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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.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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