Hey, Trekkies! It’s Captain Pike’s Birthday!

We are very fortunate that many of our guests are repeat customers, or have read about the hotel’s “theme” online, and will often ask, “Whose room am I in?” For those of you who have been with us before, you know that each room is dedicated to an actor or actress, many of whom have passed on into celluloid heaven, and whose brief window of fame has closed. When we say “Jeffrey Hunter,” the response is generally one of silence. But for many, when we explain that Hunter was in the original “Star Trek” pilot as Captain Christopher Pike, there is often a response of great excitement. Hunter’s character was the forerunner of Captain Kirk, in the person of William Shatner, who was hired to replace Hunter when he declined to continue the series. Just think, if Hunter had continued, we might not still be having to listen to Shatner more than 40 years later…

But back to today’s birthday boy, Jeffrey Hunter, whose solid acting talent and sigh-provoking good looks should have landed him a more permanent spot in film history. His face graced many a fan magazine article throughout the early 1950s, and his marriage to (and subsequent divorce from) popular ingenue Barbara Rush made him even more newsworthy. Sadly, his years as a contract player for 20th Century Fox (where he was often overshadowed by fellow contractee, Robert Wagner, who is oddly back in the tabloids this month) did little to cement his reputation. Aside from his singular “Star Trek” gig, his most remembered roles are as John Wayne’s stalwart second in the classic John Ford Western, “The Searchers,” and in the difficult role of Christ in “King of Kings,” where his youthful looks led some to dub the film, “I Was a Teenage Jesus.”

Most of Hunter’s film, both during his Fox contract years and after, were fairly routine (including “Brainstorm,” with another Chelsea Pines favorite, Anne Francis). Even his hoped-for breakout film, in a great performance as a real-life WWll hero in “No Man is an Island,” failed to ignite with audiences. After several failed TV series and an attempt to restart his career overseas in pseudo-Westerns and sword-and-sandal spectacles, as so many Hollywood actors were forced to do in the 1960s, Hunter suffered a stroke, a freak fall and a second stroke, and died at age 42.

With his combination of honest sincerity and all-American handsomeness, Jeffrey Hunter deserved a better fate. But we will continue to celebrate his star at Chelsea Pines Inn.

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Happy Birthday, Rock Hudson!

From the mid-1950s and for the next 20 years, Rock Hudson (November 17, 1925 – October 2, 1985)  was probably the most famous (and for some of that time, the most popular) movie star in the world. Incredibly tall (6’5″) and impossibly handsome, Rock starred in some of the biggest hit films of that era: GIANT with Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean (he and Dean hated each other); comedies such as PILLOW TALK, LOVER COME BACK and SEND ME NO FLOWERS all with Doris Day (and they loved each other), and such popular weepies as WRITTEN ON THE WIND, MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION and ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS.

In truth, most of Rock’s films (and performances) were less than stellar, and many critics found his acting ability limited, but his good looks and general charm outshone most of the movies, and audiences responded in droves. It has been said that when filming his first movie, it took 38 takes to get his one line right. He gradually learned to relax on screen as the years went on, and he developed a lighter, easier touch,  particularly in his comedies with Ms. Day.

Behind his iconically handsome facade was one of the most famously closeted actors in Hollywood: Rock was gay, and his management went to great pains to hide this from the general population. Rock was convinced to marry his agent’s secretary, in an effort to quell the rumors, but the marriage didn’t take and ended quickly. As films and audience tastes began to change in the late 60s, Rock found his film choices becoming slimmer, so when TV beckoned, he became one of the highest-paid actors in history in the popular series MCMILLAN AND WIFE.

Oddly enough, Rock’s place in history will probably be based more on his eventual illness and death from AIDS. Shortly before he died, he admitted publicly to the disease, and it made worldwide headlines. Although many gay men had already died from AIDS-related deaths by 1985, Rock’s passing was a milestone in the fight against the disease, and many celebrities, chief among them Elizabeth Taylor, took up the cause, and star-studded benefits for many gay and AIDS-related organizations were held all over the world. Rock became a reluctant but certifiable “hero” in a way that he never would have dreamed of. After his constant struggle to keep his private life private, his death brought a world-famous face to a worldwide health crisis and changed it forever.

So a toast today to Rock Hudson, truly one of the biggest film stars of his day, and always remembered here at Chelsea Pines.

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Happy Birthday, George Nader! Who’s George Nader, you ask…

This week marked what would have been the 90th birthday of actor/author George Nader (October 21, 1921-February 4, 2002), whose Hollywood career never approached the fame of his lifelong friend, Rock Hudson, but who is fondly remembered at Chelsea Pines Inn (both George and Rock are celebrated in their own one-bedroom suites).

As a child growing up in the movie palaces of the 1950s (my dad owned or managed movie theaters in Brooklyn most of his adult life), I was fascinated by Hollywood movie stars, but none more than George Nader. Incredibly handsome, very masculine, and yet warmly engaging, George was a contract player throughout the 1950s at Universal-International. While this guaranteed him steady work in a varied line of studio projects (westerns, musicals, comedies, action and adventure films), none of them propelled him to the top of the box office heap. Rock Hudson got the best roles (and they were none too good most of the time), followed by Tony Curtis, Jeff Chandler and then, finally, George. Nonetheless, you could hardly pick up any movie magazine of the period, and not find George’s smiling, bare-chested likeness.

When his film contract ended, he went into television series, both as a continuing lead (an early Ellery Queen) and as a guest star (several “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” Andy Griffith’s show), but ultimately wound up in Europe in the mid-60s, like so many other actors of his generation who could no longer get Hollywood roles. He was luckier than most, as he became a big star in Germany, playing Jerry Cotton, an American James Bond-type in a very popular series of films.

He hadn’t been heard from in a while when he suddenly published the first-ever “gay” scifi novel, “Chrome” in 1978. He and his longtime companion, Mark Miller (Mark and George were the executor’s of Rock Hudson’e estate) also wrote another novel, a sort-of tell-all Hollywood tale, “The Perils of Paul,” which was privately published.

Shortly before he died, I wrote a long letter to George, telling him on my lifelong admiration, and thanking him for “coming out” long before it was fashionable or accepted. He responded with a great collection of stuff, including autographed photos, a first edition copy of “Chrome” as well as a copy of his unpublished novel. I was very touched, and grateful that I had a chance to tell him how much he meant to me as a “closeted” child.

For more information on his career, and lots more photos, check out the great webpage on Brian’s Drive-In, the home of all B-movie actors for film addicts like me: http://www.briansdriveintheater.com/georgenader.html.

Happy birthday, George! Your star will continue to shine brightly at Chelsea Pines Inn.

 

 

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Chelsea Pines, Spartacus and New York: A Great Relationship Begins in the ’80′s

Briand Bedford-Eichler is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Spartacus.  He lives in Berlin and visited Chelsea Pines Inn for the first time 23 years ago.  His recollection is shared below in English and German.

I will never forget my first visit to the Chelsea Pines Inn. It was back in 1988. I was 23 years old and it was my first trip to New York City.

After ending my first relationship with my boyfriend of the time, a friend a work gave me a copy of the film Torch Song Trilogy with the unbelievable Harvey Fierstein and the extremely cute Matthew Broderick. He hoped it would cheer me up. I sat in my apartment and watched this film twelve times, over and over again. On the following Monday morning I requested holiday and booked a so-called Courier Flight with British Airways to New York JFK. The good thing about these Courier Flights was the price. I flew to New York for GBP 25. Amazing! The downside – the flight times could not be altered, one could only take hand luggage and one had to wear a suit or at least a tie. This was no problem for me. I had my trip to New York City for one week for an amazing price. In the airplane, just prior to take off, the Stewardess asked me to accompany her. The Chief Steward wanted to have a word with me. He said they had a spare seat in First Class and asked if I would like to move to this seat. What luck! After take-off I was given a bottle of Champagne by this very kind Chief Steward (we stayed in contact for many years thereafter). I don’t remember much of the flight. I slept all the way to New York and was gently woken up shortly before landing. After telling the Chief Steward that it was my first trip to New York he gave me a second bottle of Champagne – saying “have fun in this wonderful city”! I remember getting the address for the Chelsea Pines from the Spartacus Gay Guide. Back in those days it was black and white but the idea of a gay hotel in the Greenwich Village sounded ideal. I received a very friendly welcome and remember the rooms with shared baths. The accommodation was reasonably priced and the location of the hotel was great. I remember visiting the local bar Spike where I met a wonderful guy from Ohio. We spent most of my first week in New York together. Our hot nights in Chelsea Pines is something I won’t ever forget. I was near to tears at the airport one week later when I had to return to London. This was however the beginning of a long relationship with the fantastic city New York and the wonderful hotel Chelsea Pines Inn! Continue reading

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A Guest’s Journey: Chelsea Pines and New York Provide Balance

by Jeanne Barrett

Jeanne Barrett is a devoted guest of Chelsea Pines Inn.  She was born and spent her childhood in Seattle, but grew up in all the most essential ways in NYC.  She has been a teacher of the Alexander Technique since 1987.  Jeanne returned to her original home of Seattle in 1993, where she enjoys a large and diverse practice teaching Alexander principles.  She is also currently dedicated to effecting the release of elephants in zoos and circuses to sanctuary.

Time compresses and expands with memory.  There are arcs of dramatic sequence, notable moments of change, and the intersection of personal history with a wider, expanded awareness.  Details accumulate, and insights break through, if we are lucky enough to receive them.

As Chelsea Pines celebrates its 25th Anniversary, the intertwining threads of our stories become a wider narrative of general themes and specific moments.

In 1984, I moved from Hong Kong, where I had been living for 5 years, to NYC.  I had previously lived in the city very happily and couldn’t wait to return.  I recall being grateful every single day to live in the greatest city in the world, and at the center of the world.  By 1986, I was self employed as a personal trainer, racing all over the city to assist people in their fitness goals. I loved, and still love, the light, the rhythm, the extremes, the ongoing dance of intense urban life! Continue reading

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Fay Jacobs: Chelsea Pines, Prom and Mame. We’ll Always Be Bosom Buddies!

by Fay Jacobs

Fay is the author of author of three hilarious memoirs about lesbian life, politics and her beloved hometown Rehoboth Beach DE.  She is the Publisher and Managing Editor of A&M Books, a successor to the legendary Naiad Press.  Fay has contributed feature stories and columns to such publications as The Washington Post, The Advocate, OutTraveler, Curve Magazine, The Washington Blade and many others.  She and Bonnie, her partner of almost 30 years, have two Miniature Schnauzers and a riding lawn mower.  Find her and her books at www.aandmbooks.com.

As we celebrate 25 years with Chelsea Pines I have to tell the tale of my 45 year connection! One day in 2003 I was trolling the internet for a gay B&B in New York. I found the Chelsea Pines and a very surprising connection. The email went something like this:

Hello -
I checked out your web site and recognized the innkeeper’s name. Are you the same Jay Lesiger who was my senior prom date in 1965? If so, we should have known we were both gay. Nobody else hates camping and likes Broadway THAT much.
I live in Rehoboth Beach (Gayberry RFD) with my partner and will definitely check out Chelsea Pines!
Fay (Rubenstein) Jacobs

Dear Fay:
Okay, I’m stunned and my office staff is insisting you became a lesbian after you dated me!… I still have photos of us dressed for your prom tucked away in my memory box (pretty scary). How cool to hear from you; It would be great if you and your lover would come to NYC and stay here; I’ll make you a great deal. Write and tell me about your last 35 years!

Dear Jay,
Oy! Where to start!!!!! First off, every man I ever dated (except the man I married, which is a whole other embarrassing story) turned out to be gay, so it had to be me that was the culprit, okay?
We’d love to come to NYC and stay at your place some time. What a hoot that would be. Thanks so much for writing, With all the stories you hear about people reconnecting through the internet and running off with their high school sweethearts, we can both rest assured it won’t happen here.
Cheers,
Fay

So much for e-mail. So then, we went to NYC. Continue reading

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Tom Viola: Positively 14th Street

by Tom Viola

Tom Viola is the executive director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA), the nation’s leading industry-based not-for-profit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organization.  In 2010, Tom received a Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre.  BC/EFA presents several major annual events each year – The Broadway Flea Market, The Gypsy of the Year Competition, The Broadway Bears Auction, The Easter Bonnet Competition and Broadway Bares in addition to other on going efforts and scores of other one-time fundraising events.   Mr. Viola lives in Manhattan with two madcap mutts – Maggie and Squirrel, and three shady cats – Ed, Earl and Puddy.  He vacuums as often as he shaves.

Congratulations on the happy success marked by the 25th anniversary of the Chelsea Pines Inn.

In New York City, where tastes constantly change and what was hot and new one year is tired and forgotten the next – from Cats and Sex and the City to Lindsay Lohan and Donald Trump (please!) – nothing lasts for this long that hasn’t in some way become a distinct and beloved addition to the neighborhood and an inexplicable but undeniable part of the emotional make-up of its neighbors.

Try as many do, that cannot be built into any business plan, represented by an expensive design or created by marketing experts.   It simply is.

And so it is at the Chelsea Pines Inn.   Without a doubt, the personable attention to comfort, privacy and expectations that your guests experience when visiting the city springs from the same warmth and generosity of spirit that you have personally shared with your friends and community over two and a half decades.

Twenty-five years is long time.  It’s the difference between a tux that a guy like me wears to pass hors d’ouevres to one that’s worn to the Tony Awards.  It’s realizing that wishing doesn’t make it so; starting does.  It’s the time it takes to understand that a life without consequences is a life of little consequence.  That from days steeped in nearly unbearable pain and loss would come moments of profound joy and accomplishment.  Love tempers all, but a little temper can help make your point.  Some of what seemed so important would be first to evaporate from memory, while the smallest acts of kindness can be imprinted on the heart forever.   Shit happens.  Assholes sometime win.  But everything changes, a day at a time.  It’s not what you say, it’s what you do.  But what you do isn’t all that you are.   (That one is still a work in progress). Continue reading

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Michael Adams on SAGE and the Legacy of Ken Dawson

by Michael Adams

Michael Adams is the Executive Director of SAGE (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders).  SAGE is the oldest and largest organization in the country providing services and advocacy for LGBT seniors.  SAGE’s programs directly serve thousands of LGBT older people in New York City each month.  Prior to joining SAGE, Michael was the Director of Education and Public Affairs for Lambda Legal where he oversaw all of their community education, communications, and outreach programs throughout the country.   He was named one of the “100 most influential gay men and lesbians” by Out Magazine.

The enduring institutions of our beloved LGBT community in New York City – whether we are talking about Chelsea Pines Inn or SAGE or so many others – are  labors of love.  Their claims to fame include a seemingly endless capacity to survive, and indeed thrive, even during the most painfully difficult of times.  This is certainly the story of SAGE over the last 25 years.  In 1986, SAGE was led by the legendary Ken Dawson, who was a trail-blazer and inspiration not only for LGBT older people, but for our community as a whole.  That time has often been referred to as a “golden age” for SAGE and LGBT aging issues.  Thanks to Ken’s fierce leadership and the extraordinary willpower and commitment of the many SAGE devotees who worked with him, our community and City were forced to start coming to terms with the injustices, invisibility and marginalization regularly visited upon LGBT elders.  This was, of course, happening at the most painful of times, as we were struck with the devastating blow of AIDS.   In some ways SAGE’s mission of improving the quality of life for LGBT older people took on a twinge of irony during those years, as the prospect of old age seemed increasingly remote for the gay men who formed a large part of SAGE’s constituency at the time.   Ken himself eventually was taken from us by the epidemic.  Nonetheless, SAGE soldiered on through those years, both to support the many LGBT folks who were already elderly by the time of AIDS and as an act of defiance – a bold assertion that we would survive AIDS and that aging would remain relevant to all members of our community. Continue reading

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Armistead Maupin on Mrs. Madrigal and Chelsea Pines

Armistead Maupin is the author of nine novels, including the six-volume Tales of the City series, Maybe the MoonThe Night ListenerMichael Tolliver Lives, and, most recently, Mary Ann in Autumn. Three miniseries starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney were made from the first three Tales novels. The Night Listener became a feature film starring Robin Williams and Toni Collette.  The world premiere of the musical version of Tales of the City begins previews at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater May 18th, opens May 31st and runs until July 10.

We at Chelsea Pines are so excited to have received a lovely note in response to Jay Lesiger’s recent post, ‘How to Make an Inn’, from none other than our favorite author and inspiration, Armistead Maupin (!).  It was so generous of him to take time from his preparations for the musical debut of Tales of the City to share his thoughts about Chelsea Pines.

Hi Jay,

At this very moment a group of gifted artists (many of them New Yorkers) are preparing to bring “Tales of the City” to the musical stage in San Francisco, so the timing of your blog is serendipitous. It’s thrilling to know that Mrs. Madrigal helped to inspire one of Chelsea’s most treasured institutions. There’s been many a time when I’ve wished someone would tape a joint to my door in NYC — so now I know where to go. (Just kidding, Mr. Bloomberg) Thanks for making me feel part of your rich history by telling this tale of Sheldon’s dream. May Chelsea Pines continue to thrive and bring joy to the free spirits who are lucky enough to discover it.

Warm regards,

Armistead

 

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Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of CBST Looks Back

by Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum

Rabbi Kleinbaum serves as the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah and is regarded as one of the most important rabbis in America. The national Jewish weekly, The Forward , named her as one of the country’s 50 top Jewish leaders and The New York Jewish Week identified her as one of the 45 leading young American Jewish leaders in New York.  NEWSWEEK magazine named her #17 on its list of “Top 50 American Rabbis”; she is also the highest ranked woman on the list. The subject of a profile in The New York Times, among many other titles, Rabbi Kleinbaum has lectured and published widely.

To say that NYC has changed for GLBT people since 1986 is an understatement.  It was late in 1985 that Ronald Reagan used the word AIDS publically for the first time.  In 1985, Ryan White was a 13 year old boy with AIDS banned from classes by school officials. Rock Hudson died from AIDS becoming the first public figure with AIDS known to most Americans. We now have more rights than we could have imagined, more children than we dreamed, trans people are now an important part of our community, many “mainstream” religious institutions and organizations accept us, there are many openly gay elected officials….

And yet and yet.  We still don’t have a cure for AIDS, there is still a serious abuse of drugs and alcohol in our community, the right wing is louder and better organized in its attacks on us and the shadows of all those we loved and lost haunt our streets and our homes.

We have learned to mourn. And we have learned to celebrate.  May the memories of those we lost be for a blessing in our lives and our lives a blessing to our memories. Continue reading

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