Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dominick Dunne's Petite Penthouse

SELLER: Estate of Dominick Dunne
LOCATION: 155 E. 49th Street, New York City, NY
PRICE: $1,450,000
SIZE: 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom
DESCRIPTION: Extremely charming penthouse that belonged to the late Dominick Dunne. Wrap planted terrace, small study, living room has wood-burning fireplace. Window in bath and kitchen. Beveled glass French doors to terrace. Very bright and cheerful.

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Who doesn't love a little kismet, partick when it extends itself to a little celebrity real estate? About a week ago, Your Mama received a dee-lishus little parcel in the mail from a clever little friend in Manhattan who was kind and thoughtful enough to forward an advance copy of the manuscript for the late high society story teller Dominick Dunne's latest, last and not yet published novel Too Much Money, due to be released December 15, 2009. Some of his other scandal filled novels include The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, People Like Us, and An Inconvenient Woman.

Your Mama spent the long Thanksgiving weekend curled up on a Our Mama's big comfy couch trying to tune out Sister Woman's loud children and reading Mister Dunnes thinly veiled literary poker that does little more than take aim at a handful of New York City's dowager doyennes. The lead character, a vastly wealthy social climbing widow named Perla Zacharias whose husband died in a conflagration at the couple's villa in Biarritz, is clearly and unquestionably based on international socialite Lily Safra. Lo-ward have mercy children, Mister Dunne clearly had it out for the Widda Safra and he really lets her have it in this book. Other real life people Your Mama easily recognized in the book were the legendary and late Brooke Astor, a comatose (and now dead) Sunny von Bulow, congressman Gary Condit, biznessman and convicted felon Dennis Kozlowski and his wife Karen–who we think were co-mingled with Blackstone billionaire Steven and Schwarzman and his wife Christine–and Upper East Side real estate maven Alice Mason.

If Your Mama is being honest, and we always are, we'd say that Mister Dunne's last novel really isn't very good. It's annoyingly repetitive, poorly and seemingly hastily written and, at best, the story line floats on a wisp and a prayer. It's also fa-sih-nay-ting. Of course, Your Mama does not play in the high society sandbox that is the Upper East Side of Manhattan and therefore we haven't any idea what parts of this novel are true, which parts embellished and which parts completely fabricated by Mister Dunne. In many ways, what's true or not true matters little because the point seemed to be for Mister Dunne to get the last word. And the last word he did get chickens because who are all these real people he skewers–and make no mistake, he skewers them royally–gonna go after now? A dead man?

Anyhoo, Mister Dunne, whose regular column in Vanity Fair magazine was screamingly popular and who was both cherished and reviled by the social world in which he orbited and wrote about, was taken to meet the great editor in the sky in late August of 2009 at ripe old age of 83. Shortly after Mister Dunne was done, his mini-estate on Ferry Road in Lyme, CT was listed with an asking price of $2,100,000 and now listed at a significantly reduced $1,495,000. The rather fussy day-core of the architecturally insignificant 3 bedroom and 3.5 pooper house includes a bedroom bathed in traditional red toile–wallpaper, shades and bed linens–and a vermilion-colored and book shelf lined den with an over-stuffed sofa done up in an over-scale print of vermilion and light pumpkin and a bay window shelf littered with breakable collectibles.

However, as much as his house in Lyme provides a picture into Mister Dunne's decorative aesthetic, it's his jewel box of an apartment in Midtown Manhattan that Your Mama would like to discuss today. Late last week, Your Mama received a covert communique from Manhattan Manny who pointed our beady little eyes to the listing for Mister Dunne's East 49th Street penthouse pied a terre which is currently listed with an asking price of $1,450,000. Certainly this penthouse, located in an undistinguished Midtown building, was previously discussed by the folks at Curbed or the good people at CityFile, but we've yet to find–okay, we confess, or look for–that link yet.

Although the 11th floor aerie is entered through a foyer barely big enough for Your Mama to turn our fat ass around in, it does serve the valuable purpose of dividing the picayune public spaces from Mister Dunne's inner sanctum, comprised of a bedroom, several standard, closets, a decent sized walk-in, and a claustrophobic bathroom whose only attribute worth mentioned is that it's blessed with a window for ventilation.

To the left of the itty-bitty foyer is the penthouse's primary living space, a modestly sized living room with a fireplace at one end and two sets of French doors that open to the dee-voon terrace that wraps around three sides of the picayune penthouse. For reasons unknown and unfathomable to Your Mama, Mister Dunne had the living room painted the sort of mint green color we would fully expect to find in the psych ward of a reasonably well funded public hospital. On one wall, an emerald green chesterfield holds two loose cushions sewn from the same fabric as the two armchairs opposite the chesterfield which are sewn from the same cornflower blue and cream colored floral fabric as the drapery. This sort of uniform textile convention is customary in a certain sort of east coast upper crust day-core. Therefore, we can and will accept the matchy-matchy fabric on the cushions, armchairs and drapery. But the laundry-room appropriate beige tile floor desperate to be concealed by a dizzying blue and cream patterned rug is another and inexcusable matter altogether.

For reasons even more shocking and unfathomable than putting that mint green paint in the living room, is that Mister Dunne and his nice gay decorator continued that awful color right into the window wrapped study, which could easily be converted to a diminutive dining room iffin you could stand to eat with the color surrounding you. Although we can't abide by the wall color, we'd punch a cop and go to jail in order to have that blue toile armchair to put in our guest room where it would look a-may-zing and all kinds of wrong, wrong, wrong in all the best ways next to our orange plastic side table that Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter bought–we're not embarrassed to tell you–at Target. Behind the study, which opens to the largest section of the terrace, is the baby blue and beige kitchen.

Your Mama realizes that suburban real estate size queens who have never lived in Manhattan are going to faint at how impossibly tiny this kitchen is. The fact is, like it or not and for better or worse, that this is a pretty ordinary sized kitchen in a small New York apartment, regardless of the million dollar plus price tag. At least this cooker has some counter space and a window. For 8 glorious years Your Mama lived in 4-room, 4th floor walk-up in a Lower East Side tenement with a kitchen half the size of Mister Dunne's that had absolutely zero counter space. None. Not even enough room for a damn toaster or a drawer for take-out menus. New Yorkers are, if anything, creative users of miniscule spaces. But we digress. Moving past the small size, which little can be done about, the real issues here as Your Mama sees them are those coffee cup sized copper pots hanging from, horror of horrors, a plate rail with actual plates on it. Just say no, children, just say no. Really. Say no.

The bedroom is swimming in a woozy dark and light blue vertical striped wallpaper that is enough to make a life long drunk run like the wind to their first AA meeting and includes a couple of west facing windows with a window installed air conditioner. These ass-uglee cooling contraptions precariously screwed to the window framer are a common visual nuisance all over New York City including in some of the most expensive apartments in some of the most pristine pre-war buildings. You get used to them. You don't like them, but you get used to them disrupting and contaminating the view.

Mister Dunne's slice of Manhattan real estate is really all about the tremendous wrap around terrace. Even though there's not a square inch of the 850+ square foot terrace private enough to sunbathe nekkid and it's entirely surrounded by office towers, ain't nobody gonna tell Your Mama that it wouldn't be dee-lishus to have more space outdoors than most people in Manhattan have indoors.

The truth is there's little here that can't be overcome by a hard working cleaning crew and a nice gay decorator in order to make a penthouse like this a near perfect pied a terre. The only real and serious issue we have is the lack of a powder pooper. It's one thing to live in a 1 bedroom apartment that has only one pooper discreetly located in the hallway between the living room and the bedroom and another thing entirely to have to route guests through the bedroom, where all the bowm-chicka-bow-bow happens, in order for them to use the damn terlit.

On that note, Your Mama is going to make us a nice Bloody Mary and a piece of dry toast for lunch and spend a little time figuring out how to wedge a guest terlit into this penthouse. We suggest the children do the same.