Chelsea on the Rocks


 

This was the official website for Chelsea on the Rocks, a documentary film directed by Abel Ferrara about the Hotel Chelsea. It premiered out of competition at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.
Content is from the site's archived pages as well as from other sources.

Initial release: May 23, 2008
Director: Abel Ferrara
Music composed by: Robert Burger
Screenplay: Abel Ferrara, Christ Zois
Story by: Abel Ferrara, Christ Zois, David Linter

 



The latest film from Abel Ferrara, New Yorks notorious poet of the street, CHELSEA ON THE ROCKS is a fascinating, freewheeling personal journey inside the walls, history and mythology of Manhattans celebrated bohemian landmark, The Chelsea Hotel. Famed home to such icons as Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Tennessee Williams, Charles Bukowski, Andy Warhol and Mark Twain, and perennial shelter to artists great and small, new management has recently begun evicting boho tenants in favor of a more upscale crowd, prompting long-time resident Ferrara (GO GO TALES, KING OF NEW YORK, BAD LIEUTENANT) to capture the ragged splendor of the place before its unique spirit is lost forever.

Trolling the low-lit halls, visiting the hotels cast of memorable characters and raconteurs, and hanging out in the gallery-like lobby strewn with tenants paintings, CHELSEA ON THE ROCKS is shot through with an infectious brio, gallows humor and a hard-knock warmth to match its uniquely beloved subject. Ferraras first documentary feature, it includes interviews with residents past and present such as Milos Forman, Ethan Hawke, Dennis Hopper and R. Crumb, vintage music and archival footage, and dramatic re-enactments summoning ghosts of the Chelseas storied past Nancy Spungen and Sid Vicious, Janis Joplin performed by Bijou Phillips, Adam Goldberg, Giancarlo Esposito, and Grace Jones.

Built in 1883 and steadfast within an ever-changing city landscape, The Chelsea Hotel remained a respite and inspiration to artists, writers and performers, as well as a remarkably supportive base for assorted junkies, prostitutes, aspirants and hermits. As yet another of New Yorks cultural landmarks threatens to effectively vanish for the sake of a bland corporate status quo, CHELSEA ON THE ROCKS passionately shows how its often the misfit structures and citizens that possess a citys soul.

 



 

An aside: If you have visited an apartment in The Chelsea Hotel prior to 2011 you would not recognize the interior today. In 2011 the hotel was sold to real estate developer Joseph Chetrit for US $80 million and then "renovated" for two years before it was sold to King & Grove, a boutique-hotel chain, which is currently overseeing a $40 million renovation. For the last 50 years, the Chelsea was run as an informal artists’ colony with artists tradeing paintings for rent, or living for free if that was what the hotel's manager, Stanley Bard decreed. The free rents were probably subsidized by the exorbitant rates paid by the children of the hyper-rich—another demographic that were historically been drawn to the hotel. And then there were the tourists from all over the world paid for cheerless rooms and the opportunity to sit in the moldering lobby and gawk. I remember visiting a musician friend who was staying there for several months. I was stunned to see that on the first floor there were prostitutes and pimps. For me it was unbelievable. Of course years later it seemed there were wide-eyed tourists snapping photos of the lobby as residents swept past them without a glance, rather than prostitutes and pimps. As of 2013 the hotel looked like a construction site. I couldn't imagine any tenets still living there. All I could think of was that anyone still there would need industrial mop buckets to keep their place clean, what with all the dust and dirt in the air. My cousin works for an e commerce site that sells all sorts of janitorial supplies for cleaning. He's always bringing home paper products, large plastic bags, mops, buckets, and brushes, so I know what a good mop bucket with wringer can do. The restored Hotel Chelsea reopens in 2018 following a $250M purchase in 2016 by Richard Born and Ira Drukier of BD Hotels and hotelier Sean MacPherson. The new owners announced they would redevelop the property as a hotel and condos, departing from previous plans of simply converting the structure into a high-end hotel. And can you believe it, there are still tenents living there. “We believe that we’ve made peace with virtually every tenant. There are maybe two or three tenants who are still having issues,” BD Hotels’ Richard Born told The Real Deal in November. “We’re dealing with a monumental city landmark. We have gone through [and] caused as little inconvenience as possible.” The Chelsea Hotel lives on.

 



 

DIRECTORʼS STATEMENT

Abel Ferrara
I’ve stayed at some of the best hotels in the world. Iʼve also been kicked out of some of the best, butthey all really pale in comparison to the Chelsea Hotel.
Producer Jen Gatien (daughter of my longtime friend Peter Gatien) was living on the 7th floor when Stanley Bard and his son were forced out. Stanley had been manager of the inglorious baronial hotel for 45 years and the rumor began to swirl about what would happen.Jen became impassioned to put the story of the Chelsea to screen.
The device was a filmic structure that intertwinesarchival footage, interviews and narrative sequencesas well as actors who are very much part of the soulof the hotel (Ethan Hawke, Adam  Goldberg, Dennis Hopper).
I took these stories and reunited psychiatrist/screenwriter Christ Zois (NEW ROSE HOTEL and THE BLACKOUT) who has written my last two films.
The Chelsea Hotel, since itʼs inception, has been a place of great artistic tradition. FromTwain, Dylan Thomas, Nabokov and Tennessee Williams, to Arthur Miller and Bob Dylan it was important to create something that would be reverent to that incredible legacy.

+++

CHELSEA ON THE ROCKS celebrates the personalities and artistic voices that have  emerged from this legendary residence in the heart of New York. The 12- storey, 250- room Chelsea Hotel - originally built in 1883 as Manhattanʼs first cooperative apartment, and the tallest building in New York until1902 - was converted into a hotel and residence in1905. Once considered an untouchable, impenetrable tower for writers, artists, musicians and mavericks, it has recently been claimed as a boutique hotel venture for a management company which shows blatant disregard for its formidable history.

CAST (as themselves)
Ethan Hawke
Dennis Hopper
Milos Forman
Gaby Hoffmann
R. Crumb
Lola Schnabel
Stanley Bard
Vito Acconci
Janis Joplin (ARCHIVAL)
Sid Vicious (ARCHIVAL)
William S. Burroughs (ARCHIVAL)
Jerry Garcia (ARCHIVAL)
Quentin Crisp (ARCHIVAL)


CAST (in re-enactments)
Adam Goldberg- Steve
Bijou Phillips- Nancy
Grace Jones- Bev
Giancarlo Esposito- Tip
Christy Scott Cashman- Vera
Shanyn Leigh- Janis
Jamie Burke- Sid

The officially landmarked building is recognized as an American cultural icon and renowned forthose who have lived and created there, including Sir Arthur Clarke, Bob Dylan, Stanley Kubrick,Arthur Miller, Joni Mitchell, Dee Dee Ramone, Larry Rivers, Dylan Thomas, Mark Twain, Tennessee Williams, Milos Forman, Janis Joplin,Donald Sutherland, Patti Smith, Philip Taaffe,Dennis Hopper, Andy Warhol, Edie Sedgwick,Eugene OʼNeill, Jane Fonda, Leonard Cohen,Robert Mapplethorpe, Tom Waits, Courtney Love,Sam Shepard, Charles Bukowski, Julian Schnabel, Jasper Johns, Viva, Quentin Crisp, Jimi Hendrix andmany others (some of whom appear in this film).

Beyond the famous are the little known who have made this their refuge in New York
- countless writers, painters, directors, costume and lighting designers,gallerists and curators, and those who are just always there with no visible means of
support. And then there are those - most famously Sid Viciousʼgirlfriend Nancy Spungen -who died there.

Each of these characters fills out a cast that makes this story come together with the best of New Yorkarchitecture, history, art, comedy and tragedy, allthrough the eyes and passion of acclaimed auteurAbel Ferrara. Interviewing current tenants, recreatingscenes of events that occurred at the Chelsea and intertwining archival footage with different formatsof film and video, Ferrara creates a film that breaks
through the documentary mould into somethingthat captures the essence of the Chelsea Hotel.

 

Press

Chelsea Lately

09.28.09
— Andrew Hultkrans

LONG A STUBBORN TOTEM of downbeat bohemia in the face of Manhattan’s gentrification, the Chelsea Hotel was wrenched into the corporate present in 2007, when members of the hotel’s board forced out the seemingly eternal manager/owner Stanley Bard in favor of BD Hotels, a boutique hotel firm that threatened to turn it into the Chambers, the Mercer, or something worse. (The board has since fired BD, with various scuffles and changeovers in management tracked on the Hotel Chelsea Blog.) Producer Jen Gatien was living in the Chelsea at the time of the initial ouster and was determined to document the last days of the old ways, when writers, artists, and musicians both famous and obscure could find refuge from rent and reality in the seedy grandeur of the 1883 landmark building. After beginning the project herself, she quickly turned to her father’s old friend and quintessential New York filmmaker Abel Ferrara (King of New York [1990], Bad Lieutenant [1992], The Addiction [1995]) to direct the doc. A native son currently living in Rome, Ferrara, who resembles the love child of Dennis Hopper and Andre the Giant and subsists largely on beer, returned to live at the hotel and began shooting.

It’s an odd, if charming, little film, blending vintage footage of the hotel and its past residents with casual, rambling talking-head interviews with present-day tenants, the deposed Bard, and some of its more famous veterans—Milos Forman, R. Crumb, Vito Acconci, and Ethan Hawke. Unfortunately, it also includes reenactments of the death spirals of Janis Joplin and Sid and Nancy played by Bijou Phillips, Jamie Burke, Grace Jones, and Adam Goldberg, among others. Now, any viewer of true-crime shows or the History Channel knows that reenactments are the dodgiest of dramatic forms. Ferrara has been a great director of actors and scenes, but these sub-A&E sequences do nothing for the film, the dead celebrities, or the hotel’s legacy. With the exception of a scene featuring Hawke singing and playing one of his “songs” on an out-of-tune piano, the reenactments are the film’s main missteps.

The Chelsea’s story is so storied that Ferrara ignores timeline-style cultural archaeology, preferring to hang out with his subjects in their rooms or the lobby and let the chips fall where they may. Nobody, but nobody, is named, leaving the viewer no idea whom he’s talking to at any time. Watching the film, you might never learn that Dylan Thomas drank himself to death at the Chelsea, that Mark Twain and Tennessee Williams stayed there, that Sir Arthur C. Clarke wrote the script for Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey while living inside its walls, or that it was the tallest building in New York until 1902. You will learn that a smoking kitchen pan led the fire department to drown the slumbering cook with their hoses; that a current resident suffered a brain aneurysm, lay on his floor for three days without help, and survived to tell the tale; that ghosts walk the halls at night; and that Bard never actually accepted artists’ paintings in lieu of rent (even though the lobby’s walls are covered with them). You will also see the world’s smallest Schnabel (a painting by Julian, not daughter Lola, who is in the film). It is pretty small.

Still, Ferrara captures the kooky melancholia of the hotel’s past and present, largely through tone and an empathetic, simpatico ear. At its core, the film is really more about the death of old New York than about the Chelsea itself. The city is cleaner, safer, and healthier, but it’s hard to say that something hasn’t been lost in the process. The Chelsea is a glorious, moldering monument to the artistic ferment of twentieth-century New York. Pay it a visit before it goes the way of Times Square.

 

This was the official website for Chelsea on the Rocks, a documentary film directed by Abel Ferrara about the Hotel Chelsea. It premiered out of competition at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.
Content is from the site's archived pages as well as from other sources.

Initial release: May 23, 2008
Director: Abel Ferrara
Music composed by: Robert Burger
Screenplay: Abel Ferrara, Christ Zois
Story by: Abel Ferrara, Christ Zois, David Linter

 



The latest film from Abel Ferrara, New Yorks notorious poet of the street, CHELSEA ON THE ROCKS is a fascinating, freewheeling personal journey inside the walls, history and mythology of Manhattans celebrated bohemian landmark, The Chelsea Hotel. Famed home to such icons as Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Tennessee Williams, Charles Bukowski, Andy Warhol and Mark Twain, and perennial shelter to artists great and small, new management has recently begun evicting boho tenants in favor of a more upscale crowd, prompting long-time resident Ferrara (GO GO TALES, KING OF NEW YORK, BAD LIEUTENANT) to capture the ragged splendor of the place before its unique spirit is lost forever.

Trolling the low-lit halls, visiting the hotels cast of memorable characters and raconteurs, and hanging out in the gallery-like lobby strewn with tenants paintings, CHELSEA ON THE ROCKS is shot through with an infectious brio, gallows humor and a hard-knock warmth to match its uniquely beloved subject. Ferraras first documentary feature, it includes interviews with residents past and present such as Milos Forman, Ethan Hawke, Dennis Hopper and R. Crumb, vintage music and archival footage, and dramatic re-enactments summoning ghosts of the Chelseas storied past Nancy Spungen and Sid Vicious, Janis Joplin performed by Bijou Phillips, Adam Goldberg, Giancarlo Esposito, and Grace Jones.

Built in 1883 and steadfast within an ever-changing city landscape, The Chelsea Hotel remained a respite and inspiration to artists, writers and performers, as well as a remarkably supportive base for assorted junkies, prostitutes, aspirants and hermits. As yet another of New Yorks cultural landmarks threatens to effectively vanish for the sake of a bland corporate status quo, CHELSEA ON THE ROCKS passionately shows how its often the misfit structures and citizens that possess a citys soul.

 

DIRECTORʼS STATEMENT

Abel Ferrara
I’ve stayed at some of the best hotels in the world. Iʼve also been kicked out of some of the best, butthey all really pale in comparison to the Chelsea Hotel.
Producer Jen Gatien (daughter of my longtime friend Peter Gatien) was living on the 7th floor when Stanley Bard and his son were forced out. Stanley had been manager of the inglorious baronial hotel for 45 years and the rumor began to swirl about what would happen.Jen became impassioned to put the story of the Chelsea to screen.
The device was a filmic structure that intertwinesarchival footage, interviews and narrative sequencesas well as actors who are very much part of the soulof the hotel (Ethan Hawke, Adam  Goldberg, Dennis Hopper).
I took these stories and reunited psychiatrist/screenwriter Christ Zois (NEW ROSE HOTEL and THE BLACKOUT) who has written my last two films.
The Chelsea Hotel, since itʼs inception, has been a place of great artistic tradition. FromTwain, Dylan Thomas, Nabokov and Tennessee Williams, to Arthur Miller and Bob Dylan it was important to create something that would be reverent to that incredible legacy.

+++

CHELSEA ON THE ROCKS celebrates the personalities and artistic voices that have  emerged from this legendary residence in the heart of New York. The 12- storey, 250- room Chelsea Hotel - originally built in 1883 as Manhattanʼs first cooperative apartment, and the tallest building in New York until1902 - was converted into a hotel and residence in1905. Once considered an untouchable, impenetrable tower for writers, artists, musicians and mavericks, it has recently been claimed as a boutique hotel venture for a management company which shows blatant disregard for its formidable history.

CAST (as themselves)
Ethan Hawke
Dennis Hopper
Milos Forman
Gaby Hoffmann
R. Crumb
Lola Schnabel
Stanley Bard
Vito Acconci
Janis Joplin (ARCHIVAL)
Sid Vicious (ARCHIVAL)
William S. Burroughs (ARCHIVAL)
Jerry Garcia (ARCHIVAL)
Quentin Crisp (ARCHIVAL)


CAST (in re-enactments)
Adam Goldberg- Steve
Bijou Phillips- Nancy
Grace Jones- Bev
Giancarlo Esposito- Tip
Christy Scott Cashman- Vera
Shanyn Leigh- Janis
Jamie Burke- Sid

The officially landmarked building is recognized as an American cultural icon and renowned forthose who have lived and created there, including Sir Arthur Clarke, Bob Dylan, Stanley Kubrick,Arthur Miller, Joni Mitchell, Dee Dee Ramone, Larry Rivers, Dylan Thomas, Mark Twain, Tennessee Williams, Milos Forman, Janis Joplin,Donald Sutherland, Patti Smith, Philip Taaffe,Dennis Hopper, Andy Warhol, Edie Sedgwick,Eugene OʼNeill, Jane Fonda, Leonard Cohen,Robert Mapplethorpe, Tom Waits, Courtney Love,Sam Shepard, Charles Bukowski, Julian Schnabel, Jasper Johns, Viva, Quentin Crisp, Jimi Hendrix andmany others (some of whom appear in this film).

Beyond the famous are the little known who have made this their refuge in New York
- countless writers, painters, directors, costume and lighting designers,gallerists and curators, and those who are just always there with no visible means of
support. And then there are those - most famously Sid Viciousʼgirlfriend Nancy Spungen -who died there.

Each of these characters fills out a cast that makes this story come together with the best of New Yorkarchitecture, history, art, comedy and tragedy, allthrough the eyes and passion of acclaimed auteurAbel Ferrara. Interviewing current tenants, recreatingscenes of events that occurred at the Chelsea and intertwining archival footage with different formatsof film and video, Ferrara creates a film that breaks
through the documentary mould into somethingthat captures the essence of the Chelsea Hotel.

 

Press

Chelsea Lately

09.28.09
— Andrew Hultkrans

LONG A STUBBORN TOTEM of downbeat bohemia in the face of Manhattan’s gentrification, the Chelsea Hotel was wrenched into the corporate present in 2007, when members of the hotel’s board forced out the seemingly eternal manager/owner Stanley Bard in favor of BD Hotels, a boutique hotel firm that threatened to turn it into the Chambers, the Mercer, or something worse. (The board has since fired BD, with various scuffles and changeovers in management tracked on the Hotel Chelsea Blog.) Producer Jen Gatien was living in the Chelsea at the time of the initial ouster and was determined to document the last days of the old ways, when writers, artists, and musicians both famous and obscure could find refuge from rent and reality in the seedy grandeur of the 1883 landmark building. After beginning the project herself, she quickly turned to her father’s old friend and quintessential New York filmmaker Abel Ferrara (King of New York [1990], Bad Lieutenant [1992], The Addiction [1995]) to direct the doc. A native son currently living in Rome, Ferrara, who resembles the love child of Dennis Hopper and Andre the Giant and subsists largely on beer, returned to live at the hotel and began shooting.

It’s an odd, if charming, little film, blending vintage footage of the hotel and its past residents with casual, rambling talking-head interviews with present-day tenants, the deposed Bard, and some of its more famous veterans—Milos Forman, R. Crumb, Vito Acconci, and Ethan Hawke. Unfortunately, it also includes reenactments of the death spirals of Janis Joplin and Sid and Nancy played by Bijou Phillips, Jamie Burke, Grace Jones, and Adam Goldberg, among others. Now, any viewer of true-crime shows or the History Channel knows that reenactments are the dodgiest of dramatic forms. Ferrara has been a great director of actors and scenes, but these sub-A&E sequences do nothing for the film, the dead celebrities, or the hotel’s legacy. With the exception of a scene featuring Hawke singing and playing one of his “songs” on an out-of-tune piano, the reenactments are the film’s main missteps.

The Chelsea’s story is so storied that Ferrara ignores timeline-style cultural archaeology, preferring to hang out with his subjects in their rooms or the lobby and let the chips fall where they may. Nobody, but nobody, is named, leaving the viewer no idea whom he’s talking to at any time. Watching the film, you might never learn that Dylan Thomas drank himself to death at the Chelsea, that Mark Twain and Tennessee Williams stayed there, that Sir Arthur C. Clarke wrote the script for Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey while living inside its walls, or that it was the tallest building in New York until 1902. You will learn that a smoking kitchen pan led the fire department to drown the slumbering cook with their hoses; that a current resident suffered a brain aneurysm, lay on his floor for three days without help, and survived to tell the tale; that ghosts walk the halls at night; and that Bard never actually accepted artists’ paintings in lieu of rent (even though the lobby’s walls are covered with them). You will also see the world’s smallest Schnabel (a painting by Julian, not daughter Lola, who is in the film). It is pretty small.

Still, Ferrara captures the kooky melancholia of the hotel’s past and present, largely through tone and an empathetic, simpatico ear. At its core, the film is really more about the death of old New York than about the Chelsea itself. The city is cleaner, safer, and healthier, but it’s hard to say that something hasn’t been lost in the process. The Chelsea is a glorious, moldering monument to the artistic ferment of twentieth-century New York. Pay it a visit before it goes the way of Times Square.

 

ChelseaOnTheRocks-TheMovie.com