New York, Then & Now: Warhol Christmas Party at The Gershwin Hotel, Hotel Chelsea, & Beatrice Inn

This Saturday, December 15, brings in Christmas with Andy (as in Warhol) Party at The Gershwin Hotel (7 E. 27th St.), an 8pm to midnight affair. The event, which caught my eye and ears a couple weeks ago, is now being billed as the closing night of the Gershwin, one of the last of the bohemian hotels that were home to downtown sorts. Back in the day, clubbers, artists and all sorts of creatures of the night shacked up in places like the Hotel Chelsea, Hotel 17, and The Gershwin. These sorts were often without credit but could hustle up an insider rate for rent often a bit late. Starving artists often traded art for months in a tiny room in a hotel filled with like-minded types. 

The Gershwin was always art-heavy, and this closing night will reflect its glorious past and the souls, living and dead, that gave it its edge. The party will be hosted by Robert Heide, John Gilman, Neke Carson, and Michael Weiner. It will honor the “REGARDING WARHOL” exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is running until New Year’s Eve, and a new book named Thank You Andy Warhol by Catherine Johnson and Andy Warhol’s New York City by Thomas Kiedrowski. DJ Tennessee will spin Lou Reed, Nico, and all sorts of Warhol-appropriate fare. 

The Gershwin and I rarely got along. It was little too messed up for me. I almost stayed there for my ex’s birthday one year, but when I got to the hotel, every arrangement I had made with management for the occasion was bungled. I ended up at a boutique place and endured the bombardment of many "What did you expect?" from friends. I still go there for a coffee at Birch or sometimes a meeting in the lobby when looking for something "artistic" for a design job.

I lived in Hotel Chelsea for a bit and loved it. To me, it was the hometown I never had. I knew my neighbors and borrowed and lent sugar and other things from them. The transient guests provided excitement on many levels, and I must admit I spent a few nights having encounters and traveling to and fro in ancient elevators. The Hotel Chelsea was sexy. It has been reduced to a question mark, a debate in the New York Times or New York Magazine. Although it’s temporarily closed, when it was open it lacked the charisma it offered in its glory days, when hotelier Stanley Bard curated the place like a club doorman. The passing of The Gershwin is a great loss to a scene that lingered long after many of the real players that made it what it is have moved along. In that respect, the Andy Christmas Party is perfect. 

The article “The Oral History of the Beatrice Inn” by Kelly Hoffman in The Cut section of New York Magazine is a must-read. It starts with "Nothing Will Ever Be Like the Beatrice," and maybe that’s so, but I kind of doubt it. It’s true the players that grew up together at this unique moment in club history are now off and gone to their greener pastures, but there is always a new generation of players. Beatrice was the best place of its time, as short-lived as that was. Given more time it would have to rank as one of the best joints ever. Alas, it fell victim to what made it great. It played by few rules and the rules came home to roost.

There will be a new Greatest Club Ever soon enough. The players exist, the spaces are there, and money is flowing again in this town. A new generation of genius will emerge and make a place their home. When you come of age in clubland, wherever you hang your hat on a regular basis is home, and you remember it in its purist form. Boring nights are forgotten and all you have is a string of wonderful memories. Beatrice offered less boredom and more mayhem than seems possible in these highly-regulated times. However, I have confidence that some smart alec will find a way to get around it all and create something truly exceptional again.