Adam Purple’s Grandson Responds to Hotel Indigo’s Controversial Rooftop Bar ‘Mr. Purple’ [OP-ED]

Posted on: December 28th, 2015 at 9:45 am by

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Mural in the Hotel Indigo, with image of Adam Purple

Currently in its sixth week of operation, the backlash against Hotel Indigo, Gerber Group, and the Mr. Purple nightspot on the fifteenth floor is snowballing. And rather quickly. As we’ve exhaustively chronicled, the rooftop hang is borderline defamation of character. Steve Mason, Adam Purple’s grandson, responds to the whole situation with the following editorial. 

I am Adam Purple’s Grandson.

I only learned about the new hotel bar named “Mr. Purple” yesterday. I was not close to David [Wilkie], but I have been exposed to his views on society, government, philosophy, language, and architecture since I was barely able to walk (I am 37). He was an iconoclast: anti-consumerist, anti-capitalist, and anti-“The Man” in every conceivable way. The “Garden of Eden” was not an effort to beautify the neighborhood. It was, in my view, a statement against the system. It was a weapon. If he just wanted to be a hippie and live off of the land he would have had a farm upstate. That was not his jam. He did what he did on Forsyth Street to get in people’s faces: to fight the power and piss people off. He wanted the entire working class to go on strike — to bring the system to its knees. He was a vegan (this place has a hamburger named after him), didn’t use banks, and was in constant conflict with the federal and municipal government. So far as I could tell, his objective was nothing less than the destruction of western civilization.

To wit: he was not the sort of person who would drink fifteen dollar cocktails at a luxury bar.

“Mr. Purple” is not an honorable tribute. Believe me, I would love for David’s legacy to be memorialized, and I’m happy that he achieved notoriety enough to be considered for exploitation by a midtown corporate property development committee. However, a fancy hotel bar is not the right vehicle. At best, it’s tone deaf.

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Photo: Indigo Hotel’s Instagram

I’m sure that the folks at the Gerber Group (or whatever brand consulting group they hired) thought they were being clever — that this sounded like a great way to distinguish their hotel, to connect it with the elusive, evaporating “hip and cool” history of the Lower East Side. If they had conducted more rigorous research, they might have discovered that Adam Purple is not very brand-friendly.

That this hotel uses his name and likeness is deeply offensive and disrespectful to him, to me, and to anyone that appreciated what he stood for. It makes me sad that his most prominent legacy would be this hotel bar celebrating debauchery and consumption. To me (and I don’t mean to draw undue comparison) but this would be like calling a bar “Ghandhi” or “Mother Theresa”: it’s just wrong.

There is absolutely no way in hell he would have authorized or approved the use of his likeness. It goes against everything he stood for his entire life. [ed. There were reportedly meetings with Purple but no formal consent given]

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Adam Purple above his Garden of Eden, Photo: Harvey Wang

I hope someone at the Gerber Group has the humility to recognize that someone exercised poor judgement, and to take the necessary steps to re-brand the bar. If there’s nobody there with enough decency, at the very least, I hope this evolves into a PR problem that will cost them more in bad press. Then, maybe greed will lead them to do the right thing.

Steve Mason
San Francisco

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