About Michael Gross

Michael Gross, one of America's most provocative non-fiction writers, is the author of the New York Times bestsellers House of Outrageous Fortune, 740 Park and Model, as well as Rogues' Gallery and My Generation. His latest book is Focus, The Sexy, Secret, Sometimes Sordid World of Fashion Photographers. He is a Contributing Editor of Departures and his journalism has appeared in The New York TimesNew YorkVanity Fair, Esquire, GQ and many other publications.

April 20 2019

Jayne Wrightsman, RIP


One of my best and most knowing sources from Rogues’ Gallery, my book on the Metropolitan Museum of Art, tells me that Jayne Wrightsman, arguably the last living society lioness, has died after a long decline at age 99. She was born Jane Larkin in Flint, Michigan, in 1920. The daughter of an architect who mysteriously disappeared from her life, but went on to build American embassies and consulates for the U.S. State Department during and after the Great Depression, and, as described in that book, “a whisky-voiced southern-accented nightclub habitue nicknamed Chuggy,” she became an icon of American reinvention. With the husband she met in Los Angeles in the 1940s, Charles Wrightsman, the son of an Oklahoma wildcatter and… Continue reading

April 17 2019

Walking the Walk

with anne bass

I’m quoted in the new issue of The Hollywood Reporter in Beth Landman‘s story on walkers…the men who once (and sometimes still do) escort women, married or otherwise, with whom they are not intimate, to social events.  In it, one-time walker Boaz Mazor says women “don’t care about society anymore — they are happy to go out with their iPhones!” Men, too, are not as eager to attend galas, adds Christopher Mason: “A lot of walkers are happily married to each other now and have satisfying home lives.” Beth didn’t include my praise of Anne Bass (with me, above), so I’ll add that thought.  Following her divorce in the ’90s, she started showing up at galas, proudly alone. It wasn’t done yet and that awed me. Photo by… Continue reading

March 26 2019

Sacking the Sacklers: Too Little Too Late?


Today’s New York Times details a backlash against the philanthropy of the drug-dealing Sackler clan, best known here in New York as the donors of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Temple of Dendur (above), Sackler Wing and Sackler Galleries. The back story of the current controversy is told in Rogues’ Gallery, my book on how the super-rich have used that museum–and other causes–to launder their reputations and in the words of the book’s epigraph from Bernard Mandeville, turn “Private Vices…into Publick Benefits.”  The story begins in 1963, and includes the family’s invention of modern drug marketing (Sackler made Valium the first $100 million drug); secret deals personally benefiting Dr. Arthur M. Sackler; and his and his… Continue reading

March 13 2019

And for my next act….


Expect Gripepad to come alive again, as I’ve left Avenue Magazine after just under two-and-a-half years as its Editor-in-Chief. It was fun while it lasted. Next! Continue reading

March 11 2019

St. Barth Bounces Back

St Barth Coveer

Holders of American Express Platinum cards can read my cover story on the rebirth of St. Barth post Hurricane Irma in the new issue of Departures.  Less privileged folk (like me, for instance) will have to wait until it is unlocked. Continue reading

March 6 2019

Calvin Klein Collection, R.I.P.


And now comes the news that the owners of Calvin Klein, the brand, are closing its high-end collection business following the departure of designer Raf Simons, who failed to be its savior.  Calvin Klein, the man, lives on, both in the world and in my archives, thanks to my second-ever cover story for New York Magazine. It appeared in summer 1988, shortly after Calvin reappeared in New York to launch his scent Eternity following a much-publicized stint in drug rehab. Fun fact:  When I started reporting the story, the company pulled its advertising from New York, and didn’t return to the magazine’s pages for five years.  You can read about the highs and lows of the designer and his brand in their glory years here.  Continue reading

February 26 2019

Patrick McCarthy, R.I.P.


It’s been a bad season for fashion and today comes the news that Patrick McCarthy, former editor of W and WWD, has died at age 67, after a long period out of the public eye, and, reportedly, a short illness.  I profiled McCarthy at the height of his power and influence in 1997.  You can read that story, “The McCarthy Era,” here.  One caveat:  McCarthy, who never married, nor had any long-term significant other, and never made his sexuality a matter for public discussion or commerce, as many of my subjects did, agreed to cooperate on the condition that I not delve into his private life. Continue reading

Isaac, Reconsidered


In his new memoir, out today, fashion-designer-turned multi-media-performer Isaac Mizrahi cites my 1990 profile of him in New York Magazine as a “career-making story …with a long expose-style interview.”  At the time, I was told Mizrahi hated it because Harry Benson’s portrait of him on the cover was less than flattering.  I’m glad he’s changed his mind. Mizrahi writes that at the time, Calvin Klein‘s in-house flack Paul Wilmot commiserated with him over the fact that the story “made clear that I was gay,” something Mizrahi never denied.  “I was right,” Mizrahi writes.  Read the profile here. Continue reading

February 16 2019

Lee Radziwill, R.I.P.


I first met Lee Radziwill, who died Friday at her home in Manhattan, more than thirty years ago when she handled public relations for the Milanese designer Giorgio Armani.  Years later, when I wrote about her childhood at 740 Park in my book on the storied apartment house,  she told me of the time her sister Jacqueline Bouvier (later Kennedy Onassis), saved her life after she tried to crawl out one of its sixth floor windows to escape the stifling atmosphere caused by her dissolute father, Black Jack Bouvier’s profligacy, and their parents’ failing marriage.  Window guards were subsequently installed to prevent a recurrence of her great escape.  But my favorite Lee anecdote is contained in a column I wrote for Avenue about… Continue reading

January 2 2019

JFK Jr: New doc debuts



Tomorrow night, ABC broadcasts The Last Days of JFK Jr., a new documentary.  My voice is in the trailer, so I suspect I’ll be in the show, talking about my two cover stories on the American prince.  The first was for New York Magazine in 1989 and appeared as the man I called “Just John” was going to work for Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.  The second, for Esquire in 1995, caught up with John as he launched his political magazine George.  Like his death, that mag, which sat at the intersection of politics and celebrity, came too soon. Continue reading

September 16 2018

Mnuchin Asking $32.5 Million at 740 Park


The news that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has listed his sprawling A-Line duplex at 740 Park Avenue made headlines this week.  Besides the Wall Street Journal’s scoop by Katherine Clarke (shown), Forbes also featured the listing, citing the book that remains the primary source on the world’s richest apartment building. Continue reading

July 25 2018

Genuine Authentic e-book Released


The e-book of Genuine Authentic, available for the first time and released yesterday, is the #1 new fashion book in Amazon’s Kindle Store.  The book, first published in 2003, has also been re-released in a new paperback edition to note Polo Ralph Lauren’s 50th birthday, with a new Afterword. Continue reading

July 19 2018

Genuine Authentic Returns


Today, the Daily Mail Online revealed that Genuine Authentic: The Real Life of Ralph Lauren, my “sizzling” 2003 unauthorized biography of the American fashion legend, is being re-released on July 24 as both a re-packaged paperback and a first-ever e-book by William Morrow Paperbacks.

It’s the same book that a New York Times reviewer called “sharp-clawed [yet...] honestly admiring,” but it’s been updated with a new Afterword.  In the original, “Gross summed up Lauren by saying that the things which made him a success like obsessiveness and control were ‘negative when viewed on the human level,’” the Mail reports.  “In the new afterword Gross strikes a more conciliatory tone and says … that while others in the fashion… Continue reading

May 15 2018

740 Park a “genre-buster,” says Architectural Digest



Writing on architect Rosario Candela in Architectural Digest, David Netto calls 740 Park “riveting social history…a biography of an apartment building.” Continue reading

May 5 2018

740 Park Grows on the New York Times


The most notable residence in the most notable apartment house on the Upper East Side, 740 Park, has lately been much in the news. A few weeks back, the New York Times’ T Magazine referred to the former residence there of Saul and Gayfryd Steinberg, Apartment 15-16B.  In tomorrow’s Styles of the Times, in a profile of its current occupants, Steve and Christine Schwarzman, the apartment also figures prominently.

Though it’s really unnecessary, both articles inflate the apartment’s many virtues.  T called it a triplex.  The writer of the Styles profile referred to it as a “17,000-square-foot, three-floor penthouse.” In fact, while fabulously grand, it is none of those things, as Times editors partly acknowledged when they… Continue reading

April 28 2018

“Quality will win out”


Walt Disney said that, and yesterday’s real estate news shows it’s still true. On both the east and west coasts, trophy properties with remarkable histories have gone on the market and attracted attention for their inherent quality–as well as their sky-high asking prices.

In Bel Air, California, Variety’s brilliant Realestalker Mark David reports, soap opera mogul Bill Bell and his wife Maria, an arts philanthropist have listed a mansion prominently featured in my book on West Los Angeles, Unreal Estate (which is currently out of print). Designed by Wallace Neff for film producer and studio mogul Sol Wurtzel, it was later home to a celebrity psychic and astrologer-to-the-stars and is said to have been sublet to to… Continue reading

February 4 2018

Orphaned Estate and Book Seek New Patrons


Unreal Estate, my 2011 romp through the luxury property market in the West Los Angeles neighborhoods of Bel Air, Holmby Hills and Beverly Hills, has been out of print for several years but still attracts attention. The same is true of the great estates it covers, like 141 South Carolwood Drive, former home of Tony Curtis, Cher, and movie mogul Joe Schenck, who famously bedded Marilyn Monroe there. It’s now on the market for $180 million, and has renewed interest in the book, too. A local bestseller at the time, it needs TLC (not to mention a committed publisher). But it won’t cost anything like that lofty asking price! Continue reading

January 28 2018

A Warming Trend is Forecast


The February Palm Beach issue of AVENUE “drops” this weekend and its four features, including our definitive Palm Beach A-List are already available online. If you’re somewhere warm, it will reflect your good fortune. If you’re in New York, it might transport you somewhere warm. I’m particularly proud of “Tattoo Me,” an essay by Nina Griscom about losing her ink virginity, which introduces her as one of the magazine’s two new Contributing Editors. The other is Anthony Haden-Guest, who will contribute a weekly cartoon to the web site beginning on Tuesday January 30. That’s 8-goal polo player Nic Roldan on the cover, photographed by Nick Mele. Continue reading

January 19 2018

Bradford Dillman, widower of supermodel Suzy Parker, RIP


Actor Bradford Dillman has died, says The Hollywood Reporter. Dillman was the long-time husband of the late supermodel Suzy Parker, a central character in both Focus and Model, along with her older sister and fellow model Dorien Leigh. Parker became Richard Avedon’s muse and unofficial studio manager during his heyday as a fashion photographer in the Fifties and Sixties, even assisting when he photographed America’s Mercury astronauts (in the photo, which is from my collection). While she continued to work with Avedon after meeting Dillman on a movie set, Parker eventually settled into life as a wife and mother in Montecito, California, where I interviewed her for those books, and Dillman lived and died. Continue reading

Correction: We’ll always have the West Village


A keen-eyed reader writes: “On page 61 [of Focus] you wrote [of the film Funny Face, based on Richard Avedon and his brief first marriage]: ‘Audrey Hepburn plays Jo Stockton, a bohemian bookstore clerk who [Dick] Avery [the Avedon-like figure played by Fred Astaire] ‘discovers’ in the background of a Parisian photo shoot….’ The photo shoot … takes place in a bookstore in the West Village,” where Avery finds her. The error will be corrected in future printings. Continue reading