Christmas is coming, and I walked by a crèche the other day. So naturally my thoughts turned to Madonna.
No, not that Madonna, the one represented in the crèche, who couldn’t find a proper home in which to have her baby.
I was thinking about the other Madonna, the singer/dancer/businesswoman, who couldn’t find a proper home in which to have her entourage.
The latest setback for Madonna Louise Ciccone Ritchie occurred in New York, where the board of her co-op, Harperly Hall, refused to allow her to buy another apartment to add on to the reported 6,000-square-foot apartment combination she already owns in the building.
She responded by filing a lawsuit, asking that the sale go through.
Yeah, that’ll make the neighbors happy.
Poor Madonna. She’s just like the rest of us, in that her dream home seems to be beyond her reach. Think of that the next time you’re driving around clients who are bemoaning that they can’t find the home they want. Madonna’s got all that money, and she can’t either.
For those of you who don’t live in Manhattan, a little history lesson: Rich people in New York used to live in gigantor houses, many of which are so large and opulent by today’s standards that they are run as museums — the Morgan Library, for example, stands as a measure of massive turn-of-the-century wealth.
In the run-up to World War I, however, rich New Yorkers began to live next to each other. Laws changed, allowing for taller buildings; the subway expanded, so the city seemed more urbanized; and perhaps most importantly, fashions changed, so suddenly it was socially acceptable to live in a 12-room apartment.
I know, those seem like idyllic times, right? But in truth, the new neighbors in these buildings found themselves financially dependent on each other, and that didn’t always work. The Great Depression hit many buildings hard. The San Remo — a posh Upper West Side building that turned Madonna down as a buyer in 1985, when she was on the cover of Playboy — was sold for a song in 1940. And Harperly Hall, the building that Madonna’s trying to expand in, failed in 1941, according to the historian Christopher Gray, and was converted into rental apartments.
So maybe this co-op board turndown of Madonna’s attempt to buy another apartment is unjust. Maybe it’s simply about a board that watched a mogul assemble four apartments, and decided she didn’t need a fifth. Nix on the blonde ambition! (Madonna’s current duplex, reports say, contains a gym with a steam room for 10, a private beauty salon, and a master bedroom with two fireplaces.)
But it’s also possible that the board in an 85-unit building remembers its history of financial tough times, and doesn’t want too much ownership to be concentrated in the hands of one shareholder.
We spectators will find out as the whole mess gets hashed out in New York State Supreme Court.
In the meantime, if Madonna wants more space in New York, she’ll be stuck with a townhouse — or a condo. Again, the gossips report she’s been looking for years, but the problem is — and I say this without a trace of irony — there’s not a lot out there in the hyperluxury niche that’s very nice.
The paparazzi-hating Park Avenue co-ops are not going to let her in. The Denzel Washington-housing Fifteen Central Park West, a mega-luxe condo just blocks from where she is now, seems like the logical building, but the $30 million penthouses are all sold. She could buy an Upper East Side townhouse — our billionaire mayor prefers his to his official city residence — but it’s tough to get used to living vertically when you’ve been fairly sprawled out. Maybe she’ll end up at the Plaza Residences (the converted Plaza hotel) though that seems a little stuffy for her.
Poor Madonna — she has come a long way since she the ’80s, when she lived in a trashy East Village apartment, but she still hasn’t found the perfect pad. I guess that means she’s still chasing the American dream like the rest of us — but in this holiday season, when my heart hopes that everyone will find the home they want — I really do feel sorry for her.
Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson and author of “Diary of a Real Estate Rookie.”