A meandering history of a bohemian landmark.
New York City’s Chelsea Hotel has been a hipster hangout since it opened its doors more than 100 years ago. Twain, Sartre, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Mapplethorpe, Warhol, Dylan and Hendrix are among the dozens of major pop-culture figures who have made the Chelsea their temporary home. In 1995, journeyman author Hamilton took up residence and soon began keeping a diary of his stay, which led to his blog “Living with Legends: Hotel Chelsea Blog,” which led to this debut book. In addition to describing what he considers to be the interesting aspects of living at the Chelsea, Hamilton introduces us to such fellow Chelsea-ites as the flamboyant Japanese graffiti artist Hiroya, faded actress Vicky and her son Keanu and a painter/con artist named Bradley. He also reacquaints us with such contemporary Chelsea celeb squatters as Sid Vicious, Dee Dee Ramone and Ethan Hawke, reporting on their connection with the hotel, then offering thumbnail sketches of their lives and careers. Poorly structured, long on chatty gossip and short on genuine insight, the book is yet another example of the increasing number of disappointing books based on blogs. While the author’s escapades, musings and mundane day-to-day activities may work in a frequently updated online forum, they come off as flat and insignificant on the page. And the biographical sketches—which, for the most part, offer only slightly more information than Wikipedia—feel like so much filler.
Hamilton proves that you can take the writer out of the blog, but you can’t take the blog out of the writer.