Carolyn LeRoy pulled open the door to her father’s
apartment. She was wearing slippers and complaining about the weather-the penthouse’s
360 degrees of windows usually offer stellar views. The day before, Ms. LeRoy
had held what would be the last gathering at the 8,200-square-foot home of
Warner LeRoy, the legendary owner of the Russian Tea Room and Tavern on the
Green, who died of complications from his lymphoma on Feb. 22 at age 65.
On March 29, the 16-room apartment, on the 59th and 60th
floors of 3 Lincoln Center, had gone up for sale for $24 million, and Ms. LeRoy
had played host to 80 real estate brokers-tapped because they might know
someone in the mood to spend that kind of money. Emilie O’Sullivan and Daniel
Douglas of the Corcoran Group, who beat out four other firms for the
commission, had organized the elite open house, hand-delivered the invitations
and flooded the space with every variety of roses.
But on this day, in the foyer lined with blond burled wood,
it was just Ms. LeRoy, 28, the two brokers and her husband of three months,
Stephan Moise. The couple is still living in the apartment-actually a
combination of five units that Mr. LeRoy cobbled together for $6.37 million
before moving there in 1995 after 23 years at the Dakota, 1 West 72nd Street.
Ms. LeRoy has always occupied a bedroom in the western wing of the apartment
(past the screening room, her father’s office and the gym), and her sister
Jennifer, 22, now the chief executive of the Russian Tea Room, lived upstairs,
where there are just two bedrooms and one bathroom, until last year. Bridget,
the oldest sister, lives on Long Island, and brother Max has moved to Los
Angles to become an actor.
“When he first moved in, he was one of the only people moving [over] to Amsterdam Avenue,” said
Ms. LeRoy. “He said, ‘Wow,’ and bought
what he could.”
Looking down at the marble under her feet, Ms. LeRoy said
that her father had often turned the entryway into a dance floor and that his
close friends, like Michael Douglas, real estate developer Marshall Rose and
author and editor Michael Korda, were known
to shimmy there to a hired band. In the foyer, in the screening room, in
the double-sized family room; for a Knicks Game, the Oscars, the Olympics, the
Super Bowl-you name it-Mr. LeRoy threw parties. And he threw lots of them here
in this massive fishbowl that towers over the city.
At those parties, said Ms. LeRoy, a buffet dinner, usually
prepared by a chef from one of her father’s restaurants, would be spread out in
the dining room, with its cherrywood table, coated in 42 layers of lacquer, and
the six-panel painting by Jim Dine, part of his “heart” series. About 70 people,
including guidebook publishers Tim and Nina Zagat and 60 Minutes executive producer Don Hewitt, attended Mr. LeRoy’s last
big party, for the Super Bowl, in January.
“I was a regular at his Super Bowl party and for the Academy
Awards,” said Mr. Zagat, who still has the invitation to this year’s Oscars
party, which Mr. LeRoy had planned before his death. “The people there were
amazing …. When his apartment was dressed up and filled with people and filled
with food, it was amazing.”
The Oscars parties were held in Mr. LeRoy’s screening room,
a mix of Hollywood and New York-just like him. Mr. LeRoy’s father produced The Wizard of Oz , and his mother was the
daughter of one of the four Warner Brothers; he moved to the city after
graduating from Stanford University. Located just off the foyer, the screening
room, which seats about 25, is filled with red velvet chairs, sofas and Saul
Steinberg prints. “It felt like you were in the front row at the [Academy]
Awards itself,” said Phil Suarez, co-owner of Jean Georges and Vong, about the
annual party, where guests included Barbara Walters, Mike Wallace, Art
Buchwald, Ron Delsener and Mr. LeRoy’s sister, Linda Janklow.
“I was there a lot,” said Paul Goldberger, architectural
critic for The New Yorker , whose last
visit to Mr. LeRoy’s apartment was the day after his funeral. Mr. Goldberger
said he sometimes attended the big event parties, but preferred Mr. LeRoy’s
smaller dinner parties. “They were always wonderful,” he said. “You had this
feeling that his parties were often full of people who are used to going to
things out of obligation, but would go to Warner’s out of pleasure.”
Guests would drift in and out of the kitchen. “A
free-floating glitterati,” Mr. Goldberger called the group, which he said
included developer Alfred Taubman, Michael Lynne from New Line Cinema and
Democratic fund-raisers Alan and Susan Patricoff. “Elegance and aloofness were
As with his restaurants, Mr. LeRoy was his own interior
decorator at home. When he moved out of the Dakota, which is only slightly
farther from Mr. LeRoy’s franchise restaurants than this apartment, friends
figured that he wanted a smaller space and the spectacular views. “To go around
the apartment and see the entire city in one space is pretty amazing,” said Mr.
Suarez. “You felt like you were in one of those hotels where the room revolved,
except it didn’t revolve-you just walked around and you saw everything.”
The screening room aside, Mr. LeRoy did relatively little
work on his new home, save for combining the units and designing some of the
furnishings. “It was a funny thing how seamlessly his style, which seemed to
have almost been created for his apartment in the Dakota, how naturally it
translated into this completely different kind of space,” said Mr. Goldberger,
who lived in the Dakota when Mr. LeRoy did.
Looking around the living room, a 43-foot-wide space looking
east off the foyer, Carolyn LeRoy said that many of her father’s most valuable
artworks and antiques had already been removed by the family. “The favorites
are hidden away,” she said. Some will be auctioned off, probably individually,
starting in the fall. But hanging in a corner was a portrait of a woman that
looked like the work of Picasso. No, it was a LeRoy, she said. Her father
“liked to dabble in painting,” Ms. LeRoy continued, indicating a girl in a blue
dress holding a duck-a very early LeRoy-and an imitation Seurat landscape on
the other walls. “He loved it so much,” said Ms. LeRoy of the latter, “but he
couldn’t afford the original.”
On a much bigger scale,
there was a Sam Francis splatter painting that Mr. LeRoy acquired in his days
at the Dakota. There was also, next to a pressed bamboo side table, a large
twisted metal sculpture by John Chamberlain titled Jack Warner’s Cab , made for Mr. LeRoy’s uncle. There was a Leroy Neiman drawing of zoo animals
closer to the foyer and two Tiffany lamps that once lit up Mr. LeRoy’s first
restaurant, Maxwell’s Plum, on either side of one of the couches. Photographs
from Ms. LeRoy’s wedding to Mr. Moise, a former sous chef at Tavern who now
works for Tommy Hilfiger, also adorned the walls. Held at the restaurant in
January, the reception included an impressive emerald ice sculpture.
At the far end of the living area stood a large gold-plated
statue of the goddess Diana wielding a bow and arrow. Ms. LeRoy said it came
from the old Madison Square Garden, one of six statues that went to auction
about five years ago. “Five were pure-no messiness or anything-and they went
like that,” Ms. LeRoy said, snapping her fingers. “And this one was left
behind, and my dad thought it was the most beautiful one because this was the
one that had actually been outside and is weathered.”
But to Mr. Suarez, the pièce
de résistance was the player piano, a Steinway baby grand tucked into an
alcove near the front door. It “played nothing but show tunes and great movie
hits,” he said. “As soon as you walked in, you thought Liberace was in the
room, but it was the baby grand playing, and this was before anyone knew this
thing existed,” said Mr. Suarez. “Only Warner.”
In addition to being a party guest, restaurateur Sirio
Maccioni, who owns Le Cirque 2000, would often visit his good friend in his
apartment in the morning. He would arrive bearing bomboloni, the Italian donuts
that are the specialty of Mrs. Maccioni. “I would have a coffee with him in the
living room, sometimes in the bedroom,” said Mr. Maccioni about his last
visits. “I would go whenever it was possible. It was always a treasure to see
him and to be with him. In a sense, he was my best friend.”
Another close friend, Café des Artistes owner George Lang,
also visited Mr. LeRoy at home often. “I sat with him in the office,” said Mr.
Lang, who had tea with Mr. LeRoy there a few months before he died. Mr. LeRoy’s
home office was past the screening room, down a hallway lined with bookshelves
filled with cookbooks organized by ethnicity. The two would sit on one of the
comfy couches and talk. “I especially treasure that,” said Mr. Lang.
Standing in the office, a corner room lined with windows,
Ms. LeRoy said, “You have to imagine that he sat and talked for hours.” She sat
in the spot her father used to favor. “And usually it’s a beautiful day with
the bluest skies you’ve ever seen, and you’re sitting here, trying to listen,
sitting on these comfortable couches with the heat on … you fall asleep!”
On one desk rested a glass bear head-the prototype for the
Russian Tea Room’s revolving bear-shaped aquarium. Next to it was a large gold
eagle, which Mr. LeRoy bought about four years ago at the Winter Antiques Show
at the Armory and had replicated for the front desk at Tavern on the Green.
Ms. LeRoy turned back through the living and dining rooms
into the master suite. She walked into her father’s bedroom, small in scale
compared to the rest of the apartment, but with huge windows on two sides that
he liked to open in summer so the music from Lincoln Center could float up. A
blue-and-gold Versace comforter covered the bed, where about 10 pillows sat,
perfectly fluffed, many with lion prints. “He loved anything about the king,”
she said. On the wall next to the bed was her favorite piece of art, a black
ink drawing on paper of a tree with intricate branches done by Herb Gardner, an
old friend of Mr. LeRoy’s. Mr. Gardner gave it to the restaurateur in November
1998, when the latter visited the artist’s studio. When Mr. LeRoy got sick, he
had the drawing moved there, to the right of his bed, just an arm’s reach away.
Ms. LeRoy tried to give the drawing back to Mr. Gardner
after her father died, but the artist wanted her to keep it. “He called it The Survivors ,” she said.
The master suite also included a guest room with a treadmill
in it, a master bathroom and several locked closets. “His wardrobe was
extensive,” said screenwriter and playwright Peter Stone, who knew Mr. LeRoy
for 45 years. “It was very glittery-a lot of metallic materials and flower
Mr. Stone remembered going to a Christmas party at Mr.
LeRoy’s apartment a few years ago and seeing a giant Christmas tree in the
foyer, near a pair of oversized Chinese cast-bronze lion-dogs. “Because of the
way he was dressed, I couldn’t find him, because he was in front of the
tree-[wearing] the same colors, the same shine, the same glitz as the tree had.
“I think he kind of discovered something, and you need money
to discover it: If you pushed bad taste far enough, if you had the resources
and courage to do it, you came out the other end with good taste,” said Mr.
Stone, who owns a house right next door to Mr. LeRoy’s in Amagansett, N.Y. Mr.
LeRoy’s homes were, he continued, a “very, very extravagant part of his
life-advertisements for what he presented at his remarkable gathering places.
His house and his apartment was just another extension of that.”
Mr. LeRoy’s life in the apartment, said Mr. Suarez, “was
like him looking down on his city and saying, ‘Thank you,’ and the city saying,
‘I’m with you-take a peek.’”