Charles Bukowski Provides Narration for the 1990 Documentary The Best Hotel on Skid Row

“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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Charles Bukows­ki Tells the Sto­ry of His Worst Hang­over Ever

“Don’t Try”: Charles Bukowski’s Con­cise Phi­los­o­phy of Art and Life

Nico Sings “Chelsea Girls” in the Famous Chelsea Hotel

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

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  • Cat says:

    This tru­ly, eas­i­ly, is the best “blog” [ie. melt­ing pot of amaz­ing cul­ture] ever.
    I love that this stuff gets deliv­ered to my email inbox every day.
    I’m a fan of Buk and oth­er peo­ple who get a note in this vid, and I have nev­er heard of this.

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