Angels With Dirty Faces

An angel has moved into the Chelsea Hotel. “I was at the front desk when he appeared, wings and all,” says Stanley Bard, the hotel’s proprietor. “We get a lot of Hollywood personalities, and I thought he was in a play. He didn’t appear drunk or on drugs, and he picked a room because he liked the number.”

Last week, the angel whiled away an evening in the hotel lobby. He wore silver-gold slippers, a pearly antique wedding dress, a dorsal bow, and brand-new wings that, in the opinion of the hotel security guys, were a lot better than the plumage he first turned up in. The new wings were just over a foot long and had neat rows of white feathers bordered by a fluffy white trim. Every time somebody opened the hotel door, the fluff trembled like sea anemones. “I own three sets of wings, all custom-made,” he said before confiding that “wings are cheaper now than they used to be. They’re down from $150 a pair to $86 at Religious Sex, in the East Village. This suggests that more people are buying them. Maybe in two or three years, angels will fill the streets of New York.”

Close up, the angel, a 42-year-old Japanese man, was scruffy. His half-orange, shoulder-length hair was unkempt under his tiara, and his silver fingernails were unevenly varnished. A shadow of stubble showed beneath his face powder. He was at all times soft-spoken and courteous. When a transient – the hotel’s term for by-the-night customers – inquired, “Are you flying tonight?,” the angel smiled politely. “I do have ambitions to, but I don’t actually believe I’m going to. I’m not cuckoo.”

The angel has been in and out of town since the eighties. He supports himself by his writing, which he says is published in Japan. About three years ago, he had a breakdown and wound up hospitalized but discovered life was more bearable when he dressed as an angel.

At first he wore black wings, black plastic pants, and futuristic black boots. “People from around Great Jones Street would remember me as the black angel,” he says. Then he decided to add red and white to his wardrobe.

“People are nice to me,” he remarks. “I was in Williamsburg when a man, possibly insane and homeless, offered me the food he was eating. Then today, I went to a copy shop and I wasn’t charged.” And it was true that everyone walking through the hotel lobby seemed delighted to see the angel. He says, “I think I’ll wear my cos-tume for the rest of my life. It has a healing effect on others.”

Angels With Dirty Faces