"Our hopes, like towering falcons, aim at objects in an airy height; The little pleasure of the game is from afar to view the flight." Said Matthew Prior.
Michael Gross is a delightful guy who has made the privacy-mad 1 percent of New York crazy because he investigates and tells their many secrets.
And he has written many books that made them angry while the works -- good or bad -- hoisted them on their own petards. This is called a scandal in some sections; journalistic excellence in others. Michael wrote, among other things, the controversial 740 Park and also Unreal Estate...Rogues' Gallery... Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women. You run into his byline everywhere and some people run for the hills.
Now Michael comes with House of Outrageous Fortune, from Atria Books and it concerns Fifteen Central Park West, the World's Most Powerful Address.
Gross opens with Carl Icahn, corporate raider to some, activist investor to others, the 4th richest man in New York City. His failure to bargain enough in 2005 for one of the handful of penthouses atop 15 Central Park West, losing to Daniel Loeb, sets the stage. This is all about super luxurious living palaces, up high in the limited Manhattan market and it put Icahn in quite a snit.
It was the Zeckendorfs who owned it all, owed it all and masterminded everything, winning and losing in the process. People called the building the "limestone Jesus" for it was insanely expensive and tycoon-stuffed, an architectural paradise with views of Central Park West. And there on view were the spate of East 5th Avenue apartments, across the Park, where they hadn't been allowed to buy. (Not Our Kind of People.)
Gross calls 15 "the latest nail in Society's coffin," for it's a high example of the axiom "money talks and bullshit walks."
Michael Gross goes back, delving into the history of all the dwelling places of the rich and socials -- keeping Jews out of this and that, falling prey to rich showbiz or celeb types like Denzel Washington, Sting, Norman Lear, Alex Rodriguez, NASCAR's Jeff Gordon, Russian and Chinese oligarchs, top execs from the Internet age.
This is the history of luxury building in New York, of greed and ostentation and "I told you so!"
So far as history is gossip, it's also gossip from Trumps to Goldman Sachs to Hearsts to Shuberts to Rockefellers, to Rudins to Weills to Bob Costas and you name it or them!
You won't have to worry -- this investigation of a magnificent building is probably out of your reach.
But it's fun for all New Yorkers buying lottery raffle tickets and pressing their noses up against the glass.
•My old hometown -- Fort Worth, Texas, where I was born -- is in the news this week.
Not only does it boast one of the politically rare liberal Democrats running for governorship of the Lone Star State -- Wendy Davis -- but it is also listed by WalletHub as the place to look for a job in the nation. "Fort Worth boasts the nation's 5th fastest-falling unemployment rate, the 4th largest proportion of full-time employees and the second most affordable housing in the nation," says this website.
The worst place to look for a job? New York ranks 52 in high rent. And New Yorkers work much longer hours and harder than in most big cities.
(There were 60 large cities listed.) But in Los Angeles finding a job is even harder.
The New York Post's Kaja Whitehouse already printed this story but it doesn't make me a bad person if I repeat it.
•Speaking of Texans, as we inescapably do, I heard from an old friend who used to be a driving force behind People magazine and its innovative coverage of celebrities for Time, Inc. He is Hal Wingo whom I have known since he was a child in San Antonio. Hal noticed our report on Jess Cagle, the new head of People magazine. (If you watched the Oscars on Sunday; he was omnipresent on the red carpet and backstage.)
Anyway, Hal recalled Jess as a summer intern at People during his youthful years at Baylor University. Hal says he hired Jess as a researcher. "He rose like a meteor to his current pinnacle. He sent me a note after he got the job telling me he owed his entire career to me. Overstated no doubt, but very considerate. I think he is terrific and will do some innovative things with People magazine."
Hal himself, who I tried to discourage from coming to New York City and making a career of journalism, belied my wisdom. (I thought New York was too tough and at the time there was even a newspaper strike.) But Hal paid me no mind, came here, and went in off the street and landed a job at Time, Inc. with no help from anybody. Hal and wife, Paula, are retired and living in Santa Fe these days but planning to move, for the weather, to Palm Springs.
•Amazing how people survive!
Hal sent me a photo of himself with another celebrity who has meant a lot to my own career. The comic-actress-singer Kaye Ballard taught me the basics of show business. Hal begs me to come to Palm Springs for a show Kaye is doing there on March 11th. It is called "I'm Going Out of Business" and Ms. Ballard, who has her own street named after her, says this is her final one-night bye bye at the Camelot Theater. So if you are near Palm Springs, you are lucky for a chance to see a legend in her own time. I hope she'll change her mind about "retiring."