An Andy Warhol on a bar wall? A Cy Twombly in the lobby?
What is this scene: artist dream, profit scheme, something in between?
Cue the music. Hip- hop, percussive, proud. ``Change Clothes" by Jay-Z :
New York New York Yeah where my troopers at Where my hustlers where my boosters at I don't care what you do for stacks
Then stride on through the sun-stroked afternoon to the Gramercy Park Hotel , the newly opened offering from nabob of the night Ian Schrager .
The heavy glass door spins. Splashes of red (it is only poured paint?) swoop and loop across a canvas hung to the right of fir-sided lobby columns. A variation on Picasso snuggles over a stone fireplace.
Stop at the desk, hand over the Amex , and take back a card key, Room 1111.
Cue the music again, something from the hotel iPod's ``house" menu, chill, inside. The smoke-dark elevator climbs 11 floors to a red-vaulted hallway, midnight sexy at 3:25 p.m. Slide the key into the last door on the left. Green light and . . .
Music goes dead. Open suitcase on the table. Tousled bed sheets. Body- cleansing sounds in the bathroom.
Back to the front desk to report your Goldilocks moment: Somebody was in your bedroom, you say, and is still in there.
The clerk does not laugh. She hands over another card key.
``Can I send a drink to your room?"
Think fast. She could get you on the list of doorman Damien , who only last week turned Paris Hilton away from the hotel's Rose Bar . On big nights, guests paying $555 for a basic room can't even get into the plush parlor home to Warhol, let alone secure a stool next door at the Jade Bar , where colored canvases by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Julian Schnabel hang.
Soon you're all hooked up: Reservation for four, Rose Bar, 10 p.m. tomorrow.
Cue the music again, a little jazz. But . . .
It is still tonight and both bars are closed for a Vogue party. Outside, a man with a limo-driver's look -- open collar, dark suit, big belly -- barrels across the sidewalk, cell phone to ear. You nearly brush shoulders as Harvey Weinstein , producer of everything from ``Pulp Fiction" to ``The Aviator," has a mogul moment.
``This is embarrassing," he says to the phone. ``I know more about this kind of movie than anyone."
Time to head back to your room: space to unwind, rewind.
The Gramercy Park Hotel was built in the 1920s, an 18-story limestone brick monument in a neighborhood of styled stone. Flip through hotel history: Humphrey Bogart married in it, a young JFK lived in it. During decades since, lovers of well-worn eras checked in for reasonable rooms and cozy cocktails.
Then came Schrager with $200 million. His story: a founder of Studio 54-turned-heavyweight hotelier who marketed modernity at Morgans and other lodgings in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and London. Those became so knocked-off that Schrager proclaimed his originals dead.
For the Gramercy Park Hotel, he chose Schnabel, a painter and film director who describes his hotel work as building rather than designing, which it is.
The Gramercy's marketing team touts the hanging of 20th-century masterworks in common areas this way: ``It is nothing less than taking the pretension out of art viewing and making it democratic."
Really? With doorman Damien patrolling the path to the pool table in the Rose Bar? Oligarchic is more like it. From Room 715, it looks like Schrager and Schnabel are pimping art to pull a crowd and turn a profit.
Doubt it? Just look at this stylized guest room: blue crushed-cloth wing-backed chair; hand-stitched leather desk; wood-paneled bathroom with thick-tiled tub.
Like it? It can be yours. The blue throw on the bed: $400. The iPod: $750. The ``privacy" tassel on the doorknob: $25. Designer T-shirts: Norma Kamali ($60), Narciso Rodriguez ($70). One is by the artist ``Ian Schrager Company Marketing Studio " ($45).
Then you open the mini bar: peanut M&Ms ($5) and
So this is it. The artististas drew you in, ran the credit card , and sent you upstairs to where you've always been: munching junk food late at night.
But sound sleep on 400- thread-count Italian sheets can clear anyone's mind. So rise and shine. Downstairs you go for granola and coffee.
A fifty ish woman in far younger jeans scans her Times. She reports aloud to a man with Latin style that Willie Nelson was busted with a pound-and-a-half of marijuana in his tour bus.
She, talking to the Times: ``Oh, come on."
He, looking past black glass frames at the paper: ``Leave him alone."
He: ``It's kind of funny, huh."
She: ``It is. He's 73 years old, and he's still smoking pot."
A window behind them opens on Gramercy Park, the only private park in the city. As a hotel guest, you get a key. Downstairs, across the street, you swing open the heavy iron gateway to lush leaves and gravel lanes.
You fall in alongside O. Aldon James Jr., president of The National Arts Club , a 108-year-old park-side institution. You expect James to be dead set against the reinvented Gramercy Park Hotel, flashy newcomer in a long-sequestered neighborhood. Instead James rails against an April day six years ago, when he invited some 50 public school kids, mostly minorities, to the park. A park trustee stopped the group.
`` `Aldon,' " James tells you, recounting the trustee chairwoman's words to president and students alike, `` `you know this is a private trust, and not for these kinds of kids.' "
James sued the trustees. The trustees made a new rule: Only groups of six or fewer allowed in the park.
``She won," James says.
Makes that brash hotel across the street seem the great liberator, no? There, at least, you can walk through the door whether you are white, black, brown, or blue.
Back in the lobby, you watch a khaki-clad tourist inquire at the desk about room rates.
``$525 and up," a clerk says.
``Oh, no, no," she says with a modest wave. But no one stops her from ogling the Twombly.
Upstairs in your room, a call from the concierge alters your sweet set up at the Rose Bar.
``There's a private party," he tells you. ``It just came up."
At midnight, he promises, you can move into the Rose Bar.
Seems doubtful by 10:30, as the doormen, all ``walkie-talkied up" as one patron puts it, usher the Rose Bar arrivals: Michael Stipe , Heather Graham , David Spade , Russell Simmons , Jim Jarmusch .
You linger over a drink in the Jade Bar, where Basquiat's unhooked fish swims on a canvas overhead. The Rose Bar pilgrimage continues: Horatio Sanz . Molly Shannon . Bruce Willis . Giselle Bundchen .
The clock strikes midnight, and you follow. An assistant checks the door list and, go figure, there's your name. It is Jimmy Fallon's birthday; the drinks are on him.
The scene: 200 people or so clustered around tables, settled on soft couches, standing in circles. ``Tainted Love," ``L.A. Woman," ``New Year's Day" on the house system. Candles burn. Two vast Warhol canvases -- one a Day- Glo-colored portrait, the other a Rorschach test in gold -- hang, one above the pool table, the other near the bar. You can barely see them. Who cares?
Looks that come your way linger, asking who is that?
Supermodel Bundchen laughs and bows before a pudgy man with wild hair. REM lead-man Stipe, head shaved and eyes cool, listens to a group of young men gathered round.
Is this what Schrager means when he describes the place as ``Haute Bohemian"?
``It is . . . claustrophobic in here," he says, eyes darting.
An eager young man at his back: ``How long are you in town for , Bruce?"
In a nearby hallway, where Moroccan tile leads past a blue horseshoe couch, bright light exposes a line of 20 people waiting outside four single bathrooms.
``Pee faster. Or inhale faster. Or do whatever it is you're doing faster," says Claire Danes , lithe in her little black dress.
She gets a laugh. Louder:
``I'm a fast pee-er. I'm a good pee-er."
She returns to chat with Jarmusch, who has been sipping a glass of wine at his spot on the couch.
By 2 a.m., most A-listers have moved on, replaced by a more hard-core sort: bartenders and waitresses coming from work. One who just got off her shift at The Stanton Social -- ``the third most reserved restaurant in New York" -- leans over: ``There's like so many coke heads in here, it's amazing."
Just shy of 5 a.m., you stand alone waiting for a bathroom. The female attendant -- middle-aged, black maid's uniform, Eastern European accent -- recounts how she told Willis that he could not smoke in the bathroom line.
`` `Do you know who I am?' " she says he told her.
``Sir," she told him, ``you are a guest in the hotel. No smoking."
She looks tired. She waits to open bathroom doors as the sun rises.
You sleep again on fine linen, and return to the Rose Bar at 10:30 a.m.
The room is sober, vacant. You remember last night's conversation with Thom Filicia , ``design doctor" among Bravo's five Queer Eyes counseling Straight Guys. Filicia hates the Rose Bar's carpet, loves the ceiling; hates the rip-saw chandelier, loves the fireplace; hates the ``Zsa Zsa Gabor headboard" of a bar, loves the ambition of the room's design.
For this mid-morning moment, it is yours. Forget the booze stains on the olive couch and ruby ottomans. The two Warhols, and two more paintings by Schnabel, dominate. You feel freedom.
Cue the music.
Contact Tom Haines at email@example.com.