There’s something so inoffensive and smiley about Ben Stiller that he can make phallus-in-the-zipper jokes (or write and direct a Hollywood blockbuster that heavily features blackface) but still come across as a really amiable fellow who likes to stay in close proximity to his aging parents.
So it makes sense that he just spent $10 million on a duplex in a prewar orange-brick co-op on Riverside Drive in the West 80s, the same building that his parents, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, have lived in for years. Mr. Stiller’s name isn’t on the deed, filed last week, though the duplex was bought through a trust that shares the actor’s billing address.
His seller is Ann Zabar, whose family owns the legendary Upper West Side market. Zabar’s Web site says she helps her father, Saul, roast coffee and buy smoked fish, which sounds genuinely spectacular. Her parents live in the building, too: Their number is listed, and when Ms. Zabar’s mother picked up a call from The Observer, she politely refused to disclose her daughter’s buyer. Two sources connected to the building but not the deal confirmed that Mr. Stiller is moving into the building; one, when asked how she got her information, said: “Everybody’s a yenta on the Upper West Side, so everybody knows.”
(As it happens, a May essay in the Israeli paper Haaretz about a visit to the building parenthetically mentions that Mr. Stiller would be buying a $10 million apartment there. In a perfect storm of New York Jewish obsessions, the essay’s writer admits to almost bothering Jerry Seinfeld—whose show featured Jerry Stiller as Frank Costanza—while shopping in Zabar’s.)
The apartment wasn’t on the market, and Ben Stiller didn’t return messages left with his publicist and assistant asking why the actor and his actress wife, Christine Taylor, who both have that happy California glow, would want a place here. “I grew up in the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the ’70s,” he said in an interview last month. “There were … fires and riots and serial killers. It was great. My kids, it’s L.A., it’s sunny and nice. They don’t have any excitement.”