Chelsea Hotel resident offers intimate look inside with new show

GOSSIP & RUMORS: Chelsea Hotel resident offers intimate look inside with new show

Photographer Tony Notarberardino has enjoyed three decades of privileged access to the comings and goings of the Chelsea Hotel’s cast of characters, from Debbie Harry to Grace Jones to Dee Dee Ramone — he lives there.

This makes the vast collection of black and white portraits of his neighbors, both A-list and unknown, more than just another homage to the garish, glamorous, nearly-gone counter-cultural mecca that the Chelsea once was — the Australian turned New Yorker’s work is deeply personal, too.

There’s one of Grace Jones with her fingers entwined, head cocked, in a nurse outfit, fresh off a reenactment of Nancy Spungen’s murder. Another shows Dee Dee Ramone a few years before his death, topless, looking down at the camera. (The punk rocker was Notarberardino’s neighbor at the landmark building.)

Dee Dee Ramone, 1998. Tony Notarberardino

The Melbourne-bred shutterbug moved into the bohemian behemoth on West 23rd Street in 1994. Finding himself quietly mesmerized by its colorful guests and residents, he found the courage to begin documenting them.

“One night, I was coming home and all of a sudden this drag queen came in and I thought to myself, well, here we go, I can’t let this opportunity go by,” Notarberardino recalled to The Post of the beginning of what would become his “Chelsea Hotel Portraits” series.

More than 25 years and 1,500 subjects later, a selection of the images Notarberardino captured are now on display at ACA Galleries at 173 10th Ave. in Manhattan through April 13

All shot in black-and-white, eight-by-ten format film in the hotel hallway, outside the photographer’s corner unit, the series showcases the people who made the place.

From big stars to building staff like longtime, late manager Stanley Bard, the photos are equally gripping, and we get a bit of everything, including looks at specific scene stars like Donny Vomit, Stormé DeLarverie and God Complex, who may not be household names but most look the part of what we picture when imagining a guest at the iconically eccentric hostelry. 

Grace Jones, 2004. Tony Notarberardino
Debbie Harry, 2005. Tony Notarberardino
Arthur C. Clarke, 2004. Tony Notarberardino
Susanne Bartsch, 2004. Tony Notarberardino
Bonnie, 2006. Tony Notarberardino
Stanley Bard, 2008. Tony Notarberardino
Damien, 2018. Tony Notarberardino
The hotel’s iconic sign, seen here in 2004. Tony Notarberardino

“The images have the same power,” said Notarberardino, looking back at his democratizing work.

Today, although the Victorian Gothic landmark still looms large both in history and real life, it is under new management, a cleaned-up shell of its sordid former self, full of mostly short-term residents. 

Although a few free spirits still call the hotel the home, the series is “definitely a documentation of an era that’s passed,” said Notarberardino. “Now it’s more corporate, and it doesn’t appeal to me as much.” 

The series is still ongoing, though — he still hasn’t gotten a photo of Patti Smith for his collection.

“She’s pretty much the only one missing,” he said. “Hopefully she’ll read [this article in] The Post.” 

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