On a trip to New York a few years ago, I wanted to visit the famous Chelsea Hotel. It was home for many years to some very interesting people including Nicola L.
Fixed to the wall next to the entrance of the hotel is a brass plaque, engraved with the names of some of its former luminaries. Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas and Thomas Wolfe are just a few on the list. The hotel is also the place where poor Nancy Spungeon met her demise after sharing room 100 with her boyfriend, Syd Vicious. It seemed to me to be a den of iniquity, hence why I seemed so fascinated with the place.
The Real Thing
Like a lot of things in reality when you come face to face with them, there is always a certain disappointment compared to the image you carry in your head. The Chelsea Hotel was no exception. It was encased in scaffolding that hid a lot of the beautiful facade. There was a gap for people to gain access to and from the main entrance, but the building was looking sad and neglected. That’s when I met Nicola L.
Who the hell’s Nicola L? I know, I hadn’t a clue either. While I was mooching around the front porch and taking no notice of the sign that forbids anyone taking photographs, by taking photographs, I was suddenly greeted by a very strong female French accent. “Nobody lives here anymore!!, everyone has gone. There used to be so many people living in this hotel, but now there is only me and the mice and the ghosts. I have been here for nearly 30 years and I’ve seen so many people come and go. Now nobody comes anymore and the hotel is up for sale.”
I Wish I Could Go In
With that, she proceeded to make her way through the huge glass doors. And with a final “Au revoir” she disappeared into the loneliness of this huge, empty brick building that was now full of ghosts. I was impressed she took time out to explain some of the hotels’ history, albeit very brief. I would have loved to follow her into the foyer, but the doors were locked by a secure, electronic number gizmo thing. So I had to make do with standing outside on the pavement, shrouded by scaffold. Oh well.
Back home in Blighty a couple of weeks later and I was watching one of those obscure T.V. programmes about art. They spoke about an artist who had done something with a giant foot!! The artist responsible for this huge plastic trotter was none other than Nicola L. The very lady I spoke to outside the Chelsea Hotel. Apparently, she is quite a respected artist or a pop artist as they were known. You just never know who you’re talking to sometimes. Anyway, she seems a very interesting lady and I’m glad our paths crossed, even if it was just a brief moment in time. Alas, she is no longer with us. If you’d like to find out more about Nicola L, here’s a link to the Tate Gallery.