Back in October, the AP wire carried a story about the possible sale of New York’s Chelsea Hotel. Located on West 23rd Street, the Chelsea may not be as well known as the Plaza or the Waldorf-Astoria, but its history is filled with the names of a lot of artists who called it home since it was built in 1883.
It’s an elegant structure, built in the Queen Anne style, with a mix of transient rooms and residential units, and here are a few of the artists who have lived there for varying lengths of time – Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, Jimi Hendrix, R. Crumb, Dylan Thomas – you get the picture. It’s also where, in 1978, the girlfriend of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious was stabbed to death. Now the family that has owned the hotel for 65 years has put it up for sale, and The New York Times reports that the price is expected to be in the range of $100 million.
The only reason that I’m writing this, though, is my one connection with the Chelsea –
During the Vietnam War in the early ‘70s, an anti-war theatrical troupe toured the U.S., Canada, and a lot of military bases. It was called F.T.A. On one level, those letters stood for ‘Free The Army,’ but in reality it was ‘F*** The Army’. Its most famous performers were Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda, and on assignment for a German magazine, I met them on a rainy night as they arrived at LaGuardia Airport and spent the next three days and nights with them in NYC.
They all stayed at the Chelsea, and I thought this photo of Jane, then in her early thirties, in her room at the Chelsea Hotel deserved another look. If you do a search of FTA and Jane Fonda, you’ll find a great deal of information about those days, and a lot of anger still directed at “Hanoi Jane.”
The last bit of trivia tied to all this – a few years ago, my wife and I were invited to an arts benefit and performance in New York. Waiting to enter, I saw that we were standing next to Jane and her husband, so I began a short conversation with the cliché ‘…I know you won’t remember me …’ and of course she didn’t, until I mentioned F.T.A., the magazine piece, and the time we had all spent together at the theater and the Chelsea Hotel. Then it all came back to her, and to me, and she reminded me of things from those days that I had forgotten.