"If these walls could talk," goes the saying. Well, perhaps they sometimes can. Thanks to accidents of history, some famous people have lived next to each other and connected in some unusual ways. Here are three examples.
George Frideric Handel and Jimi Hendrix
No, they didn't live next door at the same time — they were separated by three centuries. But the musicians have become united in death. In 1723, George Frideric Handel, who was born in Germany, moved to 25 Brook St. in what is now the Mayfair section of London. There he lived for 36 years, composing some of his best-known works, including "Messiah" and "Zadok the Priest." Handel died at his residence at age 84 in 1759.
In 1969, American rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix moved in with his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham to 23 Brook St. Hendrix thought he was living in Handel's former home, but later learned he was actually in the flat next door. Nevertheless, he bought some recordings of the composer's famous works to give them a listen. Hendrix, best known for songs like "All Along the Watchtower" and "Purple Haze," only lived in the Brook Street flat for a few months. He died the following year of a drug overdose at age 27 in a London hotel. Today you can see both Handel's house and Hendrix's flat at the Handel & Hendrix in London museum.
Harper Lee and Truman Capote
Harper Lee and Truman Capote met as next-door neighbors in Monroeville, Alabama, in 1930, when she was 4 years old and he was 6. Both loved to read, and had difficult relationships with their mothers. But they were quite different in personality: Lee was a tomboy in overalls, and Capote was a fastidious dresser with a high-pitched voice. Although Capote's mother took him to live in New York City a few years later, the two remained friends.
In 1959, while awaiting the publication of her 1960 novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" (she modeled the character Dill after her childhood friend), Lee accompanied Capote on a trip to Kansas and helped him research the murders that formed the basis of his 1966 masterwork "In Cold Blood." But she was hurt that Capote failed to acknowledge her help when his book was finally published, and the two had a falling out. It probably didn't help the relationship that Lee shunned the spotlight while Capote craved it. Although they have both since died (Capote in 1984 and Lee in 2016), you can still visit sites related to both writers in Monroeville. However, neither Lee's nor Capote's homes are still standing.
Dylan Thomas and Bob Dylan
The Welsh poet and the American musical poet both lived at New York's notorious Chelsea Hotel — Dylan Thomas in room 205, while Bob Dylan was in room 211. But several years separated them. Thomas, most famous for "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night," was working on the radio drama "Under Milk Wood" at the hotel and fell into a coma, allegedly after drinking 18 whiskeys in a row. He died in 1953. But the truth might be a little more prosaic. Although he was an alcoholic, Thomas most likely succumbed because of pneumonia and diabetes.
In 1965, Dylan checked into the Chelsea with his girlfriend (later wife) Sara Lownds. There, he wrote much of his album "Blonde on Blonde." (A 1975 song called "Sara" contains the line: "staying up for days in the Chelsea Hotel, writing 'Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands' for you.") He also had an affair with fellow Chelsea dweller and socialite Edie Sedgwick. Despite common perception, the former Robert Zimmerman did not rename himself after Dylan Thomas. By the time he arrived at college, he was already calling himself "Bob Dillon," possibly after Matt Dillon of the TV show "Gunsmoke." He may have altered the spelling of his last name in honor of the Welsh poet and we know they obviously shared a similar taste in accommodations.
Today, the Chelsea Hotel is being renovated from a bohemian outpost into a luxury boutique hotel and only a few long-time residents still live there.