Location: You once managed the Ramones. Which is harder: punk rock or real estate?
Stein: Real estate. Firstly, if you manage a band, every time you hear an encore, every time the audience increases, every time your radio increases, it’s an upper. With real estate, the only upper is how much you don’t owe to Uncle Sam on the check you’re getting. There is no high except the money, which is extremely taxable.
You have Sting’s apartment at 88 Central Park West on the market for $24 million. When that sells, will that be a kind of high?
Only because it would be the third time that I sold the apartment—because I originally sold it as two apartments, to Billy Joel and Christy Brinkley. They put it together, then Billy had those sad liquid problems, and he asked me to sell it, and I sold it to Sting. And Sting has lived there for 17 years.
Selling this for Sting would be an upper—and a very nice check. I’m extremely grateful to Sting and Trudie [Styler, his wife] for being so loyal to me for 18 years.
However, I have to say I’m loyal to my friends, too. I have supported the rain forest every year; I would never skip a year. I was the one that brought Elton John into the rain forest—that’s Trudie’s passion, and Sting’s passion.
Do you think his co-op will go for $24 million?
I hope so. I don’t think it’s an insane price; I think there might be some room there …. Sting, I have him crazy now! I have him looking for very wealthy Orthodox Jews that are Sephardic, so they can walk to the synagogue on the Sabbath—and walk up to the second and third floor. So now Sting is running all around the world, saying: “I’m looking for a rich Sephardic Jew to buy my apartment.”
The phrase “celebrity broker” essentially originated to describe you. Now that lots of brokers have become celebrities and get P.R. people, how do you feel about that?
The press has been extremely detrimental to my career. Basically, people of great wealth do not want it discussed by anybody. Discretion, discretion, discretion!
Some broker was on TV saying she sold something I sold. And someone in about seven publications said that he handled the deal [when] I had the listing and the buyer. I’d rather give up too much publicity than the credibility with my clients.
Was the 80’s a better time?
No. Maybe the music was better, but no. The 80’s was so full of nightlife, no one went to the gym …. Life has changed completely.
How has the world of elite real-
estate brokers changed? Is it more competitive now?
Competitive? Always. Ethical? Less and less by the five-minute period. They lie, the brokers—they lie to brokers, they lie to clients. There’s lying. Lying!
How much longer do you imagine being in real estate for?
It’s been bringing the money in for 20 years. The economy, as it is, I don’t know how job-desirable I am. So I guess I’ll do it as long as I can walk up and down the steps of a townhouse. Actually, that’s not my dream, but it is my vision.
What would you do if you could do anything? Go back to music?
I would live in Paris or Rome—and not New York.
Why not go into real estate there?
That’s always a fantasy, but you know they have their tests and their brokers—it’s not like you pop in. You don’t, at a certain age, just pop into a town like, ‘Yo! I’m here,’ when there are 15-year-old gorgeous children taking the jobs of brilliant people.
… I obviously have some kind of personality or sales acumen that’s been working for a while, so I’m not willing to surrender that, as I am not willing to surrender telephones as opposed to e-mails. Because I like to see the reaction when I say, ‘Well, sir, the truth is, you do have to come up another million dollars.’ I want to hear a gasp, a breath, a curse—whatever. I want a reaction as I say it, and to the way that I say it. I find that a lot of the forte of a salesperson is taken away when there’s no voice and personality.
You first left Edward Lee Cave’s boutique brokerage for Prudential Douglas Elliman in 1990, though you later went back and forth. How do you describe Mr. Cave?
He is a true gentleman; it’s almost a rare species. All I can tell you is that if you chew gum at Edward Lee Cave, you don’t work there for more than five minutes.
How do you find new clients?
I try and go out where interesting wealthy people are. It depends on the restaurant; it depends upon the event. You know, you don’t find poor people at [Estiatorio] Milos, where you’re paying hundreds of dollars for a piece of fish. You don’t find paupers in the Grill Room at the Four Seasons at lunchtime.
But the expense accounts have been cut, and certain restaurants have been eliminated. I know that for a fact! Corporately, some restaurants have been eliminated.
How many grandchildren do you have?
One. But [my daughter] crawled out of her crib when she was 2 years old and found Iggy Pop rolling a joint on the living-room floor with Paul Simon and Elton John sitting there. So for my daughter to be wrapped up in a white picket fence is the most extraordinary thing.
What’s your ex-husband, music mogul Seymour Stein, like? Is he crazy?
Of course he’s crazy. If you’re not crazy, you’re boring. Seymour’s crazy. I’m crazy. Bob [Dylan] is crazy. In a good way!