This past Monday, sitting in the massive library of his rented townhouse, the formidable old corporate raider Asher B. Edelman was kind enough to tell me about his place for an article I wrote yesterday.
But I asked about a rumor that he had once been rejected by the board of 820 Fifth Avenue (which has turned away multibillionaires like Steve Wynn and Ron Perelman). “I never actually made an offer,” he said. “I’ll tell you the story if you’d like!” I nodded, and here’s his massive explanation:
“At the time, I was between marriages, it was in the 80s, and I looked at an apartment at 820 Fifth. I knew more or less all the tenants of the building, and the president of the building… So I told him to ask among the tenants, because I didn’t want to ask, whether they thought I would get into the building. And Mrs. Wrightsman, who I knew, she said, ‘You know, I like Asher very, very much, but we just turned down Freddie Koch’–Freddie, you know, very out-there gay, and was very out-there gay in those days; it should make no difference to them, but they are who they are–‘we just turned him down, and we told him that to be in this building you had to be married with a family, or at least married, so if we took Asher in between marriages, it would cause us potentially some problems, so if he is ready to get married, we’re sure he would get into the building, but if he’s not ready to get married, then we would have to stay no until he got married.’ It was fine, I understood completely the risk.”
Mrs. Wrightsman, of course, is the dowager Jayne Wrightsman–who isn’t technically on 820 Fifth’s board, but is still considered the co-op gatekeeper. Her buidling is difficult: “I don’t recall ever hearing of any,” financier H. Fred Krimendahl II told The Observer earlier this month, when asked if there were any African-American owners in the buidling. “But if Tiger Woods wanted to live here, we’d be happy to talk to him.”
Mr. Edelman never moved in to 820 Fifth, but he did own Vincent Astor’s old apartment at 120 East End Avenue, long before he got his current townhouse. Is the former raider sorry that his old 10,000-square-foot Astor apartment wasn’t on Park or Fifth Avenue? “My co-op was 800 times nicer than that,” he said.