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.
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Last Night at the Chelsea