While living at the Algonquin Hotel in February 1932, Dorothy Parker attempted suicide by swallowing barbiturates. She was distraught over the breakup with her young playboy boyfriend, John McClain. It was the same year she published her collection of verse, Death and Taxes, but she also called it “this year of hell” to her friends.
To turn her life around she left the Algonquin and took a furnished apartment at The Lowell, at 28 E. 63rd Street. This would be another one of her many residential hotel-apartments, which Parker always enjoyed living in because she had absolutely no domestic skills, possessed no furniture, and was frequently traveling.
After the failed suicide attempt, Parker started to come around, break her writer’s block, and produced some of the best short stories of her career. While living at this hotel, she asked friends to come over and sit with her for three or four hours and force her to stay focused and keep on writing. While the friends occupied themselves in the apartment, Dottie banged away on her typewriter. Among the classics from this era:
“Lady With a Lamp” (April ’32, Harper’s Bazaar)
“Dusk Before Fireworks” (Sept. ’32, Harper’s Bazaar)
“Horsie” (Dec. ’32, Harper’s Bazaar)
“The Waltz” (Sept. ’33 The New Yorker)
Dottie had to keep writing because she was broke. She was living beyond her means in The Lowell, a great Art Deco building that was fairly new, and let her live there because they liked the publicity of having a famous writer in the place. While there she lost her beloved dachshund, Robinson, the one that is in the famous full-length portrait by Edward Steichen that is on the cover of Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell is This?
Dottie’s publisher was eager for a second collection of work to be published, but she had to get the stories written. It was while living here that she cranked out some gems, and burnished her legend as a short story author. While at The Lowell she met Alan Campbell, who would be her second husband. She left the Lowell and moved 11 blocks south, to 444 E. 52nd Street.
Today the Lowell is a luxury boutique hotel, catering to those who don’t mind spending $600 to $2,000 a night. When Madonna lived there for nine months, she asked the management to convert part of her suite into a private gym. They complied.
In 2015 the hotel was approached about gaining literary landmark status from the Dorothy Parker Society. The hotel never responded.