Thursday, January 12, 2012

Patti at the Chelsea

Last night Patti Smith played a private concert at the Chelsea Hotel. Reported Ed Hamilton, blogger at Living with Legends, on his Facebook page, "tenants were not invited... Gene Kaufman, the architect, is in attendance."

An audience member--invited to the party by the hotel's controversial new management company, King and Grove (a "lifestyle hotel brand defined by modern luxury with eclectic influence")--tweeted a photo of Patti onstage in the hotel's ballroom. Hamilton shared the link:



It's hard to accept that Patti Smith would work with the developers who are gut renovating the Chelsea and evicting its tenants.

An anonymous commenter here was at the show last night and wrote: "It was for 'press' but it seemed more like friends of the owner. First let me say that Patti Smith thinks she is doing the right thing by just being a positive presence." However, says Anon, "To say that 'I just want to do good' and turn a blind eye to the means to the end result is unacceptable... I leave Ms. Smith with these words: "Indifference to injustice is the gate to hell.'"

Tonight, she's playing a concert for the tenants--a move that many are not happy about. Wrote the Times last night, "Some wondered whether the new owner, the Chetrit Group, was using Ms. Smith in a craven attempt to make peace. Others demanded that Ms. Smith cancel the show."

Smith responded to the negative press on her website, outlining how she is working with the hotel's new management (without pay) and saying, "My small performance for the tenants was my own idea. My hope is that we might have a nice evening and the opportunity to communicate directly. I am an independent person, not owned or directed by anyone. My allegiance is to the Hotel itself, and I have done nothing to tarnish it."

I'm a fan of Patti Smith, of her music and her writing, and I want to give her the benefit of the doubt. I want to believe that she believes she's helping the tenants and keeping the Chelsea's spirit intact. But I'm not sure what to think.



If you're confused, too, and you'd like to make a statement about all of this, but you're not sure what kind of a statement to make, come to tonight's flash mob. Lie down and "die in" in front of the Chelsea at 8:00 p.m., concert time, raising a lit lighter in the air and reciting the lyrics to "People Have the Power" (click for lyrics to print), then leave. If it's still raining, turn to the hotel, light the lighter under your umbrella, recite the lyrics, and go.

What does it mean? I'm not sure. I do know that the tenants have been fighting this battle by themselves for years and they're getting picked off one by one. The people of the city have not shown up outside the hotel to lend support with any kind of protest. So look at it that way--or just see it as something to do as Patti plays guitar while the Chelsea Hotel dies.


Also read:
Find a New City
Patti's Allerton
Scribner's Bookstore
Last Night at the Chelsea

15 comments:

Space Pope said...

So is this a case of "Nero fiddled while Rome burned"? I'm not really sure what to think about the scope of this. Neither am I privy to the dialogue held by Mrs. Smith, the architects and the owners of the Chelsea. I'm pretty sure that there was no dialogue before this point with the tenants of the Hotel, who have been afflicted with the Chetrit Group's heavy-handed money-grab techniques. It just seems that Smith has one eye fixed on the clouds while one foot is about to step off a cliff.

I'm also getting the impression from her wording, perhaps misplaced, that she is much more concerned with the Hotel proper in itself and not the artists in residence there. Perhaps future bulletins will clarify this to not be the case? I'm not holding out much hope of that, though.

Jeremiah Moss said...

in her statement, Patti says she is participating "in the development of a possible artists-in-residence program" for the hotel. but as you point out, Space Pope, there are already artists in actual residence there. i'd like to see them be supported in keeping their homes.

Anonymous said...

I sent the post last night about the concert. I want say after reading ur new article today.... Look , I have a lot of info on the situation. And all I want to say is ..the tenants Must fight this with lawyers and protest. And the truth of the matter is that Chetrit (and others involved) will not stop until all tenants r out ! Period! Everyone can discuss Patti Smiths motive etc. but it really doesn't matter ... It's really just a distraction ...as u can see all the press is talking about is her performance ... Not the evictions,asbestos, violations, harassment etc. bottom line is the change is here and now! No going back . As much as Ms. smith would like peace & harmony ...it's just not the reality of the real estate business ..and that is what the Hotel Chelsea is to the owners , a piece of property that MUST generate the highest cash return for them & their bank! Sad but true .

esquared said...

reminds me of when all those punks and rockers attended the grand opening of the Varvatos. Ain't nothing is sacred no more. "What does it mean?". Don't know either. I'm sure Patti Smith's intentions are noble, albeit ill-contrived.

Jeremiah Moss said...

@esquared: exactly. somehow, people are being convinced that luxury development is good for the city's iconic, once eccentric, spaces. hard to fathom.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks Anon 10:09, for the info. you're right about fighting with lawyers and protest. i hope that the Smith press coverage will bring attention to their struggle. that would be a big plus to it all.

esquared said...

in other comment...
just saw your 'day diary' in the Paris Review. We can finally stalk you -- ha! Congrats, nonetheless...

Anonymous said...

Ur welcom Jeremiah . U know if people will look at any real change that has occurred ..it's usual after very visible diligent peaceful protest. But they must be dedicated and persistent , there is NO half way! The tenants have got to get the media and city officials on this and be in there face 24/7 ! Unfortunately we live in a country / city that does NOT respect and covet their artists ... Almost every other civilized country does! They provided housing & support for them . Not to say that we should completely financially support them ...but the least the city/ state could do is preserve and protect such a great iconic part of NYC & artists history & heritage. Unfortunately Bloombergs admin. is only interested in preserving the rights of developers & tourists ! Look at the Highline ... Perfect example ... A park for the rich & tourists . Void of any real artistic expression. All I can say is the Chelseatenants MUST get out there RIGHT NOW !

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks esquared. as long as you wear a cat bell when you stalk me.

esquared said...

Better -- I'll be Woo-Wooing! with bright pink shirt and cargo shorts, and flip-flops in winter. I'll be hardly unrecognizable.

Now off to the flash mob...

KTaxiFareFinder said...

Interesting move on Patti Smith's part... makes you wonder how much fame/press/money really can change your moral fiber...

Anonymous said...

She's a baby-boomer, what did you expect? I always assume members of that generation are not to be trusted, and will sell out their values (or anything else) in order to advance self-interest.

Anonymous said...

So creepy.....

Everything....the private show - the obliviousness - the self justification in the press statement.

Definitely sounds like she's primarily concerned about the physical building itself.

I was a huge fan.....so fucked up...

Dull Tool Dim Bulb said...

Having Patti Smith spit on me at the Village Vanguard is seriously one of the most beautiful memories I have. I left knowing I had just watched a performance of one of the few saints this generation has produced. On the other hand, as the new owners of the Chelsea have taken the lobby I used to show visitors (who soaked it up in awe) and turned it into a doctor's waiting office design-wise...Patti has done the right thing. As if that should surprise anyone. She bailed. Jim Linderman Dull Tool Dim Bulb

lauran said...

"J": i could never "get" her. never thought she had much talent. surprised she made it. her readings were ok. but when she did music, well to me its like noise. screaming. we were all surprised when she made it. (we thought the same about patricia fields but that another post). ill take jay z anytime! he's playing on my computer as we speak. perhaps he is doing more for people than she is?