Remembering Linda Stein

Real estate broker Linda Stein was found Tuesday night bludgeoned in her 18th-floor apartment at 965 Fifth Avenue. She was 62.

Nearly all news reports of the murder called Stein a “broker to the stars,” which misses the point. It’s not that Stein represented celebrities; it’s that she was the star herself: a hard-charging, wine-drinking, enormously magnetic persona. She was the first and essential luminary New York agent.

“Brokers really never marketed themselves, they just didn’t,” said Dottie Herman, the CEO of Prudential Douglas Elliman, where Stein worked. “It was only about the firm.”

Stein famously sold two apartments to Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley, which they combined, then helped sell the duplex to Sting once they divorced—and was listing the apartment for Sting and his wife when she died.

Even after battles with breast cancer, Stein emanated rock star sheer.

“She was shocking, she was over the top, and she was bawdy. It was as if Sophie Tucker and Auntie Mame had a child,” said her friend Steven Gaines, the author of The Sky’s The Limit: Passion and Property in Manhattan. “Out of the 35 years I knew her, I would say she wouldn’t talk to me for half. And that was a good thing, because I needed the years she wasn’t talking to me to recover from the years she was! I loved her, and I can’t imagine any circumstances of any son of a bitch hitting that five-foot woman over the head.”

“She was Hollywood, she was showbiz, she was Linda, OK,” Ms. Herman said, “and she didn’t march to anyone’s drum.” She said Ms. Brinkley cried hysterically when she heard the news of Stein’s death.

Last year, the broker was battling breast cancer again while she was trying to sell Andy Warhol’s Montauk estate. “She said, ‘I have to work, I have to work, I can’t have the surgery,’ Ms. Herman said.

Ms. Stein ex-husband was the Sire Records luminary Seymour Stein, and she briefly co-managed one of his bands, The Ramones. But friends said the punk-rock era of her life was much less important than the real estate era that came afterward. “She was having a great year,” Ms. Herman said, “and, as a matter of fact, this was probably one of her best years, and she was sick.”

A. Laurence Kaiser IV, a high-society broker, lives in the same co-op where Stein was killed. “I cannot understand what happened, this is the most secure building in New York,” he said of 965 Fifth. “When you come into the building, they announce you, they don’t care if it’s your own mother; nobody comes in without, ‘Yes, I’m expecting so-and-so.’” He pointed out that the elevator is hand-operated by an attendant.

The NYPD has ruled out an accidental death, but said there was no sign of a break-in. Suspects have not been named.

“I saw Linda a week and a half ago,” Mr. Kaiser said, “because she had the exclusive on Sting’s apartment, and I said, ‘I have someone for it,’ and she said ‘Good, call me anytime.’”

Remembering Linda Stein