A gay composer's story of survival in New York through the best -and worst -of times.

The Man on the Fifth Floor:3 Decades in the Chelsea Hotel A Project of Documentaries

A riveting story of New York City, the Chelsea Hotel and the LGBT experience from the '70s-'90s.

"This is strong stuff.......It's a story like no other I've seen." Craig Lucas, playwright/two-time Pulitzer nominee.

"A documentary that must be made about a man whose story must be told." OUT Magazine

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS supports our film.

NewFest supports our film.

New York in the 1970s was bankrupt, dangerous and intoxicating. Disco was born, the sexual revolution exploded, gays, straights and people of all colors danced and drugged the nights away in orgiastic bliss.

The city was charged with an energy that sprang from the atmosphere, the same creative, madcap energy that thrived inside the Chelsea Hotel, a microcosm of everything happening in the city.

No one embodies those years more than avant-garde composer Gerald Busby. Busby has lived it all and he unabashedly tells it all, from sex, drugs and success to HIV, AIDS, crack addiction, food stamps, welfare and recovery.

Director's Statement

On December 16, 2007 I opened The New York Times and discovered avant-garde composer Gerald Busby, featured in their Neediest Cases section.

The article pointed out that "Mr. Busby lives on $658 a month from Social Security, supplemented by $78 in disability payments and $156 in food stamps.

Here was my friend, a vivacious, intelligent, Yale educated piano prodigy, protege of Virgil Thomson, recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Aaron Copland Foundation, composer of Paul Taylor's RUNES, Robert Altman's 3 Women and a long-time resident in New York's legendary Chelsea Hotel featured in The New York Times Neediest Cases section.

WHAT HAPPENED? I had to find out.

The groundswell of support from both Gerald and everyone around us has been extraordinary. The archival material I have access to, from his childhood in Texas to NYC from the 70s- 90s, is spellbinding.

We have a strong, professional team which includes two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee Craig Lucas as Story Consultant and Executive Producers Gail Yancosek and Susan Iger, both Emmy award-winning television producers.

I am equally proud to have my good friend Ann Northrop, co-host of the long running TV show GayUSA, as our Consultant.

We have the rough cut, the team and the talent. We need the money to pay for the research and licensing of the rich archival footage and period music integral to the film, legal fees and color and sound correction.

UPDATE: BIG NEWS! We have a Distributor! They will Premiere the film in N.Y. C. and show it in art houses throughout the U.S.

Please make a 100% tax deductible donation today.

-Jessica Robinson, Director

Jessica Robinson, Director

Gerald Busby, 2014

The Man on the Fifth Floor: 3 Decades in the Chelsea Hotel is one man's surreal survival story and an ensemble story of a lost Bohemia.


The movie vividly captures the zeitgeist of New York's social history with thrilling archival footage and interviews with Edmund White, Larry Kramer, Paul Goldberger, Paul Taylor, Adam Gopnik, Brad Gooch, Craig Lucas, Linda Troeller, Lisa Rosen and others.


The current nostalgia for New York from the 1970s - 1990s is at fever pitch: there's Patti Smith's award-winning book Just Kids, now a Showtime TV series, Edmund White's recent New York Times feature "Why Can't We Stop Talking about New York in the Late 70s?" Brad Gooch's Smash Cut, City on Fire, Garth Risk Halberg's current best-seller and Vinyl, a new HBO series about the music culture of New York in the 1970s. That's just for starters.

The time is NOW to tell this story.

Your donation of any amount is deeply appreciated.

For more about the film and to see more photos and video clips please visit our website: www.busybusbyfilms.com

For the full article click the following link http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-last-living-bohemian-in-chelsea-tells-all

Gerald Busby in the Chelsea Hotel, 1977

Gerald with his mentor: celebrated composer Virgil Thomson

Gerald with his partner

Gerald and his partner Sam Byers, 1976. Sam died of AIDS in 1984

Patti Smith when she lived with Robert Mapplethorpe in the Chelsea Hotel


Gerald Busby's story is intimately connected to many important chapters in America's history: life and art in the Chelsea Hotel, the AIDS and crack epidemics, composing music, Medicaid, Social Security, Welfare, addiction and recovery.


Status of the Film

We have received a generous grant from The Wege Foundation, and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS .

However, we need additional funds secure legal rights for all of the amazing archival footage and music.

If we meet our goal we will have the film in Festival by Spring, 2017. YES, we are that close.

And that's where YOU enter the picture. All donations of any size are deeply appreciated.


$65,950 Raised
47% towards $140,000 Goal

Supported by 14 Donations:

  • janette m.
    I Gave $50
    I so want to see this film! Gerald is extraordinary. Good Luck!
  • Gwen D.
    I Gave $50
  • Paula K.
    I Gave $100
    Gerald is a treasure!
  • Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS
    I Gave $5,000
    ...."wonderful, compelling and does certainly tell a story that in many ways intersects with BC/EFA’s work." Tom Viola, Executive Director
  • Martine A.
    I Gave $100
    I want to see this film about my wonderful friend Gerald Busby. Nothing could make me happier!!! Good luck with the project!
  • Allen F.
    I Gave $50
  • David H.
    I Gave $50
    Keep going JR!
  • Agent/Officer Thomas A. P.
    I Gave $25
    "Those were the days my friends, I thought they would never end & the band plays on in memories." Alex Porter - Headliner 1970's & 1980's
  • Lana N.
    Hoping to see this in SF!
  • Silhouette
    I Gave $50
    Interesting subject. Promising trailer. Can't wait to see the final cut.
  • Silhouette
    I Gave $300