Arts & Style

Manager of renowned Chelsea Hotel dies at 82

Hotelier Stanley Bard died of a stroke on Feb. 14. Bard was the manager of the Chelsea Hotel from 1964 through the turn of the 21st century, ushering in a cultural revolution that gave rise to bohemianism in the United States.

Bard’s time as an innkeeper introduced an era of tolerance. Housing artists and writers at 222 W. 23rd St. in a Victorian Gothic, once the tallest in the city and now on the National Register of Historic Places, Bard was legendary for indefinitely accommodating the feckless. In 1947, just preceding the rise of Beatnik culture, Bard’s father took over as manager of the Chelsea Hotel. With an associate degree, Bard began as a plumber in the building in 1957 before taking over as manager himself nearly a decade later when his father died. The hotel had already served as a hotbed of culture before Bard took over.

William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Allan Ginsberg had already penned some of their greatest works in their respective rooms. It was during Bard’s tenure that the hotel developed into the hotbed of New York culture for which it is reputed today. When Bard took over management of the building, Arthur Clarke—who finished writing 2001: A Space Odyssey alongside Stanley Kubrick inside the hotel shortly after Bard became the manager—and Bob Dylan were already inhabitants. Throughout the first few years under Bard’s management, 2016 Nobel laureate Bob Dylan spent much of his time composing his 1966 opus, Blonde on Blonde. In 1966, Andy Warhol recorded his film Chelsea Girls, narrating the lives of many of his fellow residents at the Chelsea Hotel.

One of the film’s stars, Edie Sedgwick, then famously burned down her room before suffering a nervous breakdown and moving out. Leonard Cohen and Janis Joplin, two of the building’s guests, met in the hotel’s elevator and began their love affair, which later became the subject of Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel #2. In 1969, Robert Mapplethorpe moved with Patti Smith into Room 1017, where Mapplethorpe borrowed his first Polaroid from artist and neighbor Sandy Daley. Mapplethrope is today recognized as one of the world’s most influential photographers.

More than a decade into Bard’s tenure, the Chelsea Hotel saw the darkest day in its history in 1978. In Room 100, Sid Vicious, bassist of the Sex Pistols and icon of punk music, was handcuffed and led away from the bloodied corpse of his then-girlfriend Nancy Spungen, whom he allegedly stabbed to death. Vicious and his murdered girlfriend were among the last of the hotel’s legendary inhabitants. Jobriath, one of the first internationally famous gay rock stars, died in 1983 of complications due to AIDS while living in a pyramid atop the hotel.

Bard and his tolerance of the shenanigans of the bohemian residents at the Chelsea Hotel are singlehandedly responsible for developing much of the rich culture associated with New York and his death draws the rich epoch to a close.

February 27, 2017

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