Mike’s Pop Pilgrimages
No.2 – Leonard Cohen, Chelsea Hotel, NY

The man on reception seemed a bit put out, but reluctantly conceded we did indeed have a booking. “How did you hear about the hotel?” he asked. I said something that I don’t normally say to hotel receptionists, “From the Leonard Cohen song.” He nodded and brightened up, “We were trying to get Len (Len!) back for his 70th birthday. Not sure he can make it what with the Buddhism.”

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. A rest stop for rare individuals says the website which doesn’t explain much. It was the only place I wanted to stay in New York, but the online reviews didn’t exactly sell it. “I was scared to walk the corridors in case I got mugged” said one, “I got electrocuted by the shower” said another. I netted these minuses against a whole load of plusses from pop history. Dylans Bob and Thomas both had rooms here, Sid killed Nancy in another and Janis Joplin gave Len (as I now always call him) head on the unmade bed.

The whole place is stacked with art, it hangs on every landing and in many of the rooms. Some of it is great, but much of it is not great at all. Guests are encouraged to hang their own creations and the quality threshold leaps and dives on an ongoing basis. It is certainly unique and I spent one elevator ride trying to work out if the person squashed against me was male or female. There was barely enough room for two people, let alone his/her four yapping dogs.

We were up high on the sixth floor and the windows opened behind the neon sign, level with the ‘O’ in Hotel. I asked if anyone famous had lived in our room, “a writer” the receptionist said, but he couldn’t remember the name. The room was lined with empty bookshelves and decorated in faded everything. I asked a maid if she knew who the writer was. She thought he wrote science fiction and I was a little disappointed.