After giving the inside scoop on life in the Hamptons in Philistines at the Hedgerow (1998), Gaines now offers a cook’s tour of tony Manhattan addresses.
Gaines’s primary interest lies in the apartments that line Fifth Avenue, the so-called “best addresses.” Historically, these homes have housed the bastion of Society: those listed in the Social Register, those who might populate an Edith Wharton novel. Turning his attentions to the complex etiquette that governs posh Manhattan real estate, the author reminds us that the prestigious San Remo turned away Madonna in 1985; they worried that her recent photo shoots in Playboy and Penthouse would reflect badly on the building. Barbra Streisand was rejected by another Fifth Avenue co-op board because the residents thought that she’d host too many parties. In this neighborhood, it makes news when Tommy Hilfiger is allowed to buy into 829 Fifth Avenue. After all, his money is not only new, it was made selling urban gangsta clothes to teenagers—how déclassé! Gaines introduces readers to the powerful personalities behind the scenes of New York real estate. The most entertaining chapter features Linda Stein, so-called “broker to the stars,” who represents the likes of Donna Karan. <\b>We also meet Alice Mason, a real estate mogul whose 60-person dinner parties are legendary, and 78-year-old Betty Sherrill, a dowager who rules the roost at One Sutton Place South. Sherrill is chair of the building’s board of directors; thanks to her sharp eye, the board is known as “one of the most difficult” in New York. (For example, Sherrill tends to turn down singletons—overnight guests might tarnish the building’s reputation—but made an exception for Bill Blass.) Those with new money need not despair. Real estate done by the social register, Gaines implies, may be a thing of the past. His last chapter focuses on a new breed of Manhattan brokers, those who are solely interested in racking up sales.
A gossipy, entertaining peek into a glam world.