Archive for February, 2013

Betsey Pickering Kaiser, RIP

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New York Social Diary report that Betsey Pickering Kaiser, a friend and subject (she was one of the most compelling of the models in my book Model) has died after a long decline. I saw her last at a dinner given for her and me at Lost Tree in Florida at the home of Alexander and Robbin Gaudieri. Discovered at Sarah Lawrence in 1953, Betsey modeled even though her parents disapproved. “It was not considered the most reputable profession,” she told me. Those were the days!

Courting Chaos: At home(s) with Bob and Cortney Novogratz

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Reality TV stars Bob and Cortney Novogratz are the subject of my second On the Flip Side column for the New York Post’s Alexa Luxe Living. Thrill! as they move from Deliverance country. Chill! as they renovate their first home. And then watch with envy as they flip their way to riches and fame.

Everything old is new again: Lerman’s unreal estate at the Osborne

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The late Leo Lerman’s apartment at the Osborne is for sale for $4.5 million, proving there’s a place on Manhattan’s glittery new Billionaire’s Belt for historic apartment houses, and apartments there that the rest of us can afford, too. My new Unreal Estate column in Avenue looks at the 127-year old landmark on West 57th Street and lots of the people who’ve lived there.

Bruce Weber: The Back Story

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The arrival of Vanity Fair’s new Hollywood issue, with its photo portfolio by the great Bruce Weber, reminded me of my June 1986 debut in Vanity Fair–a story never before available on this web site. Originally commissioned by the New York Times Magazine, it was rejected due, I think, to the newspaper’s then-notorious homophobia (after, I should add, an editor there demanded to know why I hadn’t asked Weber if he was gay). “They’ll never publish it,” VF’s then-editor Tina Brown predicted, “but I will.” And she did, in June 1986. You can read it here (pdf alert: give it … Continue reading

Jerry Buss, RIP

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Jerry Buss, the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, who died this morning Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at age 80, plays only a cameo role in Unreal Estate: Money, Ambition and the Lust for Land in Los Angeles, but it’s a fun one. Buss bought Pickfair, the 42-room Beverly Hills estate built by Douglas Fairbanks for his lover actress Mary Pickford (at right) from the latter’s estate in 1979 for $5.3 million and sold it to actress Pia Zadora and her husband Meshulam Riklis for $6.7 million in 1988. Now in other hands, the house has been so … Continue reading

A Valentine for Unreal Estate

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Realestalker, the much-read luxury realty blog, sent a heart to Unreal Estate today, calling it “exhaustively researched…and deliciously dishy” in a post that retails the rumor that one of the great estates featured in the book, Casa Encantada in Bel Air, once the home of Conrad Hilton and David Murdock, can be yours if you shovel $225 million in the direction of its current owner, Global Crossing founder Gary Winnick. HBO’s planned Unreal Estate series is currently in development. Watch this space for more news on that front as soon as Gripepad is allowed to share it.

Attention Trophy Apartment Buyers!

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The new listing of a tower duplex at River House for $25.5 million by Brown Harris Stevens this week might seem to have been inspired by my Unreal Estate column on the building in this month’s Avenue Magazine, but in truth, it’s come on the market because its owner, Betty Evans, just died. Hers happens to be the only River House apartment I ever visited. She was a niece of Julia Loomis Thorne who, with her husband Landon, were two of the most fascinating characters ever to inhabit 740 Park, the subject of my 2005 book. Evans was one of … Continue reading

River House Revolution: Take that, Dr. Kissinger!

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“Henry’s Hideaway” is the provocative title of my latest Unreal Estate column for Avenue, on the famously secretive River House cooperative on 52nd Street at the East River. Yes, it’s the home of stuffed shirts like Henry Kissinger, but some of what you know about it is wrong, and as the column reveals, a lot has just changed there. Among other things, it may now be the best bargain in New York for trophy apartment-seekers. UPDATE: Max Gross at the New York Post picked up my River House reveal yesterday.

Ed Koch, RIP

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Ed Koch, New York’s most colorful modern mayor, died this morning. My favorite memory of him is our interview for Rogues’ Gallery, the story of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Koch had long disdained the place as a clubhouse for its wealthy and arrogant patrons and greatly enjoyed winning several battles against the museum’s board. Aside from the wealthy and the socially prominent, The Met had a history of putting powerful people on its board, sometimes to seduce and neuter them (newspaper publishers, for instance), sometimes to use them. Henry Kissinger‘s diplomatic contacts made him a natural choice for a … Continue reading