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BOOK Review: Legends of the Chelsea hotel

Ed Hamilton



The Deal: Resident of legendary New York City hotel shares the stories of some of its residents and legends.

The Good: Built in 1883, the 23rd Street hotel has been home to numerous people – Jack Kerouac, Dee Dee Ramone, William S. Burroughs among them. It's where Sid Vicious may have killed Nancy Spungen, where Ethan Hawke and Sean Penn filmed movies and where Madonna shot photos for her Sex book. The Legends book looks briefly at all those personalities while diving more into a portrait of what it's like to live in the hotel. Stories about the owner, junkies who lock themselves in shared bathrooms and frequent guests – and ghosts – fill the pages. Some are quick reads that leave you wondering, others last longer and give a fuller account. It reads like a collection of short stories that paint a picture of the whole.

The Bad: I was left wanting more of Ramone, Vicious and even Hawke, while some of the more obscure, almost pointless, tales ran on for pages. The book claims Burroughs wrote parts of Naked Lunch at the hotel, but that seems to be refuted repeatedly in online forums and discussions.

The Verdict: A great read that gives insight into one of the country's most famous hotels/residences. I wish there was more about the music, but in some ways – with so many colorful characters – it's just as good without it.

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