past hundred years, Times Square has become an outdoor laboratory for new ways to communicate and advertise.

Times Square is also where American news was made. It was here that writers like Walter Winchell and Damon Runyon perfected their punchy reporting style, the gossip column, and the use of slang, that redefined what news was – how it was to be written and reported, and what counted. Now ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Reuters, Viacom, Condé Naste, and of course the New York Times are all here.

Prostitution and sex theaters defined the area for much of the post-World War II era. In a larger sense, Times Square was a place where boundaries could be pushed, and broken, and desire expressed. It is no accident that, in Times Square, women could challenge the rules of dating, and gays and lesbians could find a greater level of freedom than they found elsewhere in the city.

Times Square blossomed in the first third of the twentieth century, only to slide into notorious decay in the face of the post-1945 world of television, suburbs, and racial strife. Times Square has returned in the past two decades. The crowds that first made the place have also returned, contributing to the unique mix of creativity and commerce, energy and edge that makes Times Square both an international icon and a universe in miniature, reflecting the obsessions, desires and priorities of a changing world.

Paul McCartney Pops Up in Times Square

The star plays four songs from his ‘New’ album at unannounced New York performance

Paul McCartney
Kevin Mazur/WireImage
Paul McCartney performs songs from his new album “New” at Times Square in New York City on October 10th, 2013.

BY | October 10, 2013

Just 24 hours after playing a surprise show at a Queens high school auditorium, Paul McCartney gave another impromptu performance in New York’s Times Square today, delighting tourists and Midtown workers with four songs from his upcoming album New (due out next week).

McCartney alerted his fans around noon with a tweet: “Wow! Really excited to be playing New York Times Square at 1pm this afternoon!” By 12:45, a sizeable crowd had already gathered at Broadway and West 46th Street, where a large truck was parked blocking pedestrian traffic. Many of them were there to see McCartney, but more than a few could be heard asking what, exactly, was about to happen.

A few minutes after 1:00 p.m., McCartney and his band pulled up in a caravan of yellow taxicabs. The star emerged to huge cheers and climbed up into the truck – where a curtain had by now been pulled away to reveal a bare-bones stage, set up with instruments. “OK, we’re just going to do a few songs from my new album,” McCartney said as he took a seat at his multicolored piano. “Ready?”

Read All About ‘New’ and 25 More of This Fall’s Most Exciting Albums

A sea of cameras, phones and iPads followed McCartney as he began to sing the album’s lead single, “New,” smiling bright enough to make everyone forget the gray afternoon weather. “Well, this is something, isn’t it?” he said when it was done. “Let’s stay here all day!”

McCartney switched to his Hofner bass for “Save Us,” a fast-paced number that recalled Wings at their most rocking. Album promotion is a chore for some artists, but not for McCartney, who looked like there was nowhere else he’d rather be. “I’ll be putting a little hat out here later,” he joked. “We’re basically busking.”

His wife, Nancy Shevell, could be seen off to the side of the crowd dancing to the next song, “Everybody Out There” – a jangly anthem with McCartney on acoustic guitar. “There but for the grace of God go you / and I,” he sang. “Do some good before we say goodbye . . .” By song’s end, he’d broken into his trademark Little Richard howl.

“We’ve just been told we’ve only got one more,” McCartney said. “We’ve only got 15 minutes!” The crowd booed heartily, but he was in a goodnatured mood. “Mr. Andy Warhol predicted I’d get 15 minutes of fame,” he added with a grin. “This is it.”

With that, he returned to his piano and launched into one last song from the new LP: “Queenie Eye,” a psychedelic pub singalong. The song featured a sly wink to Beatles superfans: At one point, McCartney sang, “O-U-T spells ‘out’!” – just like on “Christmas Time (Is Here Again),” a fan-club exclusive recorded by the Beatles in 1967 and first released to the wider public as the B-side to 1994’s “Free As a Bird.”

And then, alas, it was time to go. “See you next time!” McCartney said brightly as he vanished back into the Manhattan crowd.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/paul-mccartney-pops-up-in-times-square-20131010#ixzz39ijThPVf
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HOW TIMES SQUARE WORKS

Adam Clark Estes

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When we stepped out onto the roof, the wind whipped me sideways, and it took me a second to get my bearings. I was nine stories above Times Square, staring at the back of its biggest LED sign, and it was thrilling.

Of course, standing on a dirty rooftop shouting over the cacophony of Midtown Manhattan is not thrilling in and of itself. I was with an engineer from D3 LED, one of the leading digital display manufacturers in the world, who was explaining to me how the sign worked. Gizmodo’s photo savant Michael Hession was wandering around, shutter snapping, and I was staring down into the guts of the 100-foot-wide LED display. As the engineer explained how the modular LED panels could be swapped out in seconds and the entire display switched with just a few key strokes, I straightened up.

“So you’re saying it’s just one big huge computer?” I asked.

He thought for a second and then nodded, “Pretty much.”

How Times Square Works

This is the back of the largest continuous surface LED display in Times Square. The blinking green lights mean that everything is working!

New York City’s Biggest Gadget

Times Square is one big, busy machine. Powered by American ingenuity and more than a few megawatts of electricity, these six square blocks stay bright 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You’ve seen Times Square in movies and on TV a million times. A lot of you have probably seen it in real life, teeming with chaos and glowing with capitalism. But how exactly does all that work? The shops and restaurants are one thing, but what exactly makes Times Square such a functional, perpetual spectacle?

That’s a complicated question. Obviously there are the workers themselves. Times Square supports some 385,000 jobs, a little over half of which are in that bright sliver of Midtown, while the other half are strewn across the country supporting Times Square operations from designing the content on the signs to keeping the power plants that power them on line. All together, they help generate about 11 percent of New York City’s economic output, or about $110 billion annually, according to the latest figures. These are the men and women who man the ticket booths, who sell the T-shirts, who clean the hotel rooms, and who keep everyone safe. And since about 350,000 pedestrians pass through Times Square on an average day—that number jumps to 460,000 on the busiest days—that’s no small task.

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We actually got to climb inside the sign that sits on top of the Double Tree hotel. It was as precarious and scary as it looks.

But then there’s the technology. Times Square is home to countless billboards, many of which are now digital, that make up some of the most expensive advertising real estate in the world. These signs are so central to the area’s identity that there’s actually a zoning code that requires all buildings on that stretch of Broadway to have at least one illuminated sign of a certain size. And while the buildings themselves aren’t too different than those found throughout the rest of Manhattan, Times Square does have that big ball.

Put simply, Times Square works thanks to a productive marriage of labor and technology. And what better manifestation of these two things than those countless billboards that turn night into day in the middle of Manhattan? They bring in tourists. They drive up real estate prices. They fuel innovation in media and advertising in a manner unlike any other place on Earth. Put simply: Times Square works as long as those signs are shining.

It Wasn’t Always Like This

Times Square was still considered countryside when John Jacob Astor started buying up real estate in the first half of the 19th century. By the beginning of the 20th century, the area—then known as Longacre Square—had been considerably built up, having become home to The New York Times as well as a subway stop (in that order). On April 9, 1904, the paper announced the new moniker with a bold headline: “Times Square Is the Name of City’s New Centre.” Three years later, in 1907, Times owner Adoph S. Ochs lowered an illuminated ball down a pole on the roof of One Times Square in the last minute of the year, a tradition that endures today. It was, arguably, the first electrified advertisement in Times Square.

A few decades later, Times Square had become the center of New York’s sin city. The theater district that had made the area an entertainment hub was eclipsed by the seedy strips of sex shops and adult cinemas. This, along with an ever-growing crime problem, is part of why the Timescalled the area around its former home “the ‘worst’ in town” by 1960. The slide into seediness continued through the 1970s and 1980s, eventually slowing with the election of Rudy Giuliani and an aggressive push to boost security and encourage tourists. That eventually meant those porn theaters had to close.

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“Seedy” is almost too gentle a word to describe Times Square in the 1980s.

Times Square was properly “Disneyfied” by the mid-1990s. While it’s widely believed that aggressive urban planning caused the rebirth of Times Square, the former head of New York’s Urban Development Corporation says that’s not quite right. “The changes in Times Square occurred despite government, not because of it,” wrote William J. Stern a few years ago. “Times Square succeeded for reasons that had little to do with our building and condemnation schemes and everything to do with government policy that allowed the market to do its work, the way development occurs every day nationwide.”

What better beacon of progress than a bunch of blinking—and eventually glowing—billboards. By the 2000s, Times Square had been transformed into a sort of shrine to capitalism, with mansion-sized signs beaming down onto pedestrian walkways that steered out-of-towners into chain stores and scared locals into staying downtown.

Times Square is safer than it’s ever been, safe enough to slurp a bowl of gumbo at Bubba Gump Shrimp well past midnight and then stroll onto brightly lit sidewalks without fear of getting mugged. Businesses are clearly thriving, and even the empty pedestrian walkways turn a tiny profit. It wasn’t just real estate developers, or extra security, or even Guy Fieri that transformed Times Square into the well oiled machine it is today. It was the millions of LEDs.

How LEDs Killed the Billboard

The thing about the signs in Times Square is that they never stay the same. Like the rest of America, the place is constantly reinventing itself through various innovations and a perpetual quest to grow bigger and become greater. So in the late 1990s, as LED technology was finally becoming affordable, Times Square became a testing ground for a revolutionary approach to display advertising.

D3 LED managing partner Meric Adriansen was one of the mad scientists in charge. Actually, he’s an engineer who was working in Disney’s fabled research arm before he got recruited to help design a new kind of sign for ABC in 1998. The network was preparing to move the fledgling Good Morning America franchise from Lincoln Center for Times Square, and it wanted a bright, splashy sign to announce the show’s presence to every passerby. The vision was to create a ribbon of sorts that wrapped around the corner of the the new Times Square Studios at the corner of West 44th Street and Broadway, where they could broadcast breaking news and the like. It was not an easy place to put an interactive display, especially with the state of technology at the time.

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While the ribbon-like bands of LEDs panels looks like an obvious hardware challenge, writing the software that keeps everything in sync was the really difficult part.

Meric found a way to make it work. The challenge wasn’t so much getting the displays to curve. That was the easy part. The hard part was keeping the image on the screen in sync as it traveled across an uneven surface at various speeds.

The solution was smarter software. Using a series of morphing algorithms, Meric managed to program the display to move at varying speeds, so slightly out of sync that it looked completely in sync to the people on the sidewalk. The effect was spectacular, and Meric quickly realized that everybody in Times Square would want to one-up ABC with their own dancing LED creations. So he went into business.

Turning Times Square Into a Video Show

When you walk into Times Square today, there are no fewer than 55 giant-sized LED displays blinking and begging you to look at them. (It’s hard to keep count because new ones are going up all the time; D3 alone operates 27 of them at present.) That’s just a fraction of the 230-odd total billboards sprinkled throughout the Square.

The most prominent sign is certainly the skyscraper-high Walgreens display that D3 recently installed on both sides of One Times Square.Developers figured out that they could make more money selling advertising real estate on the outside than maintaining an office building inside, so they kicked out all the tenants and started basically minting money. That’s right. The former home of The New York Times is now just one big billboard, with companies like Toshiba, Sony, and Budweiser on display. Now the bright beacon of industry looks less like a sliver of Gilded Age grandeur, as it did when it was built in 1903, and more like the set ofBladerunner. In total, there are a staggering 17,000-square-feet of signage on the skinny old building.

How Times Square Works

On the left is the (still pretty new) One Times Square building in 1919. On the right is the (now completely empty) One Times Square building in 2012 as seen from the same vantage point.

The Walgreens sign is clearly a source of pride for D3, and it should be. It’s very impressive! When I first met Meric on an unusually cold early spring day earlier this year, he pulled out all of the plans to show me how all of the display’s 12 million LEDs were arranged so that the sign looked uniform to tourists passing by on the sidewalk, who remain the primary demographic for Times Square display advertising. He explained that the LEDs were denser on the bottom for higher resolution and spread out a bit towards the top. I still can’t see the difference.

“Content is king,” Meric kept saying. The signs, he explained, only looked as good as the images you displayed on them. And much to my surprise, they were just basic video files, run off of hard drives that were stored in any of D3’s facilities sprinkled throughout Times Square in buildings where the company either owns real estate or operates signs.

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It’s hard to tell from photographs just how towering the Walgreens sign at One Times Square is, but it is. The diagonal slash is 30-stories tall, in fact.

Like Lego for Lights

At this point, you’re probably wondering exactly how these LED creations work. The answer is actually very simple. Each large LED display is actually an array of smaller LED displays that are connected to each other both physically and virtually.

The Walgreens sign is D3’s largest installation, with 29 separate displays that are lit with 16 miles of electrical cables and held together with half a million nuts and bolts. But the images themselves start out as regular old Adobe After Effects files that are then rendered into video. Clients need to supply D3 with just a single video file to get their dynamic ads in front of the 100-million-odd pedestrians who pass through the square annually. Well, that and a ton of money. An NYU study last year found that it costs a stunning $368,291,070 a year in water, electricity and green house gas emissions to run Times Square.

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D3’s modular sign at the Quicksilver store in Times Square is one of the more creative uses of the LED module technology, with multiple displays forming a mosaic of moving images.

While the Walgreens sign looks impossibly vivid compared to its neighbors, it will fade over time, just like its painted and vinyl ancestors. LED technology is certainly much better than it used to be, but it’s still not invincible. An individual LED works by sending electricity through a semiconductor, or diode, but over time, heat causes the wires to degrade and the light to fade. The signs in Times Square, Meric told me—which stay on 24 hours a day, seven days a week—typically have a lifespan of about 10 years.

As the D3 technician told me, the LED displays are effectively giant computers. In fact, each of the individual modules is equipped with its own processor that coordinates with the rest of the modules to create one huge seamless image. The whole thing is internet-connected, too, so it can be controlled remotely. Meric told me that he gets push notifications on his phone if a sign has a problem, and no matter where he is in the world, he can troubleshoot on the fly.

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The LED modules come in several different sizes and resolutions. The pixels on modules for outdoor signs are spaced between 10 and 24 millimeters apart, while they’re usually six millimeters apart on indoor displays.

The modules also each have their own MAC address, which makes it easy for technicians to identify exactly where the problems are. This is a big improvement over the old incandescent signs that required daily checks to see if any bulbs had burnt out. While Times Square was certainly impressive back when it was coated in incandescent light, the introduction of LED technology not only transformed the types of content that could be displayed, it made maintenance so easier which encouraged more people to build the futuristic-looking displays. Dynamic billboards used to be a thing of science fiction. Now it’s the de facto standard, thanks to LEDs.

Of course, no technology is perfect. Errors don’t happen often, but when they do, fixing them is sort of a cinch. As if they were big electronic Lego bricks, the broken modules can simply be swapped out for functional ones, and they’re good to go.

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The modules (pictured from behind here) are completely, well, modular and can be swapped out in a matter of seconds.

The software that runs the whole system is also smart enough to route around problems whenever possible so that the whole sign doesn’t go down like a string of Christmas lights with a bad bulb. Meanwhile, the video files are all stored on hard drives in control rooms around Times Square, and D3 keeps backups on hand. While each sign has its own controller and control system, many of them have dedicated real estate where the hardware can live. In total, D3 operates 35 separate control rooms in Times Square.

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All of the control panels and server towers are custom built for D3. On the right, above, you can see the hard drives displaying previews of the live content.

Obviously, security is an issue when you’re running several dozen giant, internet-connected displays in one of the most conspicuous places on Earth. “It’s a sobering thought that you’re always vulnerable,” Meric said. “If there’s anything that keeps me up at night, it’s the security aspect.”

As such, D3 follows very rigorous protocol to ensure that the whole system doesn’t get hacked. That includes routing signals through VPNs and running intrusion detection systems at all times. And if someone wanted to physically break into one of the control rooms, they’d have a damned hard time finding them. When I visited, we walked through the bowels of some pretty nondescript buildings, ducking under pipes and climbing over ventilation ducts to find a tiny unmarked door with a bunch of servers inside. It felt like a game of hide-and-seek.

The Spectacle of Darkness

It’s not until you gaze at the backside of the largest LED display in Times Square that you can finally get a sense of perspective. First of all, these things are huge. That particular sign spans over 100 feet and weighs a whopping 82,000 pounds. It’s filled with five million LEDs that produce a resolution thats four times denser than standard definition.

While LED signs are a relatively new addition to Times Square, they’re becoming more and more popular. They’re also getting better. While the resolution of existing signs is good, the technology is starting to get great. Some of the latest D3 creations almost look like high definition displays from afar, despite the fact that the individual pixels are spaced a few millimeters apart.

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An up-close look at the modules reveals how much black space is between each pixel, but you can’t even tell when looking at the displays from the ground.

As smart companies tend to do, D3 is constantly looking ahead and trying to predict the next big innovation. Believe it or not, they think it’s 3D displays. The technology isn’t quite there to support glasses-free 3D images that passers by would enjoy, but Meric and friends built the this particular LED sign with 3D in mind, though they don’t currently display any 3D content. This basically means that they’ve built in enough resolution and back end support that 3D could be possible with the right content. It’s outfitted with 16 state-of-the-art SSD hard drives and enough processing power to handle 5 gigabytes per second of data. (3D video requires a lot of data.) The sign is also capable of playing video at 120 frames per second, so it looks smooth as can be. Oh, and it can handle live video, too.

All of this inevitably requires a lot of electricity. New York’s main utility company, ConEd, estimates that it takes at least 161 Megawatts at any given time to keep Times Square and the surrounding theater district glowing. A large chunk of that power goes to the signs themselves. That’s enough juice to light 161,000 American homes, and twice the amount of electricity required to power all of the casinos in Las Vegas.

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While the Earth Hour event makes the majority of the signs in Times Square go dark, there’s always a light on somewhere in New York City.

You almost never see Times Square go dark, and when it does, it’s quite a spectacle. It’s also a great way to make a statement about our bad energy habits. Earlier this year, (most of) the square went dark from 8:30pm to 9:30pm in observance of Earth Hour, organized by the World Wildlife Fund to raise awareness about energy use and conservation. One Times Square has participated in the protest (of sorts) for five years now, and Jamestown, the company that manages the building, has vowed to reduceits carbon footprint by 20 percent before 2020. Others have made similar efforts, and one of the signs in Times Square is even powered completely by solar panels.

The Crossroads of the World

Times Square is obviously a busy place, and again, it’s an impossibly complex piece of technology in its own right. But before bright lights and the stores and the stupid naked cowboy, it was a gathering spot, not just for Americans but for people from all over the world. That’s why people call it the Crossroads of the World.

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Some call this bombastic little spot, America’s Town Square. There’s even stadium seating.

While the signs don’t tell the whole story, they exist as living proof that Times Square is evolving machine, always on and always adapting to whatever the future brings. Companies like D3 make up a multimillion dollar industry that revolves simply around these ever-changing displays, a business so curiously impactful that some tourists come to New York City just to see the signs.

Perhaps most profoundly, however, is the fact that the signs stand as tribute to the unabashed glory that is American ingenuity. A hundred years ago, Times Square was just a little piece of real estate halfway into the relative countryside that was Uptown back then. A visionary newspaper owner, careful urban planning, even more careful urban renewal efforts, millions of visitors, and of course, some pretty awesome signs have now helped Times Square become one of the most iconic places on Earth.

And if you really think about it, without all those signs, Times Square would be just another messy Manhattan intersection.

Top image by Jim Cooke, photo via stockelements / Shutterstock.com

Photos by Michael Hession / Wikipedia / AP

BEATNIK ORIGINS

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Beatnik Movement

The Beatniks, coming from the Beat Movement, started in the 1950’s. Starting in New York City by a group of writers, the name soon became known to the entire country. Their first work noticed worldwide was Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, which was based on graphic sexual language. They were known as a counterculture and antimaterialistic because they were an extreme of modern day culture. The Hippie movement is thought to have been influenced by the Beatniks. This strange and new subculture had unusual thoughts and views compared to mainstream society.[1]

Central Issue

This new culture was different than the country had seen thus far. Men with goatees, berets, and playing bongos were assumed to be a Beatnik. There were very few women in this group, but they were seen to wear black leotards and longer than normal hair lengths. The term “Beatnik” was first coined by a San Francisco writer suggested that this subculture was far out from the mainstream society and was possibly pro-Communist; the “nik” comes from the prefix from the Russian “USSR” space shuttle Sputnik.[2] Their central elements were the rejection of mainstream American Values, use of drugs and alternative forms of sexuality, and interest in Eastern Spirituality. Some of the drugs they used were marijuana, benedrine, and morphine.

Conclusion / Historical Significance

The Beatniks were the first subculture of America that dealt with people’s lifestyles and political views and not because of race or ethnicity. Their specific views laid the path for future groups and movements to take place. The Beatniks are what are thought to have started the Hippie Movement of the 60’s. One of the Beatnik writers, Kerouac, once said, “The Beat Generation was on bottom, but they were looking up.” 

NEW YORK MAN PUTS AIR CONDITIONER IN CAR

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New York man brings out his inner redneck for the heatwave, sticks an entire air conditioner in his car window

http://www.fark.com/goto/7845574/http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/07/new-yorker-sticks-air-conditioner-to-car-window.html

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