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Chelsea Hotel

First transmitted in 1981, this documentary looks at the New York's Chelsea Hotel - a haven for some of the 20th Century's greatest talents, from Mark Twain to Dylan Thomas.

First transmitted in 1981, this documentary programme looks at New York's Chelsea Hotel, a legendary haven for some of the 20th Century's greatest talent, from Mark Twain to Dylan Thomas. With appearances from Andy Warhol and William Burroughs, who have dinner in the room where Arthur C Clarke wrote 2001, and Quentin Crisp, who lived in the hotel for more than 35 years.

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56 minutes


Filming the Chelsea Hotel

Filming the Chelsea Hotel

In 1981, Arena invited Andy Warhol and William Burroughs to dinner at the Chelsea Hotel for a film about the infamous New York home for waifs, strays and artists. Victor Bockris, artist and author, was the host for the evening (wearing a hand-painted suit by Warhol) and Barry Miles, the writer and editor of the International Times, was the chef. For dinner, Miles prepared what was clearly a lesser known dish to the guests, Lapin au Moutarde.


Barry Miles was a friend and associate of the Beat poets and writers having organised the International Poetry Incarnation in 1965. The live poetry event was a huge success and featured Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. Miles was a friend of Anthony Wall and it was through that connection that contact was made with Burroughs and eventually Andy Warhol.

Valerie Solanas

Valerie Solanas

Andy Warhol was extremely reluctant to return to the Chelsea Hotel for the dinner. He associated the hotel with Valerie Solanas, the radical feminist author of the SCUM manifesto. In 1968, before stating to a police officer that Warhol 'had too much control in her life,' Solanas shot and nearly killed him. Watch a clip from the film, above.

Jim Jarmusch in the Closet

Jim Jarmusch in the Closet

While Arena was filming the corridors and rooms of the Chelsea Hotel, Howard Brookner was making a separate film about William Burroughs. After Warhol had eventually agreed to return to the Chelsea Hotel, a room was found and painted especially for the dinner. However the room was too small to accommodate both the Arena film crew and the Brookner film crew, who also wanted to film the dinner.


Arena's cameraman, Mike Southon, had to carefully frame his shots to avoid the Brookner camera crew that were filming him and director Nigel Finch. The Brookner film crew compromised by hiding their soundman in the cupboard - he was a young Jim Jarmusch.


Two years after filming the dinner, Howard Brookner joined Arena to finish his film on Burroughs. You can watch a scene from the finished film on the rooftop in the Arena Hotel here.

Robert Redford

Robert Redford

In 1996, Arena co-produced a feature film called I Shot Andy Warhol about the incident and the life and work of Valerie Solanas. Robert Redford wrote to director Mary Harron having watched the film for the Sundance Film Festival. Redford found the film 'haunting,' he recalled that during his visits to The Factory (Warhol's studio) 'There was something incipient and ominous hanging in the air there over the innocence and bravado.'

All American Collection

All American Collection
This programme is part of BBC Four’s All American - a collection of BBC programmes from the archives about US culture. Available online to watch in full.

Go to BBC Four All American Collection

About BBC Four Collection programmes

Programmes are selected, in part, for their historical context and reflect the broadcast standards and attitudes of their time, which may not accord to some current BBC editorial guidelines. We aim to select programmes which can be shown in their entirety but in some cases edits are required.


  • Sat 3 Jan 1981 22:25
  • Tue 16 Feb 1982 22:05
  • Tue 17 Jul 1990 14:05
  • Fri 17 Mar 1995 23:20
  • Fri 17 Mar 1995 23:50
  • Fri 10 Aug 2001 20:05
  • Fri 10 Aug 2001 23:50
  • Fri 17 Aug 2001 20:00
  • Fri 17 Aug 2001 23:50
  • Sun 6 Jan 2002 23:00
  • Sat 3 Sep 2005 19:00
  • Sat 3 Mar 2007 22:25
  • Thu 1 Sep 2011 23:00

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