Famed hotelier Stanley Bard, the guiding spirit of the greatest experiment in bohemian living in the history of New York, if not the world, passed away this morning in Boca Raton, Florida, surrounded by his loved ones. Bard, 82, who had been ill for the last few years, succumbed to a massive stroke.
Known affectionately to all by his first name, Stanley was the majority owner and managing director of New York’s famed Chelsea Hotel. Built in 1883, the Chelsea was purchased by Stanley’s father, David, together with two other investors, in 1940. Upon his father’s death in 1957, Stanley took over as manager of the hotel, continuing in that post for 50 years, up until his departure in 2007. Though Stanley inherited a building that was already known as a haven for the arts, he presided over the greatest artistic flowering in the history of the hotel, playing host to the Beats of the 50s, the Warhol superstars of the 60s, and the punks of the seventies.
A list of Stanley’s guests, most of whom he came to know personally, reads like a Who’s Who of the New York art world: Dylan Thomas, Arthur Miller, Bob Dylan, Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick, Virgil Thompson, Charles James, Leonard Cohen, Christo, Larry Rivers, Dee Dee Ramone, Nico, Dennis Hopper, Brendan Behan, Shirley Clark, Derek Walcott, Madonna, Robert Mapplethorpe, and the Warhol Superstars Edie Sedgwick, Viva, Nico, Holly Woodlawn, and Candy Darling, and on and on and on. A stay at the Chelsea has long been regarded as a right of passage for almost everyone who was anyone in the world of art, music, literature and the theater during the fifty years of Stanley’s brilliant tenure.
Born in 1934 to David and Fanny Bard, Jewish immigrants from Hungary, Stanley was just a boy when his family took over management of the hotel. He immediately fell in love with the old building, and soon knew it inside and out, crawling around in the crawl spaces and secret nooks and crannies as he worked as an assistant for Julius Krauss, the plumber and part owner of the Chelsea. In college, Stanley studied psychology, which he always claimed, half-jokingly, helped him to understand and deal with the odd and unusual collection of bohemians who passed through the hotel. (Photo: Arthur Miller, Arnold Weinstein and Stanley Bard by Rita Barros.)
Stanley’s final years brought new challenges. Despite the supercharged climate of gentrification and the pressure of investors to cash in on the hotel’s good name, he did his best to keep the rents affordable for the hundreds of artists, musicians, writers, and actors who called the hotel their home in the new millennium. Over the years, Stanley was well known for helping artists in any way he could, financially, emotionally, and by providing a nurturing environment that fostered creativity, and he would continue to fight for their well being up until the very end of his tenure. Stanley himself said it best: “Over the years people here have created some really beautiful, meaningful things, and they just needed that little bit of help to be able to do it. This hotel has heart and soul and it’s not all about the bottom line!”
Stanley was a genuine New York character, one of the people who make the city the great place it is. A tireless cheerleader for the Chelsea, Stanley’s love for the venerable hotel was such that he often said that the Chelsea was the most famous hotel in the world,
sometimes going even further to claim that it was the most famous building in the world. And while he was understandably reluctant to discuss a certain notorious slaying in 1979, it was also quite difficult to get him to admit that anything bad had ever happened at the Chelsea. Director Milos Forman, jokingly attempting to get him to admit that the hotel has suffered its share of misfortunes, asks him, in Abel Ferrara’s movie Chelsea on the Rocks, if anyone has ever died at the Chelsea. Well yes, Stanley admits, in a building this old, certainly a few people have died. He then goes on to cite exactly one, the painter Alphaeus Cole, who lived to be 112! (Photo: Stanley and Alphaeus Cole by Allan Tennanbaum)
Stanley is survived by his wife Phyllis, by his two children, David Bard and Michele Bard Grabell, by their spouses, Debbie Bard and Mathew Grabell, and by five grandchildren. Stanley’s first wife, Alice, the mother of David and Michele, predeceased him, as did his older brother, Milton.
Stanley is survived as well as by thousands of people in the arts who have called the Chelsea Hotel their home—for a night, a week, a month, a year, or for several decades—and who will continue to honor his memory in their lives and their art for many years to come. And even beyond that, as long as the Chelsea Hotel stands, the spirit of Stanley and his undying dedication to the arts he so loved will live on.
Services will be Thursday at 10:00 at Temple Emmanuel, 180 Piermont Rd., Closter, NJ. 07624.
-- Ed Hamilton