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Monday, October 4, 2010

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Michael Gross, Author

Michael Gross is recognized as one of America’s most provocative writers of non-fiction and its “foremost chronicler of the upper-crust,” according to His speciality is the power elite of New York City. His latest book, Rogues’ Gallery: The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money that Made the Metropolitan Museum, was published by Broadway Books at Random House in 2009. The New York Times Book Review called it “a blockbuster exhibition of human achievement and flaws” and Vanity Fair said it is simply “explosive.” Why? “Gross demonstrates he knows his stuff. It’s a terrific tale…gossipy, color-rich, fact-packed …What Gross reveals is stuff that more people should know,” according to USA Today.

His last book, 740 Park, published in 2005, is the inside story of New York’s richest, most prestigious cooperative apartment building. Whom You Know has highly recommended it:

Built by James T. Lee, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ grandfather, and long the residence of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., 740 Park is today the home of some of New York’s wealthiest and most prominent families. Fortune has described 740 Park as “jaw-dropping apartment porn.” It offers an unprecedented peek into the world of such latterday financial heroes and villains as Stephen Schwarzman, Ezra Merkin and John Thain. Gross’ next book will be a 740 Park-like look at the most exclusive neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

Gross’s penultimate book, Genuine Authentic, a biography of fashion designer Ralph Lauren, was acclaimed by The New York Times as a work of “impressive reporting” that “hack(s) through the hype and half-truths” of the Polo purveyor’s legend. Publishers Weekly praised his “meticulous research and artful prose…The crackerjack journalist simultaneously tells a compelling story and gives it meat enough to be satisfying.”

A Contributing Editor of Travel & Leisure, Gross has also worked as a columnist for The New York Times, GQ, Tatler, Town & Country, and The Daily News; a Contributing Editor of New York (where he wrote 26 cover stories, including the magazine’s all-time best-selling reported cover story on John F. Kennedy, Jr.), and of Talk; a Senior Writer at Esquire, and a Senior Editor at George.

In 2000, Gross published My Generation, a generational biography of the Baby Boom. It was called “wonderful” by the Washington Times, “trenchant, well-dramatized, thought-provoking and unusual” by Kirkus Reviews and “hugely entertaining…a brilliantly reported story,” by the Orlando Sentinel.

Gross’s 1995 book, Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women, was an investigative tour-de-force, and a blistering expose of the fashion-modeling business. It was a New York Times bestseller, and a selection of the Quality Paperback Book Club. Model, which remains in print and in demand more than a dozen years after its first publication, was also published in France, the U. K., Canada, Australia, Germany, Japan, Brazil, and China. Most recently, an updated edition was published in Russia. Click here to read reviews of Model.

Over the years Gross has profiled such subjects as John F. Kennedy Jr., Greta Garbo, Stephanie of Monaco, Richard Gere, Alec Baldwin, Madonna, and Ivana Trump; fashion figures Tina Chow, Calvin Klein, Diane von Furstenberg, Isaac Mizrahi, Ralph Lauren, and Steven Meisel, and he’s written on topics as diverse as philanthropy, the theft of the internet domain, plastic surgery, divorce, the A-List, Sex in the 90s and Greenwich Village-the last in an article that introduced the phrase “quality of life” into New York City’s 1993 mayoral campaign. Gross has covered the media in his GQ column, “The Chattering Class” and in feature stories on Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief Norman Pearlstine, Tina Brown and The New Yorker; Hearst Magazines, and the style war between Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. For Travel & Leisure, he’s written about chic destinations like The Point, Ponza, Harbour Island, St-Tropez, St. Barthèlèmy, the French Riviera, Belize and Capri. At the New York Times and New York , he was one of the first American journalists–in many cases the first–to write about today’s most influential international fashion designers, among them Dolce e Gabbana, Helmut Lang, John Galliano, Marc Jacobs and Costume National.

Mr. Gross appears regularly on television and was a contributor to CBS This Morning. His writing has appeared in Vanity Fair, Architectural Digest, Playboy, Radar, American Photo, Interview, Details, Elle, TV Guide, Cosmopolitan, and the now-defunctManhattan Inc., Saturday Review, and Mademoiselle; and newspapers like the Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, the New York Post, the Village Voice, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Chicago Tribune.

In England, has written for Harper’s & Queen, the Times and the Sunday Times, the Evening Standard, the Sunday Express, The Mail on Sunday, NME and Melody Maker. His work has also appeared in Elle, Paris Match, Optimum and Madame Figaro in France;El Pais in Spain; Figaro Japon in Japan; Focus, Max, Die Bunte and Manner Vogue in Germany; Mode in Australia; the South China Morning Post; Panorama, L’Uomo Vogue and L’Espresso in Italy, and in many of the international editions of Travel + Leisure, Vogue, Esquire and Cosmopolitan.

Mr. Gross writes his own blog gripebox and contributes to The Huffington Post. He has also been a guest editor of the blog Gawker and was the consulting editor of Bergdorf Goodman Magazine from 2002 until 2010. The New York Post said he “aggressively transformed the once-catalog-like publication into an eclectic cultural forum.”

Before writing Model, Gross published several books on popular music, among them Bob Dylan: An Illustrated History (1978). The Encyclopedia Britannica says this illustrated biography “is opinionated but sprinkled with interesting photos and fairly accurate.” With the Emmy-award-winning writer Stephen Demorest, Gross also co-authored three mystery novels as D.G. Devon, Temple Kent (1982), Shattered Mask (1983), and Precious Objects (1984). He was editor-in-chief of both Rock, a national music magazine, and the Fire Island News, a weekly newspaper. He has also published essays in books on Gianni Versace, Valentino and Nino Cerruti, entries in the Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion and articles in textbooks on media and fashion.

Gross is the son of Milton Gross, for decades a syndicated sports columnist at the New York Post, and the author of books on baseball, boxing and golf. Born in Manhattan, Gross grew up on Long Island and, he says, in Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden, the Polo Grounds, Shea Stadium and the Fillmore East. He attended Vassar College where he earned a degree in history. His sister Jane worked for Sports Illustrated, Newsday, and the New York Times and is now at work on her first book. Gross lives with his wife Barbara Hodes, designer of fashion’s Bibelot label, in the landmark Alwyn Court in midtown Manhattan. We are pleased to present him as our latest Mover and Shaker!

Peachy Deegan interviewed Michael Gross for Whom You Know.
Peachy Deegan: When and how did you realize you were a talented writer?
Michael Gross: I’m a capable writer.  It seems like hubris to describe yourself as “talented.”  Scott Fitzgerald was talented.  Joan Didion is talented. 

We met you at Swifty's- do you share Peachy Deegan's shining enthusiasm for Swifty's and what do you enjoy off the menu the most there?  
Love Swifty’s.  And I always order the tuna carpaccio to start and the roast chicken (with fries) or the crab cakes to follow. 

Did you attend Fete de Swifty? 
Almost every year since it was the Fete de Famille but not this year since I was invited to Bryan Bantry’s screening of The Social Network—and I wasn’t the only Swifty’s regular who was there. 

What do you know now about the upper crust that you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?  
That they can stop supposedly fearsome journalists from covering a book.

It came up in a Fitzgerald/Hemingway discussion that "The rich are different from us/Yes they have more money" what do you think of this and why? 
Staff.  It’s all about staff.  They have staff and we don’t.  And Gulfstreams.  Rich today is Gulfstream.  Everything else is upper middle class.  Obama should tax anyone with a Gulfstream.  Then tax them again.  But I bet he likes riding in Gulfstreams too and the rest of us are gonna have to pay for that.

We loved 740 Park.  If you could live there, would you and if so in what apartment and why?  
First question is easy.  John Thain’s jewel-box penthouse.  Would I? May not be the relevant question...Could I, after writing that book, is a better one.  But the answer is that if I could afford it, I’d probably choose a private house and not an apartment.  With that much money, all the problems of home ownership would be affordable.  Because I’d have staff to deal with the...

What can you tell us about your Los Angeles book for our West Coast Peachy readers please?  
It’s 740 Park (the West Coast version) about the world’s richest neighborhoods, Holmby Hills, Beverly Hills and Bel Air.  Same concept.  VERY different cast of characters.  Houses instead of apartments. 

What publication have you enjoyed writing for the most and why?  
Model, probably.  Interviewing supermodels is a lot more fun than getting screamed at by the crabby paranoids in the art world, for instance.

What person which you've interviewed was the most captivating and what made them so? 
Wow.  Hard one.  Patti Smith at Café Figaro right after Hey Joe came out?  Nina Hartley for My Generation because she took her clothes off and did the whole thing naked?  Christy Turlington, because she told me the truth about the Trinity?  Tom Hoving, because he just didn’t give a shit who he offended?  Karl Lagerfeld, because he was always good for a provocative quote?  Lately, I’m happiest about interviewing Tony Curtis for my new book, because he died a couple of weeks later and I was very lucky to get him. 

What do you think is key to being knowledgeable about gossip without being known as gossipy? That’s easy.  Take it all in and give nothing out.  Then you’ll know but not be known as a gossip.  Or else, call it journalism.  Or else, call it history.  And be prepared to defend yourself.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?  
First my father, Milton Gross, who was a journalist and author before me.  Then, the three editors who taught me my trade and gave me the chance to pursue it: Clay Felker, A.M. Rosenthal and Ed Kosner.

What are you proudest of and why?  
Still working (in print) after all these years. 

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?  
See one of my books made into a movie.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
I think I won a fashion journalism award when I was at the Times and I was columnist of the year when I wrote for Tatler in the 90s.  The greatest honor though was making the New York Times bestseller list.  And the nest Reward, as opposed to Award, is whenever someone says they liked one of my books. 

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?  
This changes all the time.  Lately, just north of the Wollman Rink in Central Park where I go with my Westie, Calpurnia.  

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?
Myers of Keswick
What is your favorite drink?  
Chateau Haut Brion 1982 (but I finished the bottles I owned, so will happily accept donations).
What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? 
Impossible to answer.  I don’t have one.  I have many.  To start:  Minetta Tavern, Da Silvano, The Four Seasons, Swifty's, The Waverly Inn, Esca, Amaranth, Philippe, Indochine, Mekong, The Modern, Le Veau D’Or, Benoit, Michael’s, Bar Boulud, DBGB, Mary’s Fish Camp, Bondst, Nobu, Nougatine, Shake Shack, and Carnegie John’s cart behind Carnegie Hall.  But that’s just off the top of my head. 

What is your favorite Manhattan book?
The Rich and Other Atrocities by Charlotte Curtis
If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why?  
A carriage horse in Central Park because they’re a pleasure to behold, a reminder of a more gracious past and an integral part of what’s gracious about the present.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? 
Swimming in the NYAC pool.  
What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?  
Walking in Manhattan.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?  
Again, too many to give one answer.  So I’ll pick one of the first and one of the most recent.  The Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden, Thanksgiving 1969.  The Otto Dix show at the Neue Galerie last month.  
What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?  
Riding the subways is underrated.  I remember when I first returned to Manhattan after college and someone told me with pride how they never took one.  Personally, I’ll take the iron horse over a stinky cab with an idiotic TV, a fixed meter, and a driver who doesn’t know his way around any day.  Currently, the use of the word curator is overrated.  Curators work in museums.  They don’t run stores or magazines. 

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?  
Quotable Peachy rocks.  Love a good quote.  Here’s one of my favorites:  The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it. --George Bernard Shaw.

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?  
Je ne regret rien.
How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?  
They can reach me via 

Photo Credit David Bailey/Camera Eye Ltd

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