Michael Gross is recognized as one of America’s most provocative writers of non-fiction — its “foremost chronicler of the upper-crust,” says curbed.com — in books that reveal the real workings of previously hidden lives and lifestyles. His most recent bestseller, Unreal Estate, opens the gates of the most exclusive neighborhoods of Los Angeles: Beverly Hills, Holmby Hills, Bel Air and Beverly Park, and reveals the lives of fascinating handful of their founders and residents over the last century. “Gross seems to be picking up where the late, great Dominick Dunne left off in his fascination with the ways that high life and low life come together,” Joe Meyer wrote in The Connecticut Post. Gross “gives us the lowdown on an incredible cast of characters…[He] is such a good storyteller.” Academy Award-winning producer Joel Silver is now developing Unreal Estate as a series for HBO.
Unreal Estate is his second book on the world’s most luxurious real estate and the people who own it. The first, 740 Park, published in 2005, is the inside story of New York’s richest, most prestigious cooperative apartment building. Built by James T. Lee, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ grandfather, and long the residence of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., 740 Park is today the home of some of New York’s wealthiest and most prominent families. Fortune has described 740 Park as “jaw-dropping apartment porn.” It offers an unprecedented peek into the luxurious world of such latterday financial heroes and villains as Stephen Schwarzman, Ezra Merkin and John Thain. 740 Park was the basis for Oscar-winner Alex Gibney’s acclaimed 2012 documentary, Park Avenue
Gross’ next book looks at the newest contender for New York’s richest building, 15 Central Park West, and the social changes it reflects. Tentatively entitled House of Outrageous Fortune, it will be published early in 2014 by the Atria division of Simon & Schuster.
In between his first two real estate epics, Gross published a wildly controversial expose of New York’s cultural elite Rogues’ Gallery: The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money that Made the Metropolitan Museum in 2009, setting off an extraordinary campaign by some of New York’s most influential citizens to suppress the book. It failed. The New York Times Book Review called it “a blockbuster exhibition of human achievement and flaws” and Vanity Fair said it is simply “explosive.” Why? “Gross demonstrates he knows his stuff. It’s a terrific tale… gossipy, color-rich, fact-packed … What Gross reveals is stuff that more people should know,” according to USA Today. A paperback edition was released in May 2010.
Before 740 Park, Gross wrote Genuine Authentic, a biography of fashion designer Ralph Lauren. It was acclaimed by The New York Times as a work of “impressive reporting” that “hack(s) through the hype and half-truths” of the Polo purveyor’s legend. Publishers Weekly praised his “meticulous research and artful prose… The crackerjack journalist simultaneously tells a compelling story and gives it meat enough to be satisfying.”
The Real Estate Editor of Avenue magazine, “On the Flip Side” columnist for the New York Post‘s Alexa Luxe Living quarterly and Contributing Editor of Travel & Leisure, Gross has previously worked as a columnist for The New York Times, GQ, Tatler, Town & Country, The Daily News, Crain’s New York Business, and the philanthropy magazine Contribute; a Contributing Editor of New York (where he wrote 26 cover stories, including the magazine’s all-time best-selling reported cover story on John F. Kennedy, Jr.), and of Talk; a Senior Writer at Esquire, and a Senior Editor at George.
In 2000, Gross published My Generation, a generational biography of the Baby Boom. It was called “wonderful” by the Washington Times, “trenchant, well-dramatized, thought-provoking and unusual” by Kirkus Reviews and “hugely entertaining… a brilliantly reported story,” by the Orlando Sentinel.
Gross’s 1995 book, Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women, was an investigative tour-de-force, and a blistering expose of the fashion-modeling business. It was a New York Times bestseller, and a selection of the Quality Paperback Book Club. Model, which remains in print and in demand more than a dozen years after its first publication, was also published in France, the U. K., Canada, Australia, Germany, Japan, Brazil, Russia and China. It was recently re-published in an updated edition by the It Books imprint of HarperCollins. Click here to read reviews of Model.
Over the years Gross has profiled such subjects as John F. Kennedy Jr., Greta Garbo, Stephanie of Monaco, Richard Gere, Alec Baldwin, Madonna, and Ivana Trump; fashion figures Tina Chow, Calvin Klein, Diane von Furstenberg, Isaac Mizrahi, Ralph Lauren, and Steven Meisel, and he’s written on topics as diverse as philanthropy, the theft of the internet domain sex.com, plastic surgery, divorce, the A-List, Sex in the 90s and Greenwich Village-the last in an article that introduced the phrase “quality of life” into New York City’s 1993 mayoral campaign. Gross has covered the media in his GQ column, “The Chattering Class” and in feature stories on Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief Norman Pearlstine, Tina Brown and The New Yorker; Hearst Magazines, and the style war between Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. For Travel & Leisure, he’s written about chic destinations like The Point, Ponza, Harbour Island, St-Tropez, St. Barthèlèmy, the French Riviera, Belize and Capri. At the New York Times and New York , he was one of the first American journalists — in many cases the first — to write about today’s most influential international fashion designers, among them Dolce e Gabbana, Helmut Lang, John Galliano, Marc Jacobs and Costume National.
Mr. Gross appears regularly on television and was a contributor to CBS This Morning. His writing has appeared in Vanity Fair, Architectural Digest, Newseek, Playboy, Radar, American Photo, Interview, Details, Elle, TV Guide, Cosmopolitan, and the now-defunct Manhattan Inc., Saturday Review, and Mademoiselle; and newspapers like the Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, the New York Post, the Village Voice, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Chicago Tribune.
In England, has written for Harper’s & Queen, the Times and the Sunday Times, the Evening Standard, the Sunday Express, The Mail on Sunday, NME and Melody Maker. His work has also appeared in Elle, Paris Match, Optimum and Madame Figaro in France; El Pais in Spain; Figaro Japon in Japan; Focus, Max, Die Bunte and Manner Vogue in Germany; Mode in Australia; the South China Morning Post; Panorama, L’Uomo Vogue and L’Espresso in Italy, and in many of the international editions of Travel + Leisure, Vogue, Esquire and Cosmopolitan.
Mr. Gross writes his own blog Gripepad and has contributed to The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast. He has also been a guest editor of Gawker and Curbed and was the consulting editor of Bergdorf Goodman Magazine from 2002 until 2010. The New York Post said he “aggressively transformed the once-catalog-like publication into an eclectic cultural forum.”
Before writing Model, Gross published several books on popular music, among them Bob Dylan: An Illustrated History (1978). The Encyclopedia Britannica says this illustrated biography “is opinionated but sprinkled with interesting photos and fairly accurate.” With the Emmy-award-winning writer Stephen Demorest, Gross also co-authored three mystery novels as D.G. Devon, Temple Kent (1982), Shattered Mask (1983), and Precious Objects (1984). He was editor-in-chief of both Rock, a national music magazine, and the Fire Island News, a weekly newspaper. He has also published essays in books on the Plaza Hotel, Gianni Versace, Valentino and Nino Cerruti, entries in the Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion and articles in textbooks on media and fashion.
Born in Manhattan, Gross grew up on Long Island and, he says, in Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden, the Polo Grounds, Shea Stadium and the Fillmore East. He attended Vassar College where he earned a degree in history. His sister Jane worked for thirty years at the New York Times, and is the author of “A Bittersweet Season.” Michael Gross lives with his wife Barbara Hodes, owner and designer of fashion’s Bibelot label, in the landmark Alwyn Court in midtown Manhattan.
Author photograph by Lindsay McCrum.