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.

August 23 2019

On David Koch (b. 1940, d.2019)

In 2014, as acting editor of Avenue, sitting in that chair for just a few months, I faced a challenge. The October cover had been promised to David Koch, the right wing zealot and social figure, on condition the story be focused purely on his philanthropy, which was a legitimate subject–and ignore his more controversial political activism and influence. So I faced the question, how to package a story I hadn’t assigned when I had issues with its content. Koch himself provided the solution when he posed for the cover at the American Museum of Natural History, one of his favorite causes, with a dinosaur skeleton, wearing a dinosaur tie. The resulting cover (above, click it to see it full size) made my point perfectly…

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August 20 2019

Meet Jeffrey Epstein’s Enabler

French modeling agent Jean-Luc Brunel has become a focus of journalistic inquiry in the days since pedo Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide. Yesterday, Brunel made the front page of the Washington Post in a story that cites Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women. According to RTL, the French radio network, I’m “one of the few people to interview the Frenchman.” You can buy the book here. (Photo: Craig Pyes) UPDATE: My in-box continues to be a beacon for reporters on Brunel’s trail. Expect more revelations to come.

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August 7 2019

Toxic Trustees: Named and Shamed

New York Magazine’s Whitney Mallett and Katy Schneider have created a guide to the latest gallery of rogues to join the boards of the city’s leading cultural philanthropies. Rogues’ Gallery gets a shout-out–alongside Metropolitan Museum board members like Henry Kissinger and David Koch.

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August 5 2019

Margiela Unmasked

According to Wikipedia, only one known photo of the Belgian-born Paris-based designer Martin Margiela exists, taken in 1997 by Marcio Madeira but never officially verified. Here’s a second, taken by me (so I can vouch for its veracity) in Fall 1989 at the second Margiela show I covered in what I understood to be a derelict playground on the outskirts of Paris. It’s one of a huge trove of photos I used as notes for my New York magazine column, The Cutting Edge, and then tossed in a box. They ended up forgotten until I found them again not long ago. Many in the photos are now dead. Margiela is allegedly retired, though his label lives on (as does Iggy Pop, whose face is on Margiela’s T-Shirt). If anyone wants to…

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July 12 2019

It’s the Unreal Thing


Owlwood, one of the most famous properties in Holmby Hills, has recently been price chopped to $115 million from an original asking price of of $170 million. First occupied by the estranged wife of the founder of the ritzy real estate development, it was later owned in turn by a partner of Conrad Hilton, movie pioneer Joe Schenk, who is alleged to have made love to a young starlet named Marilyn Monroe there, a wealthy oilman, actor Tony Curtis (in the photo), first Sonny and Cher and then Cher and Gregg Allman, a carpet manufacturer, a sleazy, sex-crazed Syrian, and finally a sub-prime mortgage promoter and his second wife, who sold the estate to a real estate developer for $90 million in 2016. It’s one of the great West Los… Continue reading

July 10 2019

Meet the Ghosts of 740 Park


The apartment with the best back story at 740 Park has changed hands, according to the real estate mavens at The Real Deal. Developer Will Zeckendorf, who bought it in 2011 for $27 million, has now sold it to LBO kingpin Peter May and his wife Leni for $29.5 million, hopefully breaking even.

The flat was originally occupied by a prominent lawyer and Appeals Court justice, Clarence J. Shearn, whose wife Dorothea, a complex and riveting character, was the neighbor-from-hell to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who lived beneath her. Then, the 17th floor simplex (shown in a 1930s photograph) became a shuttlecock after Dorothea was forced out of the building, with Rockefeller, “Big Bill” Zeckendorf, Will’s grandfather and a real… Continue reading

June 15 2019

My Night With Bob Dylan


In honor of this week’s release of Martin Scorsese‘s stirring mock-doc on Bob Dylan‘s 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue, click the continue link below to read an excerpt of my report on that tour, focused on the night that November I–briefly–attended the after-concert party in Niagara Falls, mid-way through the tour. I’d befriended Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, who got me through the door, saved me the first time I was tossed out, but couldn’t when I then made the mistake of speaking to Dylan himself. Next morning, in the hotel lobby, as the troupe gathered for a trip to the nearby Tuscarora Indian reservation (shown in the film), backup singer Ronnee Blakely loudly asked, “Did you know there was a reporter at the party last night?” … Continue reading

June 6 2019

Acidic Flashback to Trump’s Vietnam: A Dumb Deal Made by Morons

In 1999, in an interview for the book My Generation, I asked Donald Trump his reaction to protests against the Vietnam War when he was finishing his education at The Wharton School and winning draft deferments for alleged bone spurs. On this 75th anniversary of D-Day, his reply deserves another airing. He said in his inimitable fashion (lightly edited only to add emphasis and eliminate repetition):

“I always thought that the [anti-war] riots [of the late 1960s], as bad as they were and everything else, the tremendous conflict at home, gave the other side an incentive to go forward. Because essentially, they knew that all they had to do was just keep going. There was no way of making peace when you had this country… Continue reading

May 25 2019

Two Jewish Boys, One Honeypot

Tomorrow’s New York Times Book Review includes a sketch of a book published last month about the war over the web domain sex.com, pitting an internet entrepreneur named Gary Kremen against the conman who stole it from him, Steven Michael Cohen (shown as I confront him in Tijuana, Mexico). The reviewer calls the book “reductive,” but the story is, please pardon the expression, a sexy one. Should you want to read a lively reduction of its essence, I covered it for Playboy some fifteen years ago in a story titled “The Taking of Sex.com,” and you can read it here. Continue reading

May 22 2019

Dining with the Disgraceful


I’m quoted in an essay on creepy society comebacks in the new issue of Town & Country. Read Horacio Silva‘s article here. Thge illustration is reminiscent of the cover I commissioned for last fall’s Avenue magazine Power issue. Continue reading

May 9 2019

Tattered Trump Tales


Last night, in a commentary on Donald Trump‘s tax-dodging, Samantha Bee resurrected a clip from a 2003 doc in which Ivanka Trump recalled encountering a beggar with her father in the early 1990s. Apparently, this is a Trump family schtick, because her father told me the same story about four years earlier, only then, he was walking down the street (a dubious notion by itself) not with Ivanka but with his second wife, Marla. Compare and contrast Ivanka’s story with an unedited section of the transcript of that interview after the jump.

IVANKA (2003): “I remember once my father and I were walking down Fifth Avenue and there was a homeless person sitting right outside of Trump Tower and I remember my father pointing to… Continue reading

May 8 2019

“The Avenue’s Most Exclusive Address” –New York Times

740 Park


Looks like Park Avenue is the focus of the New York Times Real Estate section’s weekly “Living In” feature this weekend. And 740 Park gets the requisite name check. Thanks for that, C.J. Hughes. Continue reading

May 5 2019

Rogues’ Gallery: A Decade of Delinquency


Rogues’ Gallery was published ten years ago today and remains both banned in the bookstore of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, its focus, and pointedly relevant, as last month’s death of longtime museum trustee Jayne Wrightsman, and this week’s frenzy over the Costume Institute’s annual gala, aka the Party of the Year, demonstrate. I think of the book as my favorite child, the one that caused the most trouble, was deemed a delinquent, and thus, merits extra love–my little James Dean, you might say, only this rebel had a cause: Highlighting how the wealthy use culture and philanthropy to launder their money, their deeds, and their reputations. And yes, members of the Sackler family of opioid fame are also characters in the… Continue reading

April 28 2019

Never Mind Irma, Here’s St. Barth


St. Barthelemy’s recovery from Hurricane Irma is almost complete, and it’s a moment of reckoning for the island. Will it return to its haute BoHo roots, or continue down the road to St. Bling? My cover story on St. Barth for the March/April issue of Departures is now online for all to read. Continue reading

April 24 2019

Self-invention to the Max: Jayne Wrightsman, 99


Tomorrow’s New York Post features an obit/excerpt from Rogues’ Gallery on the extraordinary Jayne Wrightsman, who died this week. It’s really about more than one museum. Continue reading

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

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

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