Last night, at the request of the Chelsea Hotel's tenants, Patti Smith canceled her show at the hotel. She said on her website, "My motivation was solely to serve the tenants. If this serves them better, than I am satisfied."
The hotel tenants were happy and thankful. But then people wanted to know: Was the flash mob "die-in" still on? In the lead-up to the mob, I heard someone had planned to burn Patti's memoir, and an artist in the hotel sketched her as a witch crushed beneath the hotel. That all seemed a bit extreme--would people be showing up with torches and pitchforks?
from Living with Legends
I'm not sure you can cancel a flash mob once it's been called into existence. There are no "how to" instructions online for doing so and Bill Wasik, inventor of the flash mob, offers no advice in his book on the topic, And Then There's This. Since the die-in was meant to offer support to and solidarity with the tenants in their plight to save their homes and the integrity of the Chelsea Hotel, then why not let the mob be? Concert or no concert, a die-in at the Chelsea still seemed relevant.
By 7:55 a small crowd had gathered under the Chelsea awning, watching a crew load Patti Smith's sound equipment into a van. When 8:00 came, nobody dropped dead, nobody lit a lighter, and nobody recited any song lyrics. The crowd stood there, looking around, waiting for something to happen. A handful of reporters holding notepads and long-lensed cameras waited for something to happen. Nothing did. Who wants to lie down on a cold, wet sidewalk anyway?
People walked along carrying shopping bags and checking their texts. It was just another night on 23rd Street. Except that it wasn't. The tenants had succeeded in getting their message across. The mainstream media listened--and so did Patti Smith. If the potential for a mob helped, then the potential-mob did its job.
There are still many questions to answer about the hotel's future. Rooms are still being gutted. Tenants are still fighting eviction. When will the city sit up and take notice? As hotel tenant and blogger Ed Hamilton told WNYC, "one of the things that everyone's been harping about" is "why didn't none of these celebrities who’ve lived here come to our aid."