Magic and madness: the creative couples of the Chelsea Hotel

Text: Yeong Sassall

Ros Brennan peers inside the 'bohemian palace' that was The Chelsea Hotel, exposing the drug use, debauchery and tumultuous affairs of its most notorious residents

The phrase 'if these walls could talk' is over-used to the point of cliché. But the Chelsea Hotel is a worthy candidate; its hallowed walls have seen more debauchery than one's most scintillating nightmares could conjure. From Andy Warhol's muse Edie Sedgwick setting her room on fire, to the bloody murder of Sex Pistol Sid Vicious' girlfriend Nancy, to Jackson Pollock projectile vomiting at an event intended to introduce him to the art world elite - and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Built in the late 1880s in the New York borough of Chelsea, the hotel was a bohemian haven for artistic and philosophical exchange. The guest list reads like a reverie to the creative explosion of the 1970s. The who's who of rock n roll, art, poetry, theatre and film honed their craft and their intellect within its chaotic chambers.

Many of its residents paid tribute to their digs through their art. Marilyn Monroe's ex-husband Arthur Miller, who moved into the Chelsea after the divorce, offered a succinct summation of the bohemian ambiance: "This hotel does not belong to America," he wrote. "There are no vacuum cleaners, no rules and shame (...) A scary and optimistic chaos which predicted the hip future and at the same time the feel of a massive, old-fashioned, sheltering family."

Joni Mitchell's 'Chelsea Morning' name checks the hostelry, as does the Lou Reed-penned 'Chelsea Girl', Leonard Cohen's 'Chelsea Hotel #2' and Jefferson Airplane's 'Third Week in the Chelsea.' Jack Kerouac pounded out 'On the Road' in his room and Yves Klein wrote his Chelsea hotel manifesto.

It's no surprise that the Chelsea's carnival-like atmosphere was a breeding ground for many romantic affairs; from hot-headed trysts to marriage. These encounters were fraught with lashings of euphoria, chaos and tragedy. The frenzied state of their surroundings, rampant drug use and the pleasures and pain of romance were like an addictive fuel for the creative process.

At their worst, Chelsea romances ended in bloodied murder, but at their best, they spawned a symbiotic relationship, the silent alchemy and constant dance of two minds whose cogs turn in synchronised motion.

Click through the gallery above to discover the tumultuous affairs and enduring love stories of the Chelsea Hotel. 

Magic and madness: the creative couples of the Chelsea Hotel (фото 1)

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