Tony Lioce is the arts and entertainment editor of the San Jose Mercury News. Before this he was an arts editor at the LA Times and a rock critic for the Providence (RI) Journal. In an exclusive interview, Tony reveals that the best thing to ever happen to him at the Chelsea was that his oldest daughter was conceived here. How 'bout that for taking the Chelsea's famed creative spirit to a whole 'nother level?
Has your writing been influenced by any current or former hotel Chelsea residents? Oh yeah! I stand in front of the place and read those names of the people who lived there and it's like scanning my bookcase at home.
Which former or current Chelsea resident have you written about? I actually have written about Dylan quite a bit. And the Warhol people and the Jefferson Airplane (one member of which, Paul Kantner, I still see from time to time in San Francisco. He and I drink in the same bar).
When did you stay at the Chelsea? Pretty much whenever I was in New York from the mid '70s till the mid '90s.
What inspired you to get a room at the Chelsea? The legends surrounding the place. I remember when I realized you could actually STAY there, it almost surprised me. I knew, of course, that it was a hotel, but in my mind it was always more like a shrine or something. Then one day I realized, Hey! I could actually stay there! And I did.
Did you spot any celebrities during your stay at the Chelsea? Viva, Sinead O'Connor. DeeDee Ramone at the guitar store outside.
Has the Chelsea vibe changed over the years? Yeah. It's way more expensive now. When I stayed there it was like sixty bucks a night, which was cheap at the time.
What's your favorite Hotel Chelsea story? One night I checked in and they gave me a room on the top floor, and I was having trouble finding it until I spotted a sign indicating that it actually was up on yet another floor, up a narrow flight of stairs to a floor I didn't even know was there - almost like something out of "Being John Malkovich." When I saw the room itself I was stunned. It was huge, with windows on both sides, views both north and south. It was more like a loft than any hotel room I'd ever seen before - and certainly nothing even remotely like anything I'd seen at the Chelsea. A few hours later I was sitting at that bar next door, El Quixote, and I was mentioning this weird room, and the guy next to me overheard and told me it was Julian Schnabel's room and that (at the time anyway) Schnabel was letting the hotel rent it out whenever he was out of town. I wound up getting it for the same (then cheap) price I woulda paid to stay in one of the regular(charmingly) dumpy rooms! Pretty trippy.
Do you think the Chelsea has a creative spirit? The best thing is, our oldest daughter was conceived there. And she lives in New York now. The spirit of the city musta taken hold!