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Hotel Chelsea, Stanley Bard, Sam Bassett

Hotel Chelsea, Stanley Bard, Sam Bassett (photo)

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I made my way through the city at night to the Hotel Chelsea, that inn of legend where so many writers, musicians, and maniacs of all disciplines made their mark. If New York was the 20th century’s creative center, the Hotel Chelsea was it’s white hot core. Mark Twain, Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clark, Roy Lichtenstein, Allan Ginsberg, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Arthur Miller, William Burroughs, Hendrix, Joplin, Warhol. They say Sid Vicious stabbed his girlfriend to death there in ’78.

[Stanley Bard inside the Hotel Chelsea, from Sam Bassett’s “Stanley Bard]

I’d never been there before, only walked by. I expected a lot of whitewash, or worse, the trendy douche takeover phenomenon when I arrived for a clandestine screening of “Stanley Bard,” a documentary about the Hotel’s beloved 50+ year manager/owner who has been semi-ousted by an absentee board of directors. Amazingly, there was no visible scheme by management to capitalize on the Hotel’s historical hip factor and I was pleasantly surprised to find the whole place covered in a weird, jumbled, art strewn patina.

I followed my cryptic instructions to the director, Sam Bassett’s studio (he lives in the Hotel) and atop a staircase adorned with tape sculptures and old mobiles, found the roof door I was looking for. It had two signs on it, one stating that I could not enter, and one hand-scrawled stating that I could. Next to that, an alarm system blinked at me, somewhat alarmingly. Wind howled through the old skylights above. I was sure that my next action would either result in tripping a horrifying alarm, ruining a film screening or that I’d get stabbed. Happily, before either could transpire, the door opened and friendly faces directed me out onto what must be one of the greatest roofs in the city, a gallery of cozy nooks, and wide wild vistas.

Bassett’s studio is housed on the roof within a kind of pyramidal tower. His photos greet you in an entrance that gives way to a large workspace with a view over 23rd street. Banks of flat panel monitors perch on a long work table and lighting equipment obscure an old fireplace which I just had to touch and consequently wielded one black smudged hand for the rest of the night. A flight of stairs leads up into the high ceilinged interior of the pyramid and Bassett’s bedroom/screening room. A bunch of writers and assorted characters were there. Stanley Bard himself came and sat on a couch for the premiere of what is essentially a memoir of his time at the Chelsea. He’s not just a guy who ran the place for half a century. In fact, the film seems to assert through a bizarre metaphor with the old parquet flooring in Bassett’s brilliant space and Bard’s own memories, that he is the Hotel Chelsea. At least it is his spirit and good nature that made it what it is, this angel of the arts who often did not demand rent from struggling artists. I doubt any board of directors would consider such a method for running the hotel.

The score is fantastic, and full blown for such a small intimate doc. I was surprised when Bassett told me it was composed by Michael Nyman (“The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover,” “The Piano,” “The Libertine”), but then the roster of artists associated with each other because of Stanley Bard and his wonderful hotel is no mystery, it would come naturally in such an environment – still alive and well.

“History is shaped by very few people,” Bard said after the film ended. He was speaking of all the greats who’ve shaped culture and the arts, come and gone from the Chelsea, but It’s clear he’s been one of them too.

“Stanley Bard” will make its New York City film festival debut at the Royal Flush Festival on Sunday, Oct. 18 at 6:30pm at Anthology Film Archives, 32 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10003.

Watch the trailer here.

FYI I’ll be on the Royal Flush Festival’s “Blog This Panel” tomorrow, at 4pm at Clemente Soto Velez Cultural & Educational Center’s Milagro Theater, 107 Suffolk Street.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.