Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Of course, it was shocking when the the news has fallen earlier this week, CNN President Jeff Zucker resigned over a years-long romance with Allison Gollust, the network’s executive vice president. But perhaps the least expected angle resurfaces – given that the case was apparently a open secret for years at CNN – was that Zucker and Gollus had lived with their (now ex) spouses and children in the same apartment building at 32 East 64th Street. They even had units directly on top of each other, a setup considered unorthodox by everyone except, it seems, Zucker and Gollus. As Katie Couric wrote in her memoir, “Anyone who heard of their cozy arrangement thought it was super weird.”
As any divorce lawyer will tell you, it’s not uncommon for wealthy husbands or wives to keep an apartment – a business footlike the New Yorkk times once called – for extramarital affairs. But the spaces are almost never in the same building as the family home. (Handy maybe, but also, we imagine, really, really cumbersome? How do you explain you encountering a neighbor who isn’t on your floor? Do you take the elevator and blame yourself on a fumbled button if you are caught exiting on the wrong floor? Or use the fire escape, where you’re unlikely to run into anyone, but seem even more out of place if you do?). “The point of having a mistress is not to get caught,” said Donna Olshan, president of Olshan Realty. “You don’t put them in the same building, preferably not even in the same zip code. It’s just crazy.
Zucker claims (semi-plausibly) the affair hadn’t even started when Gollust and her husband bought the apartment above Caryn and Jeff Zucker’s house in 2009, but it was a convenient setup when they got together. “They didn’t even have to leave their building. It was a perfect cover,” a source say it To post. Another said: “Zucker would disappear for hours, but Caryn initially had no idea the woman she was being polite to in the elevator was sleeping with her husband. Everyone in the building knew – even the doormen tried to make sure Caryn wasn’t in the elevator at the same time as Allison.”
As unusual as the arrangement is, it’s not the only example of a mistress and wife living in the same building. Florenz Ziegfeld, the Broadway impresario behind the Ziegfeld Follies, shared a suite on the ninth floor of the Ansonia with his wife Anna Held, the tallest of all Ziegfeld stars, and kept a life-size golden statue of her in the lobby. Adulation didn’t preclude adultery, however, and he also kept his mistress, another Follies showgirl named Lillian Lorraine, a tenth floor.
“It’s bold. It’s very convenient, though,” said Michele Kleier, president of Kleier Residential, who added that it happens, but people are usually neighbors before they start sleeping together, not the other way around. She once sold an apartment on Park Avenue to a woman who ended up having an affair with a man she sat on the co-op board with, and after moving in together, Kleier received a list of her apartment and an angry phone call from the man’s wife.
The mistress’s apartment is far more common, most often paid for by a wealthy, elderly married man (although women sometimes settle their young lovers as well). “Usually you don’t know until later because he doesn’t come to see the apartment with her,” Kleier said. It is only once the financial documents have been filed that we realize, for example, that there is a personality guaranteeing the pension package and that it is not the father of the young woman. When the men come to the screenings, on the other hand, everyone can spot them immediately. “They’re a lot friendlier than they would be to their wives.” Moreover, she added, “They don’t present the woman as their wife. Often they don’t even show up.
In the 1920s, West 72nd Street was a popular spot for men who lived in large family apartments on the Upper West Side to hide their girlfriends, according to Debby Applegate’s recent biography of Polly Adler. A few years later, Tudor City, with its small economies and proximity to Grand Central, became A favorite downtown executives rent apartments for trysts. In the 1980s it was Central Park South, known to stockbrokers as “mistress row.” But really, the most popular place to keep a girlfriend is near where you spend a lot of time. (Former Governor and Vice President Nelson Rockefeller helped his famous girlfriend, Megan Marshack, buy a cooperative at Regent House, three doors west of his townhouse. This relationship ended dramatically.)
“I’ve had Soho, Sutton Place, the Upper East Side, West Village, West Side, wherever the husband works, lives or plays,” said Bernard Clair, a divorce attorney who has represented Judith Giuliani and Steven Soderbergh. and says these types of apartments come up frequently in divorce proceedings for wealthy Manhattanites. If there is an apartment, he adds, it will always come out in the divorce because it is an asset. And when it does, the unpaid wife or spouse gets half of its value.
Apartments for clandestine relationships range from basic one-bedroom rentals where no one lives full-time (like that’s why I wrote to you than New York now dishonored Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik rented Battery Park City for his meetings with editor Judith Regan) penthouses purchased in the mistress’s name. If you’re a developer like Harry Macklowe, you can place it in one of the buildings you own. Newer condos are generally preferred over co-ops because they involve less control when buying and after moving in. Townhouses are almost unheard of these days (overpriced), but in the past they weren’t. In the 1920s, Mayor Jimmy Walker bought his mistress Betty Compton (another Ziegfeld girl) a house in 12 Gay Street in the Village. Josie Mansfield, who eventually rose to fame after one of her wealthy lovers murdered the other, lived in a four-story brownstone on West 24th Street around the corner from the office of Jim Fisk, the wealthy financier who brought her bought for her. Fisk we said we had obtained permission from the owners of the block “to cut a small gate through every backyard fence intervening between the office and the house of the woman who would cost her her life”.
Rudolph Valentino too had a secret entrance for his mistress at the Hotel des Artistes on the Upper West Side. He married Natacha Rambova, a costume designer, before his divorce from his first wife was finalized, a scandal that resulted in a trial for bigamy. To smuggle Rambova into his apartment, Valentino cut a 15-inch-wide slit to the next apartment, allowing “Rambova, apparently remaining in the block with her aunt, to come and go undetected. “, according to Time. (But wasn’t getting in and out of the building the hardest part? Were there really spies in the hall?)
Low profiles and spectacular real estate don’t usually go together, and the mistress with the best turf in New York was probably Marion Davies, whose affair with William Randolph Hearst was considered Hollywood’s worst-kept secret. (You know it from the fictionalized version in Citizen Kane.) Hearst not only bought Davies a 25-bedroom mansion on Riverside Drive with a fountain in the living room; he also built two hotels partly for her (the Warwick New York and the Ritz Tower) and gave her the run of his massive penthouse at 91 Central Park West. The building was a rental until the 1960s, so Davies’ name would not have been on the bill of sale, but, according to the Time, his initials were still carved into the woodwork when the apartment was sold a few years ago.