Behind a Locked Gate In Chinatown With My Wife, The Movie Star-Model

Behind a locked gate, a floor up from a street in Chinatown where men stare down at green vegetables and octopuses and woman carry parasols in the heat of the day, the model Emily Sandberg was eating cherries and her husband was watching her eat the cherries and a big blond dog had his eye on both of them. It was quiet except for the dog breathing.

To live with a model must be like living with a precious vase or something really valuable, like the Unicorn Tapestry. “She’s always easy on the eye,” said the husband, Gary Gold, a longtime drummer and music producer who has played with Keith Richards, B.B. King and Chuck Berry, and made albums for Smokey Robinson (the 2007 Grammy-nominated Timeless Love), Bonnie Raitt and the Neville Brothers. “I know a lot of models,” he said. “She’s just a special one from the bunch for me. Sometimes I see her”—maybe standing near the piano that Mr. Gold used to play for comedy acts at Catch a Rising Star, where John Belushi broke the piano keys—“and I’ll be struck, and she looks like a statue to me, like an alabaster statue, like wow. I just wonder.”

Neither Mr. Gold nor Ms. Sandberg would give their ages. She is tall and pale, otherworldly, sort of pre-cog: as if she has just risen out of the Philip Dick story where those psychic people live in a tub of water in a constant state of sleep. She is in magazines most of the time: Vogue, Elle, and in ad campaigns ranging from Barneys to Fendi to (soon) Banana Republic. Of course she has been on every runway from New York to Paris to Milan, which is where she met Mr. Gold, who had been brought by friends—“one of us was a movie star”—in sort of an Entourage situation, to a Donatella Versace after-party in 2000.

“What was it called?” Ms. Sandberg said, trying to remember the venue, holding a cherry stem in the air.

“Via marble. I don’t know,” Mr. Gold said. “Everything was marble.”

The couple is bicoastal. When not in their 2,200-square-foot sort-of-renovated loft that Mr. Gold has rented for 20 years (they sublet two thirds of it to a fashion photographer) or having a romantic dinner at Whole Foods, their “favorite,” they occupy a rented three-bedroom 1929 Mediterranean-style house in Beachwood Canyon, next to the Charlie Chaplin mansion, with one of those empty flat green lawns. Ms. Sandberg has a lot of Jonathan Adler in the West Coast home. “I love Jonathan Adler,” she said. Doesn’t everyone? But does a room need any sort of décor when the occupant is so beautiful, moving like a perfect crane, perhaps holding meager bits of broccoli? The model takes over the design, upstages all the tables, just so many sticks.

To live with Ms. Sandberg must be like living with many beings. Looking at her portfolio, she strangely becomes another person in every shot: dangerous and leathery on a wet street; or Monica Vitti with big dark glasses and disconnected in space; or a frozen, smiling doll. “Makeup artists say quite often that my face is like a blank canvas,” she said. “Um, I absorb what’s around me. Like a sponge.” In the evening, she and Mr. Gold eat “only three cookies each” in front of the television. They married two years ago in Rochester, Minnesota, where Ms. Sandberg came from a family of seven. “Watermelon and children running around,” said Mr. Gold, raised in the Five Towns of Long Island. “We were both in Marc Jacobs, head to toe.”

“I wore hot pink,” Ms Sandberg reminisced. Inevitably, she is making her way into film. In The Devil Wears Prada, she played the cafeteria-goer who looks down scornfully at Anne Hathaway’s fattening corn chowder. Next is a small part in Old Dogs, with John Travolta and Robin Williams.

Their early 20th-century building, with the usual brutal New York City brick walls that say others have been here before you and others will follow, has housed famous musicians for decades: Mr. Gold’s “closest friend,” jazz saxophonist Michael Brecker, who died in January; the late keyboard player Don Grolnick, who played with James Taylor for years; and Saturday Night Life drummer Chris Parker, from the famous Parker family of Westchester, a birth miracle in which four of the five sons is a drummer. Mr. Gold uses Mr. Parker’s drum isolation booth upstairs, an interesting architectural specialty made of truck tires, plywood and foam. “A room within a room,” he said. Behind a Locked Gate In Chinatown With My Wife, The Movie Star-Model