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Year Round Hotel Living

Here's who's done it and why they chose the lifestyle.

Friday, December 14, 2007
David Wilkening
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Year Round Hotel Living

It's been done in novels: the protagonist of Saul Bellow’s “Seize the Day” lived in a hotel. Perhaps the most famous example is New York’s Chelsea Hotel which over the years has been home to many celebrities, including Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. (who also wrote many of their songs here)

Hotel Chelsea, New York City

Living full-time in a hotel with room service and a maid providing daily clean sheets? Sounds good, doesn’t it? But does it happen very often?
Probably more often than you may have thought but then again, there’s the new post-Katrina reality.

Every morning, Kimberly Samuels gets up and scans the apartment listings. Since Hurricane Katrina swamped her New Orleans home, her family has been living in a hotel in Houston,” says one wire service story.

Not happily ever after, however. The hotel is “cramped and uncomfortable.”

Outside of those forced to live in this style by nature, most other accounts of hotel living are far more positive.

Of course, the idea is generally seen as expensive, which may be why movie stars are among the most common occupants. Various movie stars have lived in Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont for extended periods, however. Actors Robert DeNiro and Keenu Reeves, and Hollywood writer Dominic Dunne have lived there.

Desert Inn - Las Vegas

Other famous people outside the acting field have been known for their hotel lifestyle. Perhaps no one more famous than the than late American billionaire Howard Hughes. He moved his entourage from hotel to hotel in Beverly Hills and Boston before moving to Las Vegas, where the 8th floor of the Desert Inn became the nerve center of his empire. He lived on the 9th floor.

Designer Coco Channel made the Hotel Ritz in Paris her home for more than 30 years until the day of her death at 87. Her suite is now known as the “Coco Channel Suite.” Novelist Vladimir Nabokov lived the last 17 years of his life at the Montreux Palace Hotel in Montreux Switzerland.

Chateau Marmont Hollywood, CA

Of course, you don’t have to be rich and famous to live year-round in hotels. Computer consultant Russell Coker has lived in hotels for months-long periods of time.

“I was working with contracts typically three months long, so I moved around a lot,” he says.

Some people think it’s weird that he did such a thing but also that he enjoyed it. Even when his employer was not paying for his lodging, he says, there are advantages of hotels such as the various services.

He says a major advantage of hotel life is being able to move to another region or even another country with little or no notice. Simply pack your bags and move on.

Coker also comes up with some tips for those considering the move. Food prices are always a concern. So be sure to have a room with a kitchen, he suggests.

“The amount of possessions that you may have when living in hotels is seriously limited,” he says. On the other hand, the lack of the ability to accumulate possessions may be an advantage because there’s a tendency to travel light.

Coker recommends frequent hotel-goers to take no more than two suitcases, though he acknowledges that some hotels have short-term storage space which can allow tenants more possessions. Coker says many hotel owners-managers are willing to negotiate lower rates to keep their hotels filled, particularly on weekends.

On the other hand, Coker found that he had to plan to stay with friends during the busiest holidays such as Christmas, when he says some hotel rooms are rented out for five times the normal amount.

Another hotel-stayer who can cite obvious advantages is Oded Zeldin, an artist who lived in the Hotel Breslin on Broadway near 28th Street in New York City. He was amazed to find so many neighbors who were dancers, painters and jazz musicians. There were so many, in fact, he built a separate room in his studio and invited them in one-by-one to pose.

“All I talent I needed was right here in the building,” he says.
Apparently in part to its proximity to Tin Pan Alley, the Breslin -- now facing the possibility of a condo conversion -- has traditionally attracted artists and entertainers. A perhaps legendary story is that a cafe owner and successful fight promoter named Patrick Roche would sit in the hotel lobby and hand out money to actors and boxers who needed help.

The subject of living in a hotel came up in a recent blog, where one individual said it was something he “intermittently fantasized about” since childhood. He acknowledged it was perhaps a “bizarre question” but asked others for comments. He received dozens of opinions.
Writer Jeremiah Britt pointed to an old pet-friendly hotel run by a “kindly family” in Michigan that only charges $60 a week. He recalled the story of a friend who lived there while relocating and looking for an apartment.

“He wasn’t even sure he’d ever motivate himself to leave: turn down maid/service every day, utilities and cable, free little soaps and shampoos, a heated pool and an excellent view of the lake -- all for an amount comparable to even the cheapest rates in the area,” he says.

Another blogger pointed out that there were a number of ”moderately affluent old people” who live in hotels along the south coast of England.

“It’s not much more expensive than going into an ‘old folks home’ and has the inestimable benefit that the staff are still your servants rather than your minders,” he says. “You get everything done for you if you want it, but you’re still in control.”

Living in a luxury hotel may be an attractive fantasy for most. But there’s the other end of the spectrum. What Author Paul Groth describes as SROS (single-room occupancy).

He describes these as “homes for those at the margins of society.” Groth, who has lived in such hotels himself, wrote a book called “Living Downtown: The History of Residential Hotels in the United States.” It is not a happy story.

As for the Chelsea…many modern-day celebrities have also stayed there, including Patti Smith, Madonna, Ethan Hawke and Robert Mapplethorpe. In the past, the hotel was home to famous writers and thinkers such as include Mark Twain, O. Henry, Dylan Thomas, Arthur C. Clarke, William S. Burroughs, Arthur Miller, Jack Kerouac, Jean-Paul Sartre and Thomas Wolfe. Another form of notoriety came about when Charles R. Jackson, author of “The Lost Weekend,” committed suicide in his room at the Chelsea on Sept. 21, 1968.

The hotel’s long-time managing partner, Stanley Bard and the rest of the Bard family earlier this year were forced our by their board of directors. So its location in a once depressed neighborhood that has turned into one of the most desirable areas of the city makes its future uncertain.

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