“Skid row is where people are mutilated and almost dead, they’re creeping, crawling, uncared-for creatures.” – Charles Bukowksi
The future does not seem like much of a commodity in Christine Choy and Renee Tajima–Peña’s 1990 documentary, The Best Hotel on Skid Row. The Madison Hotel, with its $8.20 a night rooms and no hot plate policy gives off an unmistakable end-of-the-line vibe, as do many of the residents appearing on camera. It’s doubtful that anyone associated with the film, from the directors and interviewees to narrator Charles Bukowski, would have predicted that, two decades later, flophouses across the country would be finding new life as flashy boutique hotels.
While several of its downtown Los Angeles neighbors have made the transition to high thread counts and sleek technological amenities, the Madison has thus far resisted the trend. Is anyone who was profiled in the film still in residence? Other than an unsubstantiated comment on YouTube alluding to one participant’s demise, their whereabouts are tellingly Google-proof.
The hotel itself has a bigger online footprint, showing up on some of the same travel-oriented websites as the Four Seasons, the Ritz, and Chateau Marmont. Potential visitors can research its standings on the Bedbug Registry, which may explain why Trip Advisor is still waiting for that first consumer-penned review. Meanwhile on Yelp, it’s pulling down five star ratings, thanks to cameos on the Rockford Files and the Replacement Killers, a Chow Yun-Fat vehicle whose director reportedly was aiming to make a Taxi Driver for the 1990s.
Ayun Halliday has been a temporary guest in some pretty grim hostelries, as detailed in 2003’s No Touch Monkey! And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late. Follow her @AyunHalliday