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Legends of the Chelsea Hotel: Living with Artists and Outlaws in New York's Rebel Mecca Paperback – November 2, 2007

3.9 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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  • Legends of the Chelsea Hotel: Living with Artists and Outlaws in New York's Rebel Mecca
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Short story author Hamilton (in the Journal of Kentucky Studies, SoMa Literary Review, etc.) became consumed in writing [his neighbors'] darkly humorous and often tragic stories after many years of living at New York's infamous Chelsea Hotel. Arrayed here are 68 of his columns for ''Living with Legends, the Hotel Chelsea blog (www.hotelchelseablog.com). Hamilton skillfully interweaves his memories of residents with a history of the 23rd Street hotel, longtime proprietor Stanley Bard (who stepped down reluctantly this year) and the neighboring restaurant, El Quijote. Built in 1883, the Chelsea became a residential hotel for theater luminaries in 1905. Tenants since then have run the gamut from O. Henry and Dylan Thomas to Kerouac and Madonna. Famed books have been written at the Chelsea, including William Burroughs's Naked Lunch, but the establishment has also attracted a great many eccentrics, hustlers and crazies. Recent management changes and the Chelsea's uncertain future make this nostalgic portrait of the hotel's fabled madness all the more poignant. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct. 15)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

New York Times Book Review, 10/28/07 By JEFF GILES

"One of the recurring pleasures of Ed Hamilton's "Legends of the Chelsea Hotel" is his sly rendering of its former proprietor, Stanley Bard, an eccentric patron of the arts who almost pathologically refused to acknowledge that the Chelsea was anything other than a crystal palace inhabited by muses and magicians. Early in the book, Hamilton passes along a former tenant's story of seeing a swarm of policemen on the ninth floor and assuming that Joe the junkie had finally OD'd. Bard corrected him: the police officers were in fact guests at the hotel, and the junkie was vacationing abroad. The tenant, it seems, had been misled by the stretcher, the corpse and the body bag.
In "Legends," Hamilton evokes a similar sense that the past and the present are constant bedfellows on 23rd Street. The book may be uneven and overstuffed, but there's something remarkable about the way the author manages to celebrate the Chelsea's singular atmosphere -- the exuberant aspiring artists, the divorced movie stars, the disheveled blonde who may have Tourette's who lingers in the lobby hissing like a snake -- without ever forgetting how toxic the air is for many of the people who come desperate to breathe it."

Kansas City’s Pitch Weekly blog, 2/11/10

“I recommend picking up Ed Hamilton’s Legends of the Chelsea Hotel, which has many more stories of the famous landmark where Smith, Mapplethorpe, and many other renowned writers, musicians, and artists stayed.”

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 358 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; First Edition edition (November 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568583796
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568583792
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #723,955 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a good, if somewhat disjointed, memoir of life at the Chelsea Hotel during the last ten years. It is certainly worth buying if you have an interest in the hotel. I stayed there during the 80s, so this is catching up for me. It is also a crime that developers have taken control of the Chelsea and it is now effectively history.

There is misinformation. The author has William Burroughs not only staying at the hotel, but writing Naked Lunch there. It is common knowledge that he wrote the book in Tangier. So, one has to question all the historical information.

But history isn't really the question - it is the vibe of living in the Chelsea, and the author does a good job of describing his experiences. He is not a professional writer, and it shows - the book could have used a good edit (which apparently publishers don't do anymore).

For a good history of the Chelsea in earlier years, read At the Chelsea by Florence Turner (which may be out of print - worth hunting down). Turner is a far better writer, and her memoir shines.
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Format: Paperback
We owe a great debt to Ed Hamilton for providing us with (1) a most entertaining read and (2) a record (of sorts) of what it is like to live in the Chelsea, revealing much history of the building, though in a wonderfully personal manner. The Chelsea may well be the most "storied" residential building on earth. What can top it?

Hamilton writes so beautifully I found myself going back and re-reading chapters just for the pleasure of enjoying his writing again. And while he spares no gruesome details, this book feels like a love letter to the Chelsea, which Hamilton seems to love despite its gritty side. After all, how can you not love the opportunity to know Storme DeLarverie, Stanley Bard, Gerald Busby, Hiroya, and the whole colorful cast of characters that Hamilton gives us a peek of in this book? I first became fascinated with the Chelsea when I saw Lance Loud move there in the 70's on PBS's "American Family," the first reality TV show. When they showed Holly Woodlawn come strolling into Lance Loud's room there I thought "I have to GO to that place!!"

My only wish is that there will be a "sequel" to the book... I can't get enough of these stories!

There are some photos in the middle of the book, which are nice to have.
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Format: Paperback
I thought I knew a lot about the Chelsea Hotel, but the book fills in my knowledge about the last 10 years of the hotel, about which not a lot has been written. It's an insider account by someone who has lived with the madness of the place, and seemingly suffered from it himself. I particularly liked the part about how Hamilton dealt with the junkies who had commandeered his bathroom, and also appreciated learning about the recent rumors surrounding the Sid and Nancy case. There's also a good story about how a man had his rent reduced by traveling to Tulane University and finding an old author's rent receipts. Hamilton's writing is straightforward and unpretentious.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am really enjoying this book! Im not completely done but its hard to put down. I recently became interested in all Chelsea Hotel after hearing some Celebrity Ghost Stories and hearing about how old it is. The writer makes you feel like you would feel if you lived there the stories. They are short chapters and stories of different people who lived and still live in the Chelsea Hotel. I would recommend this book if you want to get a feel for it ..thou like I were never LUCKY or had the privledge to live amonst the stars, the interesting Souls. Really a Great Read!..
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have enjoyed this book. First hand experiences are always best when telling a story about events and each story the author tells has merit in history of this landmark hotel as well as interesting. His descriptions of the hotel and its' characters are excellent. But I am sad to say that this relic is the end of an era. With the renovations and eventual sale of the building and/or apartments, it will never be the icon that it once was. It will have come full circle and starting a new life. So we need books such as this to remind us of the Chelsea Hotel's place in history. So many people's lives started and ended at The Chelsea. So much of history in the 20th century art world can be tagged to this hotel. A very interesting chapter of American history well told.
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Format: Paperback
Ed Hamilton's prose invites readers into the private and oftentimes gritty world of the Chelsea Hotel in a unique and personal way. I found myself transported into that world, while at the same time, visualizing each memorable character and intimate setting within each story. Hamilton takes his readers on a journey through its darkened stairwells, padlocked bathrooms, and cluttered artist filled rooms that transcribes the real life drama both past and present.
Hamilton never strays from the rich and colorful history of The Chelsea. He manages to pay homage to its former residents and guests, both famous and infamous, while giving us a bird's eye view of his own life as a current Chelsea tenant.
Clearly, the foundation of LEGENDS is firmly rooted in The Chelsea Hotel's rich bohemian history and undying mystique that makes for an entertaining and educating read.
Hamilton's own observations (often humorous with a cynical flair) of the present day atmosphere in which he lives, seamlessly draws upon the "six degrees of separation" connection that links so many of its former residents and guests through a web of who's who. Hamilton creates an ambiance that is representative of the moody and dark history that belongs solely to The Chelsea.
Early on, the hotel itself begins to emerge as the main character, and it soon becomes clear that we are in a special place, a holy place even (by some standards of excess and debauchery), that somehow deserves our attention-- if for nothing else than to breathe new life into the myths and legends of the brilliant and crazy artists who have holed up there for the past 100 years.
Hamilton's passion for the Chelsea Hotel is evident; his anecdotal style offers readers a fast paced peek inside its walls that draws you into a world that is both strange and wonderful.
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