Bill Rancic Defends His Wife Giuliana After Fashion Police Controversy: 'I Tried to Get Them to Release the Footage' 42 years, 2,191 covers and 55,436 stories from PEOPLE magazine's history for you to enjoy
- Authorities Arrest Fugitive Who Allegedly Shot Girlfriend and Was Caught on Surveillance Camera Killing Store Clerk
- Read the Cover Story: Prince, 1958-2016
- Jana Kramer's Blog: The Twists and Turns of My Daughter's Delivery
- 8 Surprising Stars Who Have Never Been to the Met Gala (Like 5 Time Vogue Cover Girl Angelina Jolie!)
- Kim Kardashian Sets Goal Weight for Met Gala (and Wants to Take the KarJenner Family Christmas Photo on Met Steps!)
On Newsstands Now
- Matthew McConaughey: In His Own Words
- Jessa Duggar's Wedding Album
- Brittany Maynard's Final Days
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine
People Top 5
LAST UPDATE: Tuesday February 10, 2015 01:10PM EST
PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- November 16, 1987
- Vol. 28
- No. 20
Want a Room with a View? This Hotel Has One of Hell
It isn't the Ritz, but hundreds of young people from Europe and across the U.S. consider the Carlton Arms the hippest hostelry in Manhattan. "Who needs first class?" asks Allesandro Foti, 21, a design student from Milan. "The art is the entertainment." Indeed it is: All but 10 rooms in the Carlton Arms are splashed with flamboyant murals by young artists. And since rooms go for $29.95 to $34.45 a day, with a discount for students and foreign travelers, word of mouth keeps the place well-booked. "Totally great!" raves Tom Wolinski, 24, a student from Minneapolis. "I just wrote a three-page letter about the wild, bug-eyed guys on my wall who freak me out every time I wake up."
To achieve its cachet, the Carlton Arms underwent an innovative refurbishing starting six years ago. Built in 1890, the 54-room, four-story building had become a seedy residential hotel by the '70s, when its East 25th Street neighborhood was plagued by prostitution, drugs and crime. Then in 1981, Ed Ryan, 39, a friend of the manager, showed up to help. "The manager couldn't take all the lunacy," says Ryan. "He left, and I got his job." As residents moved out or died, Ryan cleaned up their rooms. He converted a street-level display window, the boiler room and the lobby into art galleries. Abraham Chu, a Taiwanese businessman who bought the place in 1982, saw red ink turn to black. "I knew whatever he was doing, it was good," recalls Chu. "So I said, 'Keep it up.' "
That was all the encouragement Ryan needed. By that time his staff was made up mostly of struggling artists. "We really believed that art could radically change the energy of the place," says Gil Dominguez, 40, a painter from California who helps run the hotel. In 1983 Dominguez was given free rein to paint the stairwell (there is no elevator) with nightclub scenes, car crashes and images of women from ancient mythology. Two years later Brian Damage, 29, who created elaborate disco decor at Studio 54 and Danceteria, developed the idea of muraling entire rooms. He began by giving room 7A a Heaven and Hell motif showing an abandoned New York City in the harsh, blue light of nuclear winter. Then Minneapolis artist Collette Jennings, 29, covered another room with scenes of Renaissance Venice and made the closet look like a fortune-teller's booth. The avant-garde art world is beginning to take notice. "The hotel is incredible—total environmental art," says free-lance curator Tricia Collins. "It's a testimonial to art's transformative powers."
For longtime residents who still occupy 10 rooms in the Carlton Arms, the new atmosphere is more than a facelift. "It's given me hope," says Jerry Burns, 51, who has done odd jobs around the hotel. "It keeps you alive. In a dingy atmosphere, you just give up." One resident family is paid to clean the entire building, and another occupant changes linens and towels daily. "We're not trying to get these people out," says desk clerk Nora Salazar, 23. "They're part of it all. They tell incredible stories about the old days, and travelers love them."
Ryan's renovation is so popular that there is now a waiting list of artists hoping to redo a group of rooms that will be renovated next year. While they work, artists receive free rent and supplies, and sometimes they get carried away. Brian Damage holed up for 12 weeks, obsessively revising his submarine room until Ryan finally made him stop. But the work can also pay unexpected dividends. At parties celebrating newly decorated rooms, artists mingle with collectors and sometimes get other commissions. "You really have to hustle to show in a gallery," says Christopher Walsh, 32, who painted a room with abstract cityscapes. "This is one of the few places where new artists can show work."
Not everyone gets a warm welcome at the Carlton Arms. "We don't want whiners and complainers," Ryan says. "These people who call up and say, 'What? No TV? No phone?' " He doesn't want some of his former tenants either. In 1984 the hotel regressed briefly when drug dealers infiltrated the place, but Ryan fought to regain control. "It's as if there's some force trying to creep back in," he says. "If we relax, what's taken years to build up can fall down in weeks." To make sure it doesn't, Ryan and his friends are firming up the foundation, not with mortar, but with more brushstrokes of paint.
- Michelangelo Signorile.
Treat Yourself! 4 Preview Issues
The most buzzed about stars this minute!