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Life Inside the Hotel Chelsea

By Kristine Liao


Known for its famous residents and the unsettling number of deaths that took place there, the Hotel Chelsea is a historic landmark that stands on West 23rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. Although it closed for renovations on Aug. 1, 2011, the hotel's legacy lives on with the stories left behind by the creative minds and wild souls that called it home. Here is a peek inside the curious world of the Hotel Chelsea.

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Janis Joplin

American rock singer Janis Joplin lived in room 411. Although her death at 27 did not take place here, her legendary affair with Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen did. In "Chelsea Hotel #2," Cohen, resident of room 424, sings, "I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel, you were talking so brave and so sweet."

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Harry Everett Smith

American artist and filmmaker Harry Everett Smith lived in room 731 and later room 328. On November 27, 1991, he suffered a bleeding ulcer followed by cardiac arrest in his room. He was pronounced dead one hour later at St. Vincent's Hospital.

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Sid Vicious & Nancy Spungen

Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious stayed in room 100 with his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. On October 12, 1978, Spungen was found dead on the bathroom floor with a stab wound in her abdomen, and Vicious was arrested and charged with her murder.

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Herbert Huncke

American author and poet Herbert Huncke lived in the Chelsea during the last few years of his life. He is a core member of the Beat Generation and is known as the one who coined the term.

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Quentin Crisp

While he was applying for residency in America, English writer Quentin Crisp stayed at the Hotel Chelsea. His time living here coincided with a fire, a robbery and the death of Nancy Spungen.

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Vali Myers

Australian artist Vali Myers lived in the Chelsea for periods of her life. She moved between New York, Melbourne, Paris and a cottage near Positano.

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Virgil Thomson

American composer Virgil Thomson died in his suite at the Chelsea on September 30, 1989. During his life spent in the hotel, Thomson led a largely gay salon that leading figures of music and arts attended, including Leonard Bernstein and Tennessee Williams.

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Nan BREIDENSTEIN

Nan Breidenstein's room in the Chelsea is decorated with stacks of cages and strings of hanging photos. 

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James Schuyler

American poet James Schuyler stands in the hallway by his apartment in the Chelsea, where he lived for the last decade of his life. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1980 collection "The Morning of the Poem."

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Patti Smith

In 1969, American rock singer and poet Patti Smith moved in to room 1017 with American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The room is "famous for being the smallest in the hotel," Smith wrote in her memoir "Just Kids."

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Sam Shepard

American playwright Sam Shepard lived on the seventh floor of the Chelsea. From 1970 to 1971, Shepard had an extramarital affair Patti Smith. During this time, they co-wrote the play "Cowboy Mouth," with Shepard and Smith playing themselves. But soon after the first show, Shepard decided to quit and leave to London with his family.

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AP Cole

Centenarian artist AP Cole paints a still life in his Hotel Chelsea studio.

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Neon Leon Webster

Musician Neon Leon Webster, resident of room 119, holds up Sid Vicious' jacket. Webster claimed to have seen Vicious and his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, fighting with a knife the night before Spungen died.

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Charles Jackson

American author Charles Jackson, widely known for his 1944 novel "The Lost Weekend," lived in the Chelsea for three years before committing suicide in his room on September 21, 1968.

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Viva

American actress and Warhol superstar Viva lived in the hotel with her two daughters before being taken to housing court in 1993 for failing to pay the monthly $920 rent for two years. She was a frequent guest of The Factory and has starred in many of Warhol's films, including "Tub Girls," "The Nude Restaurant" and "Blue Movie."

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Gaby Hoffmann

Daughter of Viva, American actress Gaby Hoffmann lived in the Chelsea until she was 11 years old. Hoffmann said she and her best friend would roller-skate in the halls, spy on drug dealers and persuade the bellman to get them ice cream at night.

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lARRY rIVERS

American artist Larry Rivers lived and worked in his Hotel Chelsea studio in the early 1960s. He is considered by many scholars to be the "Godfather" and "Grandfather" of pop art. Like other artists, Rivers left some of his pieces in the lobby as payment for his room.

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dENNIS hOPPER & tERRY sOUTHERN

American actor and director Dennis Hopper and American novelist Terry Southern both lived in the Chelsea. The two collaborated to produce Hopper's most famous movie, "Easy Rider," in 1969.

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