A former resident was gracious enough to launch the 5 questions feature. For the interview the artist will be known as WTP.
1. What do you do?
I work in the arts.
2. How long have you lived in the Chelsea?
I lived there for almost nine years from 1992-2001.
3. What made you decide to move into the Chelsea?
The wind blew me in when I needed a place, I met with Stanley and, bless his heart, he offered me a little studio on 4 for about $800 a month,including utilities, shared bathroom. I planned to stay a few months but I ended up staying for years.
4. What's your favorite Chelsea Hotel story?
There are so many, but I always had a soft spot for the story of Edgar Lee Masters and Alice. Edgar Lee had given up his straight-backed bourgeoisie life to run off with Alice to the Chelsea Hotel to write poetry, even though his family cut him off for it. They were legendary outlaw lovers, in love to the end. Alice lived there until she died at a very old age. The older staff will tell you that she sparkled to the end.
Masters wrote a wonderful poem about the Chelsea. If you can find it, you should post it. Florence Turner includes it in her book, At the Chelsea. In it he predicts the Chelsea will cease to exist before the century ends, overwhelmed by greed and commerce. He and Alice would be delighted to know it still survives and still has the same spirit. Joe Myers, Casebeer, Norm Gosney and I had a party in honor of them one night on the roof garden by the pyramid, a “White Glove Party.” The phrase comes from a ritual Edgar Lee and Alice had. They never had much money, but whenever a chunk arrived they’d always splurge a little, “put on the white gloves and go dancing at the Astor,” as Alice put it.
Two other favorite stories involve El Quijote, the Spanish seafood restaurant in the building, and the wonderful Arnold Weinstein. He was there once, waiting for Arthur Miller at the bar, when he saw Joe DiMaggio across the room. DiMaggio left moments before Miller arrived, so they just missed each other. They were both post-Marilyn at the time.
Another time, Arnold had a drink there with William S. Burroughs before taking him to see a play he, Arnold, had written. This was after Burroughs shot his wife Joan in Mexico. In the play, a man handily shoots a grape off his beloved’s head during the first flush of their love. Later he shoots an apple, then a canteloupe I think. Finally,
much later in their relationship, the woman puts a watermelon on her head and the man misses the watermelon, and shoots and kills her.
“What did Burroughs think?” I asked.
“I don’t know. He never mentioned it.”
5. If you no longer live in the Chelsea, would you ever consider moving
If it was possible, I would. It seems unlikely at the moment. But I visit it regularly in my dreams where I see all my living friends there, and all my dead friends from the Chelsea are still alive and there too.