Horowitz plays the bedroom


‘Midwestern Girls have all the luck’

When I arrived in New York, fresh from the Midwest and eager to conquer the world of advertising, I faced a most formidable challenge. No, it wasn’t rising to the high expectations of my new employers at Ogilvy & Mather Advertising. It was finding an apartment.

This was back about the time that the earth’s crust was cooling. But then, as now, finding an apartment that one could both abide and afford was a most daunting task.

I can’t remember the precise formula (remember, the earth had just cooled at this point), but it had something to do with rent being a certain percentage of your take-home pay. At any rate, this magic figure fixed firmly in my head, I combed the classifieds.

Most of the listings I could afford sounded dreary and dungeon-like. And those were the good ones. But there among the six-stewardesses-looking-for-a-roomie queries was a real gem: a 1200 sq. ft. floor-through in an Upper East Side brownstone. I dialed the number lickety-split, only to discover that, duh, sure, the place had just been rented.

Now here’s where being a Midwesterner has its advantages. I got to talking (try to stop me) to the man on the phone. He must have liked the sound of my voice because he and his wife (yup, I talked to her too) agreed to let me ‘look at the apartment anyway so I could get an idea of what I could expect to find in New York’.

I got myself up to the Upper East Side as fast as I could, where I met the man and his wife (both nice, both psychoanalysts). They owned the building and lived and worked on the first two floors. A couple of rent control tenants they couldn’t get rid of lived on the third floor, their son (they couldn’t get rid of him either) was on the fourth.

Whoever Lucky Just-Rented-It Person was, he/she was going to get the fifth floor. Yes, the whole damned floor: big living room, equally big bedroom, cute kitchen with those retro enamel appliances, roomy bathroom, plus floor-to-ceiling windows, fireplace (non-working, but still). Slaver, drool. This was total apartment-hunter porn.

Well, surprise surprise. I got the apartment. Turns out I reminded the psychoanalyst/landlord couple of their daughter (in a good way, I’m assuming). So they changed their minds and rented it to me instead of Newly-Unlucky Just-Rented-It Person.

So where does Vladimir Horowitz come in?

Turns out the apartment did have one ‘drawback’. Maestro Horowitz lived in the building behind mine. So my bedroom was just across from whatever room was on the back of his fifth floor. Maybe it was his bedroom too. Whatever, it had a piano in it for sure. Because almost every night he would be playing it. A lot. The same pieces, over and over again, on into the night.

It was amazing, of course. And a lot cheaper than Carnegie Hall. But a teensy part of me wanted to open my bedroom window and shout something like ‘Could you keep it down? Some people have to get up in the morning already!’ Maybe even throw a shoe.

What about you? Any apartment-hunt tales to share? Odd brushes with celebrity? They don’t have to involve pianos, or even bedrooms.

Amagansett, New York. August 2014

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

29 thoughts on “Horowitz plays the bedroom

  1. drallisonbrown

    Great story, and your writing is fabulous! I laughed about the flight-attendant apartment dig…I worked for AA for 4 years (the last 3 of which were at the Boston airport but not as a FA), and the stories are true! Speaking of Boston, those 3 years were quite challenging for this Southern gal….rudeness abounds! In fact, it would make for an entertaining blog post….

    • Hey there! And many thanks for not digging me back about the flight attendant ‘dig’ (!) Actually, one of my best friends was a flight attendant, also for AA. She has some pretty amazing stories; I’m saving one of her best for a pretty darned amazing blog post, so watch this space (!) Seriously, thank you so much for reading, and for commenting. And for not taking offense at my flight-attendants-sharing-an-apartment reference! xoxo

  2. How awesome is this! Did you ever meet him?
    And I’ve heard the midwestern charm works even better than southern charm when it comes to snagging new digs in New York (not Boston though, pretty sure kind words and politeness will get you beaten 😉 )

  3. ….



    I mean, I probably would have thrown a rock through his window at some point, but it would have had a stalker note tied to it (so he would pipe down out of fear, rather than thinking I wanted him to stop).

    But mostly?

    I’M SO FREAKING JEALOUS I DON’T EVEN THINK I CAN EVER TALK TO YOU AGAIN. You lived in the greatest stolen apartment in the history of real estate!

  4. Thanks for sharing. This is a fun post. Even though I think it’s awesome to be able to hear the great maestro play, I can see where the constant practice could get on your nerves. 🙂

  5. Adrian Lichter

    Last night, while cooking a (delicious) Italian dinner, I cranked my ipod to “Horowitz Plays Scarlatti” in remembrance of those days 45 years ago, when, indeed, Horowitz played Scarlatti–to me, and you, (and my cats).

  6. Love this. Further proof that we are actually the same person, Alice…I came to NYC for a job with FCB, sans apartment and ended up with a fifth floor walkup on 64th/Madison. I thought the rent was outrageously expensive–$400/mo. My apt was only half the fifth floor. The other half was rented by New Yorker humorist Veronica Geng. Sometimes our typewriters dueled at night, and I thought how both our words would end up in the magazine, only hers would be bylined and mine would be copy for cigarettes.

  7. Myrna Henry

    I remember visiting you in that charming place. Vivid memories of the ‘journey’ up; and the piano serenade. Heady stuff for Midwestern parents!

  8. Adrian Lichter

    Alice My Dear,
    I lived at 7 East 96th Street (ground floor with a garden) for six years. The World’s Greatest Pianist did indeed play a lot, and I could listen without shelling out huge sums to Carnegie Hall for the privilege.

    But I digress.

    Mr. Horowitz (who walked Madison Ave. every day wearing his bow tie and a smile), would often stand in his back balcony with his cat and wave to me as I played with my cats. Great days.

I'd love to hear from you