MTV President Splurges on Warhol’s 66th Street Mansion

Andy Warhol lived at 57 East 66th Street from 1974 until his death in 1987, dwelling there longer than anyone who has since tried to call the town house home–first a Spanish family and then an American gentleman. Maybe they were spooked by the secret trap door in the master bedroom or tales of the sordid findings of the appraisers who scoured the place after Warhol’s death: green boxes of wings stacked near a television set, a medicine cabinet filled with makeup tubes and perfume bottles, and women’s jewelry nestled in the four-poster canopy bed.

Now it’s Tom Freston’s turn. The Warhol mansion was purchased by the chairman of MTV for around $6.5 million in early January. Mr. Freston confirmed that he purchased the house, but did not wish to comment.

The 8,000-square-foot house is a hefty piece of memorabilia. Warhol bought it for $310,000 and hired decorator Jed Johnson. Together they merged their tastes in art deco with primitive contemporary paintings (none of his own) and religious emblems. Soon after Warhol’s death, someone stole the street number–57–from the facade. (That prompted the Spanish family who purchased the house from Warhol’s estate to erect a gate out front, which has since been removed.) On Aug. 6, 1998, in celebration of Mr. Warhol’s 70th birthday, Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel’s Historic Landmark Preservation Center dedicated a plaque to the town house to honor the artist–the first memorial to Warhol in the city. There was, of course, a large gathering in front of the residence for the occasion.

One broker considers $6.5 million a fair price. “It’s a great old house,” the broker said. “Andy never did a major rehab of it. He left a lot of detail that people appreciate like trade moldings and fireplaces.” The Spanish family paid the estate $3 million, but never moved in, and the last owner, who purchased the house in 1993 for $3.35 million, did some upgrading but kept the architecture intact.

The five-and-a-half-story neoclassical house has four bedrooms, a library with Juliet balconies, six fireplaces, central air-conditioning and an elevator.

Vincent Fremont, a friend of Warhol’s, remembers house-sitting for the artist while he was in Japan for two weeks in 1974. “Very few people ever got into the house. It was a private hideaway,” he said. “It had a nice parlor, a staircase and a formal dining room, which Andy never used after the late 70’s because he liked to eat in the downstairs kitchen.”

Mr. Freston and Warhol met over Warhol’s television show Fifteen Minutes , said Mr. Fremont, who produced the show. Fifteen Minutes ran on MTV from 1986 to 1987. “It’s kind of interesting that after all these years he bought it,” said Mr. Fremont. “It’s kind of terrific.”

The fate of Mr. Freston’s TriBeCa condominium on the top floor of 39 North Moore Street, which he bought in 1994, is unknown.


Betsey Johnson in the Hamptons: “I Have to Be Able to Go Topless”

Fashion designer Betsey Johnson was appalled when her 24-year-old daughter, Lulu, suggested they rent a house in the Hamptons last summer. “I did not want to know about the Hamptons,” insisted the designer about the chichi summer spot.

Ms. Johnson got down on the Hamptons way back in the 60’s when she went for a visit with her former husband, John Cale of the Velvet Underground. “I don’t know whose mansion it was,” she said. “It was the old guard; there was no new guard. We felt like freaks.”

But, about a year ago, Lulu began videotaping potential rentals on her trips with Mary Kay, a broker at Alan M. Schneider & Associates, and Betsey succumbed. Last summer, she rented a house in East Hampton. Now she’s buying one.

One rainy morning last fall, Ms. Johnson discovered a modest house with a large swimming pool, three bedrooms and three-and-a-half baths, on Grape Arbor Lane, a woodsy dead-end street in East Hampton–just minutes from the place where she spent the previous summer. The master bedroom has an outdoor porch enclosed by a picket fence. She calls the house’s cabin feel with exposed beams “Cape Coddy,” and she paid $695,000.

“It was on the market longer than it should have been,” said Sotheby’s International broker Susan Green, who, with broker Lisa Kenny Bass, sold the house and the 1.65 acres it sits on to Ms. Johnson. The house sat priced at $895,000 for six months. When the owner, who was already building another home elsewhere, reduced the price to $695,000, Ms. Johnson quickly offered that amount. According to Ms. Green, the taxes are around $5,000 per year.

Ms. Green’s boyfriend, Joel Bass, a contractor, is currently working on fairly major renovations to the place, which include laying new floors and wallpapering. Ms. Johnson is importing furniture from her former country house in Hudson, N.Y., which she just sold.

“What I love about going to the Hamptons instead of Hudson is that there’s no transition from Manhattan,” said the designer. “It’s the same vibe, the same energy. The people don’t laugh at me. They like me and support who I am.”

“It’s good for my fashion head,” she continued. “A lot of my customers are girls out there, and it keeps me aware of what they’re wearing.”

Ms. Johnson is not expecting many guests, except for her extended family on the Fourth of July weekend, but she thinks she can comfortably sleep 15 people on the couches and bedroom lofts. Recently, a new neighbor has moved in, prompting her to arrange for the planting of a chunk of trees to insure her privacy.

“It needs to be completely private,” she said. “I have to be able to go topless.”


14 East 96th Street

Two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,303-square-foot condo.

Asking: $595,000. Selling: $580,000.

Charges: $653. Taxes: $620.

Time on the market: three months.

VIVE LES PRICES! Unlike many of their neighbors, the couple who sold this apartment are not Francophiles. They’re French! After renting this apartment out for a few years, hoping they might return to the city full-time, they faced facts and put it on the market. The building is just 15 years old and offers no amenities except a part-time doorman. The apartment, which takes up the entire sixth floor, hasn’t been renovated. But it’s steps from Central Park. The loftlike place has north and south exposures, a balcony, marble baths, a washer and dryer, central air conditioning and plenty of privacy. Broker: Corcoran Group (Dorothy Greiner, Jacky Teplitzky-Dobens).

1 East 62nd Street

Three bedroom, three-bath, 2,600-square-foot condo.

Asking: $2.9 million. Selling: $2.3 million

Charges: $2,414; Taxes: $1,168.

Time on the market: one month.

JOAN RIVERS IS IN THE BALLROOM The single female investment banker who bought a second- and third-floor apartment in this 45-foot-wide limestone mansion probably doesn’t have a lot of time to spare decorating. That might explain why she took the place completely furnished–even the art on the walls and the oriental carpets on the floors. “All she had to do was hang her clothes up and move in,” said broker Patricia Burnham, who had taped a segment for 20/20 inside the apartment in November. On air, Ms. Burnham characterized the furnished pad as the perfect answer for successful, busy Wall Streeters whose Christmas bonuses would soon burn holes in their silk-lined pockets. In case the banker is wary of WASP’s milling about the Knickerbocker Club across the street or neighbor Joan Rivers attracting hecklers, there’s a full-time concierge. Ms. Rivers’ living room is the old ballroom of the mansion, which was built in the late 19th century for J.P. Morgan’s partner, Anthony Drexel. It has long been divided into several residences: This apartment has 19-foot-high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling French doors overlooking the rear garden, a wood-burning fireplace and a sweeping staircase leading to the three bedrooms. An American corporation sold the place, which had been vacant for some time. Broker: P. S. Burnham Inc. (Patricia S. Burnham); Corcoran Group (Eva Marie Bozsik).


325 Convent Avenue

Five-story brownstone.

Asking: $650,000. Selling: $585,000.

Time on the market: 12 weeks.

ROMANESQUING THE STOVE This Romanesque-Revival brownstone, circa 1887, is in the Hamilton Heights Historic District near 143rd Street. The house has a front and back yard and sits on a tree-lined street among a row of Flemish-, Tudor- and Romanesque Revival-style homes. It was fully restored by the seller, a former city Housing Preservation and Development administrator, who lived there for about 20 years. Now that she’s retired, she has moved to North Carolina. Inside the house are decorative moldings, hardwood floors and six fireplaces. Although she used one level as a floor-through rental apartment, the buyers, an investment banker, his wife and their two children, will not. They will renovate the kitchen, though. Broker: Sherman Edmiston (Sherman K. Edmiston Real Estate).


325 West End Avenue

Three-bed, two-bath, 2,426-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $1.395 million. Selling: $1.35 million.

Charges: $1,650; 40 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: one week.

PAYING FOR LA VIDA LOCA This prewar building, built in 1915, boasts one of the grandest lobbies on West End Avenue–white marble with crystal chandeliers. But does that make this first-floor apartment worth $1 million? Apparently. The sellers bought this place three years ago for just over $500,000. They refinished the floors, renovated the kitchen and bathrooms, and restored some prewar details. But a job offer has caused them to abandon the place. The couple, who both work in advertising, and their two children have moved to Miami. Within a week of putting their apartment on the market, they found their buyers: an ABC-TV producer, his doctor wife and their three children. By doubling their money, the sellers should be able to live la vida loca in Miami. The buyers can console themselves with their new proximity to Fairway. Broker: Corcoran Group (Dan Leone).


150 West 56th Street (City Spire)

One-bed, 1.5-bath, 865-square-foot condominium.

Asking: $510,000. Selling: $485,000.

Charges: $645. Taxes: $494.

Time on the market: two months.

PICTURES WORTH $485,000 City Spire, a dizzying 76 floors high, was built by developer Bruce Eichner in 1987, bordering the Carnegie Hall neighborhood. Why leave these heights? The seller, who bought the apartment for $463,500 in 1988, decided to go while the going was good. The buyers are an American living in Barcelona and her German husband; she is a philanthropist, he is a businessman. They were looking for a pied-à-terre and saw some photographs–taken by a broker with a digital camera and then e-mailed–of this 48th-floor apartment. It looked good enough to buy, so they did. (The wife had seen another apartment in the building a year ago, and figured this one was just as nice.) The living room has six tall windows onto Central Park. There is a jacuzzi in the master bathroom, and the kitchen is marble and tile. The building offers residents a pool, a health club, a conference room, a parking garage, a children’s play room and no fewer than 10 full-time staff members in the lobby. Broker: Douglas Elliman (Marie Bianco).


60 Greene Street

Two-bed, two-and-a-half-bath, 3,900-square-foot condo.

Asking: $1.9 million. Selling: $1.875 million.

Charges: $1,100; Taxes: $1,700.

Time on the market: one month.

THE NOTTING HILL DOZEN A divorced advertising executive and his girlfriend flew in from Notting Hill, England, and checked out 12 Gotham pads in one spree. By happy hour, they had chosen this third-floor apartment in an original cast iron SoHo building, above the furniture store Nuovo Melodrom. “It’s all open space with columns down the middle, 12-foot-high ceilings, a fireplace, a private elevator and gorgeous maple floors,” said the broker, Linda Gertler. “It’s one of those really beautiful open spaces that you can do whatever you want in.” Hmmmm. At 11 P.M., the three were toasting themselves at the nearby SoHo Grand on West Broadway. They were scheduled to fly right back to England. “They were completely blitzed out,” said Ms. Gertler. Broker: Corcoran Group (Linda Gertler). MTV President Splurges on Warhol’s 66th Street Mansion