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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

More Hotel Stories

The Tropicana Motor Hotel (it was really JUST "The Trop") in Los Angeles, and the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City were two mainstays of my life with Stiv and his various bands.

While bands did frequent other hotels when they could afford it (in LA, those would be the Sunset Marquis, or the Continental Hyatt House - or Riot House as it came to be known during the 70s, thanks to the likes of the antics of Keith Moon and Led Zeppelin), the most fun, danger and chaos was to be had at the Trop and its adjoinding diner, Duke's.

The Trop was the West Coast base of many musicians and bands. It was the first hotel sort of place many of them stayed on their first trips to Los Angeles - Patti Smith, The Dead Boys, Blondie, The Ramones, Teardrop Explodes, Cramps, and of course, Mumps. There are a load of others. Tom Waits lived there, in the back in a bungalow across the way from the bungalow that served as home and office to Sparks and Mumps managers John Hewlett and Joseph Fleury.

I can't even venture to guess how many great photographs of punk rockers were taken at the Trop - well, there were a couple of Stiv Bators 7" singles with picture sleeves featuring the Tropicana - and the Cramps had many a photo taken at the Trop, such as this portrait of Lux looking like a private dick in a sleazy motel room...Did I tell you before how, in achieving this film noir lighting that I burned a hole in the bedspread on Lux & Ivy's bed?

Well, most of the bands that I knew stayed at the Tropicana. Pleasant and I practically lived in the Mumps bungalow during 1977 - 1978. It was the site of many parties, and the place where many friendships were born and cemented. We became friendly with Tom Waits and his pal Chuck Weiss and we watched the whole Rickie Lee Jones thing happen over after-midnight coffees in Duke's. We were friends with Marty Wetherington, the desk clerk at the Trop, and he'd cash really petty cash checks for me so that Pleasant and I could "treat" our fave Mumps to a $2.50 burger and still have money to fill the gas tank on my little Honda and drive them to Brothers Studios in Santa Monica... yeah - the Beach Boys place. Oh, and gas was about 65 cents a gallon back then. Marty was really quite cool and supportive of whatever it was we were doing and often gave us a heads-up on who would be checking in soon. More importantly, he told us about what competition was hanging out - whether it was other girls or other "journalists."

And although I spent the better part of an entire year focused on all things Mumps with Pleasant, I probably spent a lot more time at the Trop with Stiv. Right after Tom Waits had moved out of his bungalow, Stiv moved in. As you may know, Stiv was quite the ladies' man, and there was no shortage of supermodels and other assorted babes hanging around his bungalow. But somehow, he managed to balance their visits. Only Bebe Buell ever caught him red-handed with someone else, and for some reason, Bebe was the only person in and around LA who did not know where I lived. It was not unusual to answer the door at 3 in the morning to find Stiv running away from some angry girlfriend. And then Stiv would treat my spare bedroom/photo studio as his office. I came home from work to find him holding court with Brendan Mullen (of Masque fame) or various record label guys like Bomp's Paul Grant or Merle Hauser. Thankfully, Stiv never brought girls to my house...I guess if he had, it might have eliminated a "safe house" for him...although there was always Chris Marlowe and David Arnoff with whom he could hide... and he certainly did!

The Tropicana had a swimming pool that was painted black. The swimming pool at my apartment was normal, and while I had more than a few pool parties, the really notorious ones were held at the Tropicana. Jimmy Zero can tell Tropicana pool stories much better than I can... so I will leave you hanging until he releases his memoirs. I'm sure your imagination can't even begin to touch what Stiv's imagination turned into his reality.

When Stiv and I were on tour with the Wanderers, we stayed in the Gramercy Park Hotel. It was known for being conducive to an indie musician's needs. We were all in one suite, and then eventually, we picked the lock on the door that joined our suite to the room next door. There were always people coming and going...and I even spent a week at someone's loft while the suite at the Gramercy was crawling and overflowing with punk rockers. It just seemed that EVERYONE was always there, socializing.

We had done a few shows with the Ramones, and Dee Dee was a frequent visitor to the crazy suite.

Dee Dee & Stiv

On those mornings where I was the first one awake (most mornings), I would wander over to Third Avenue to have breakfast at a diner where I might run into Johnny Ramone while he was on his comic book shopping trips. Just a few years later, Johnny and I would be neighbors in Chelsea. I could see his rear window from mine.

In the years that followed, based on my unabashed good times at the Gramercy Park Hotel, I would always book my traveling band clients there. I knew they'd have a great time, be centrally located and have all the leeway they'd need to be a certain kind of band.

These days, the Gramercy Park Hotel has been bought by Ian Schrager and is being spiffed up - you can buy a condo within the hotel! The lobby bar was always a hoot, and I hope that when the spiffed up hotel re-opens, the funky lobby bar remains a fun scene. The last time I was there, Spin Magazine threw a party for the Hives. It was strange, but it just proved the hotel was STILL a temple of cool.

The Tropicana, unfortunately is missing in action, replaced by a strip mall and somewhere nearby is a brand spanking new Ramada Inn. Of course, in the days since punk rock changed the course of the population hanging out on Santa Monica Blvd., the area, West Hollywood, has incorporated itself into a city. Its all pretty fancy. Duke's is still around, and the menu is pretty much the same, but the vibe's all different. Duke's is now next door to the Whisky - and both venues have changed so much, well... it's just not "home" anymore. Well, that's progress. I have a lot of pictures to remember these places by...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Links to a couple of stories about Dee Dee Ramone from Living with Legends: Hotel Chelsea Blog