Home Art RIP to the Ebullient, Indefatigable Steven Greenberg

I rarely gasp at news of a death, but Page Six is reporting the passing on Saturday of Steven Greenberg. I worked for Steven–he tortured me, often with good humor–for the three years he owned and published “Fame” magazine from 1988-1991. He had previously owned the Roxy roller disco, and was infamous on Wall Street for being a stock promoter. Before the Roxy, he’d promoted all sorts of things besides stocks including Commodore computers. He was involved in some other scandal involving a carpet cleaning company.

He ran his empire– called Anametrics– from the 67th floor of Rockefeller Center–what is now known as Top of the Rock. He’d inherited the offices from Don King. You took an elevator to the Rainbow Room, then a separate private lift to an aerie he shared with business partner Michael Scharf. The place was dripping in Art Deco pieces he’d bought, mostly on Madison Avenue. Some of it was valuable. Some of it we called “Art Drecko.” He had a conference table and chairs from the USS Normandy. His desk and most of his own office was Chinese black lacquer. Even though he had the best view in Manhattan, he kept the heavy red velvet drapes closed. At night he roamed around Manhattan in his chauffeur driven stretch Mercedes. With his white hair he resembled Benjamin Franklin. He wore nothing about custom made navy blue pin striped suits that cost–then–$3,500–and monogrammed French cuff shirts.

Steven had an entourage. Mostly it was the late Margaux Hemingway, whom he adored, and Elizabeth Ray,who was infamous from a Washington DC scandal. He’d helped her reinvent herself with a book and branding called “The Washington Fringe Benefit.” They were all inseparable. He loved his uncle so much that he gave him a job in the Xerox room just to keep an eye on him. Most of his dates were very young women with short dresses and little knowledge of English. When you asked them what they did, they said they were “psychology students at St. John’s.” Whatever. It was all in good fun.

In the mid 1980s, Steven found Andy Warhol and what was left of his crowd. He was obsessed with being at the hottest “in” places–150 Wooster, Nell’s, MK, Canal Room, Elaine’s, Le Cirque–with Bianca, Calvin, Liza, Halston. He had to be in the right place with the right people. And have the best table. “Rawjahr,” he’d say in his thick New Yawk accent, “come sit here, I want you to meet–” and it was some guy who owned oil fields, malls, circuses, a country. He was crazy and lovable. In retrospect, I should have made a documentary about him.

When Andy Warhol died in 1987, Steven bought a of stuff at Andy’s auction. He was obsessed with Andy, with Basquiat. He knew what would accrue in value. He hired the very eccentric Gael Love, from Andy’s “Interview” magazine, to edit a new monthly called “Fame.” I was the Articles Editor. Steven was an enthusiastic publisher with no taste. But he could sell ads, and was always selling, selling, selling. He nixed an exclusive cover on Madonna because he didn’t like her. (We had to run the piece inside; it caused chaos.) He had screaming fights with Gael, and once threw a table at her. (I think he missed.) He was a little erratic. It turned out the whole time we were doing Fame, he was being investigated by the SEC for insider trading. Eventually he paid a large fine. Some of his collaborators went to jail. The magazine ended in acrimony.

I’ll tell you one thing he did that was kind of ground breaking: against his own wishes, he put Whitney Houston on the cover in 1990. I wrote the story; Gael really wanted it. Steven was nervous that no black celebrities were ever on luxury magazine covers. But he gave in, and it was wonderful. Whitney wore a Balenciaga catsuit. She was at the height of her fame. And the issue sold. So there.

I really cannot believe he’s dead. A few years ago I spotted him outside 230 Fifth Avenue, with lots of young people and barricades. He’d started a new nightclub on the roof. He was so proud, he took me upstairs to show me around. It was wild. I don’t know what it was or is and it’s still open. The food was terrible; the place was packed with good looking kids. Out front on the sidewalk, there was dozens more club kids waiting for entry. He’d become Steve Rubell. Steven was beaming. Steven sometimes stuttered when he was excited. “Look, look, look at this,” he said, arms wide open, gesturing to the Empire State Building. He was just one of those unique New York stories. He loved the city. He refused to get a summer house. He always wore the suits. As Frank Sinatra sings in the song, he “just wanted to be a part of it.”

My goodness–lymphoma killed him. This seems impossible. Not Steven. He was constantly calling wire services on Sundays to pitch stories and plug items. He said, “If you call them on Sunday, it’s slow, and they have nothing for Monday. They’ll run whatever you give them.”

So I’m writing this on Sunday night, and hoping some other sites pick it up. We’ve lost someone who was one in a million. And it just seems too simple. I guess I thought he’d just get in a balloon one day and fly off the roof of 230 Fifth to a nightclub he’d built on another planet. That’s where I’m going to pretend he is.

 

32 replies to this post
  1. i worked for anametrics from 1974-1977 for steven. it was the best job and lifestyle i ever had . steven trusted me i cashed his checks drove his rolls once and delivered flowers to his girlfriend barbara cerilli at the time . i helped move the offices from park ave to 30 rock / all of which i will never forget those days .

  2. After Sept 11th, Steven asked me “How much do you need to work for me?” And I shouted out a number and he was so generous. I worked at the Gramercy Park Hotel and he let me basically work how I wanted and trusted me. I remember meeting him at Le Cirque in NYC, of course he was with all of his girlfriends. He gave me his business card, and years later he remembered me and gave me a chance when the economy was just terrible. Rest in peace Steven. I will never forget you were always running somewhere and on some new venture. Literally running in his suits. He was charming.

  3. Steven was more of a father to me. We started the GremercyPark bars together. Then I left after he sold it to his friend Ian. I got married soon after so I didn’t get a chance to work with him at the Gransvote when he opened the bar on the roof with Jeffrey but we started 230 fifth together since it was all dirt and absolutely worthless on the roof of 230 building and I was his spy/ god daughter. I wouldn’t make it today without him.

    Thank you so much for your absolutely wonderful writing …

    M

  4. Nice piece…so sad. What a Loss ….I don’t know you, Roger, but I was hired by Steve to run the door at Roxy and did so for the first year it was open. Lynn Barkley had recommended me. I went to his astounding office at 30 Rock ! He hired me on the spot. After I left, Steve was ALWAYS glad to see me and just the sweetest guy around. Years later, he knew I had had a great voiceover career and was happy for me and trumpeted me loudly. “Do you know who this guy IS?” he’d say ! You are Right. Elizabeth, Harold his driver, the limo, all of it…Priceless Guy…He was one of a kind..Miss you, Steve…Best…Colter

  5. The wonderful thing about Steven is that he understood life and people, and used it to humorous advantage. I had the pleasure of working with Steven running the Roxy, spending my days between the west-side club and my office which was the antechamber to Steven’s art deco extravaganza. But Steven never took himself seriously, and was ALWAYS ready to instigate a laugh… especially with Michael and Elizabeth. My fondest memory was late evenings after his wonderful secretary went home. Steven himself would always pick up the phone in a high falsetto secretary voice and have his historical way with the caller… no one ever the wiser that it was indeed Steven himself. Steven loved life, and was always fair to the 150+ employees at Roxy, not only in times of sickness or financial difficulties, but also for a daily dose of humor. Dear Steven, thanks for the opportunity to work together and make Roxy the success it was. Living in Bangkok for the past 15 years, and having spent some time as a monk mastering insight meditation… the Buddha said that there are 32 worlds. In whatever world you may currently be inhabiting, you’ve surely gotten the party started in your inimitable SAG style!

  6. Steven was one of my favorite people in the world. i was fortunate enough to know him and be close to him for years, and he was one of the most creative, perfectly irreverent, lovely human beings that i have ever known. we had a special special bond, and i will remember him fondly forever more. i feel incredibly lucky to have gotten to know him the way that i did, he was a character and a true NYC icon, as well as just a sweet and brilliant man. love to you too Remy…

  7. Back in the day I worked on Stephen’s cars. He had a Rolls Royce Phanton V stretch and a Mercedes 600 long wheel base. These cars were used very hard having to traverse the streets of NYC. I remember one day the steering of the Rolls broke and was barely drivable. His driver Harold drove the car out to our shop. I asked how in Gods name did he make it all the way without having an accident. In Harold’s great style he replied “It wasn’t easy”. Sorry to hear of Stephen’s passing. I have so many stories from those days revolving around him and Andy Warhol. It made being a mechanic a special job.

  8. Thanks Roger from writing this wonderful piece about Steven (sorry if my syntax is not perfect, I am not a native speaker)
    It was so inspirational to work with Steven, he was an amazing business man and was always fair when a good mood and if he liked you.
    I remember him being on top of every details and getting very upset at me when I sent someone else to deal with him.
    We had a great business relationship and he only wanted to deal with me.
    I also had the honor to be driven in his car and learn about his passion for art.
    You will be very missed Steven, you were a true inspiration for me.
    Thanks for giving me a chance to work with you,

    Pierre

  9. Steven is unforgettable ..and forever a greate
    Business man with a unique way..No one will be ever able
    To replace him .. ORIGINAL..FUN….SMART..
    I remember the times in Le cirque and many other places He is one of a kind legends.
    And for me HE IS HERE FOREVER…He call me CATHOLIC GIRL
    And been from MEXICO…I kept the name …STEVEN..Will
    BE FOREVER …he made a difference in my life and I don’t forget the times
    And remember his wise words and unique way …Forever..STEVEN GREENBERG..

  10. Thanks for the great article. I burst into tears when I receieved the phone call from his brother. I met Steven 15 years ago; I was the one ‘Psychology majors from abroad’ (lol). When I had my first publishing deal, I showed it to Steven. He said this is the first smart thing I’ve ever seen you did for a decade. His sharp criticism is not for everybody, but his validation meant more than anything to me. I will miss him

  11. Thank you for the great article on Steve.

    For years when I lived in New York he was one of my best and closest friends. I was shocked when I got the call that he was no longer with us. I was fortunate to have spent a lot of time with him and we traveled to many far away places together. I think your piece captured the gist of the spirit force that was Steve.

    Thank you again,

    Lee

  12. I worked for Steven back in the day of the Roxy, after we would go to the Empire Diner, fun times I loved working for him back then,taught me never to work for someone, my last boss
    RIP Steven, my Dad passed away from Lymphoma at the same age as well

  13. Roger

    Thank you for your kind obituary for my brother Steven. Needless to say, it has been a tough few weeks since his passing. I have received so many kind words from people, whose lives he has touched.

    We are having a memorial service for Steven this comming Tuesday, March 20th, at Park East Synagogue on East 67th Street. Friends will be invited to share their experiences with Steven at the memorial.

    Charles Grreberg

  14. 11.

    Steve was my fraternity brother at NYU. We were in the same pledge class. He was an original to say the least.

    I knew him from Brooklyn. I envied him because he owned his own Corvette.

    I know him to be good-natured, fun loving and driven. I would look to Steven for advice wrangling my insecurities because he was the only guy I knew more of a wreck then me.

    We had two very profound interests in common, our futures and girls… or was it girls and our future… or was it just girls.

    Just thinking about Steven makes me smile. He was the first guy in our group to have his own apartment in the Washington Square Apartments. It was party central. There were nights when it looked like an open call for potential Sports Illustrated models.

    One night, the apartment was packed. As I stood talking to Steven in the kitchen a young woman came in hiked up her skirt, hopped up onto the counter and urinated in the sink. Square that I am, I was taken a little aback. Not Steven. He kept right on talking as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Who knows? Maybe in his world it was.

    So, good-by my buddy. You will never be forgotten.

    Your pledge brother, Joe

  15. Steve was my fraternity brother at NYU. We were in the same pledge class. He was an original to say the least.

    I knew him from Brooklyn. I envied him because he owned his own Corvette.

    I know him to be good-natured, fun loving and driven. I would look to Steven for advice wrangling my insecurities because he was the only guy I knew more of a wreck then me.

    We had two very profound interests in common, our futures and girls… or was it girls and our future… or was it just girls.

    Just thinking about Steven makes me smile. He was the first guy in our group to have his own apartment in the Washington Square Apartments. It was party central. There were nights when it looked like an open call for potential Sports Illustrated models.

    One night, the apartment was packed. As I stood talking to Steven in the kitchen a young woman came in hiked up her skirt, hopped up onto the counter and urinated in the sink. Square that I am, I was taken a little aback. Not Steven. He kept right on talking as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Who knows? Maybe in his world it was.

    So, good-by my buddy. You will never be forgotten.

    Your pledge brother, Joe

  16. We will Steven — I will never forget him as a true unique individual in all ways . I was always laughing at the good and bad times , more good times –You will not be forgotten Take care Steven —

  17. Like Mr. Friedman I was in total disbelief when I got the news of Steven’s passing.
    I have known Steven since over 25 years. He was a wonderful friend. Always there when you needed him
    He wil be truly missed.

  18. Thank you for this piece… I met Steven in 1994 and was lucky to experience some of the most memorable NY experiences with Steven and his circle of friends. We love and will all miss you Steven.

  19. Steven A. Greenberg was one of the most amazing, fantastic, & wise men I have ever had the honor of meeting. He called me after seeing the news of Kobayashi being arrested in Coney Island and proposed that we begin discussion right away. He researched everything about what had happened, Kobi’s history, the sport, the reasons- and of course understood what was most important in the end.
    He gave Kobayashi a new stage to reset himself and set a new world record- to show the world who he will always be- and all he said to the press, was that he needed a billboard for July 4th, (so it was a great deal).
    However cool he stated things, he also genuinely had a big heart and was simply a wonderful, incredible person who supported the human fight for justice and for what he believed had reason and were simply “right”.
    He became Kobayashi’s hero.. Kobi loved him, he honors him, he has been inspired by him, maybe more than I’ve ever seen him be by anyone. I have been inspired, as I’m sure everyone who met him was.
    I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been the person to interpret the conversations between these two people and get an event together which we will never forget, and I will forever cherish the many times he spoke and we just froze from his wisdom and charm.
    Thank you Mr. Greenberg.

  20. He was an old and at one time a very dear friend. We last spoke about a year and a half ago and I had no idea he was ill. He invited me up to the club but I never found the time. My regrets. He was also my best man when I got married in 1967. He was a very interesting guy and to say the least, quite a character. Steven, you will be missed.

  21. Hi Roger.

    I’m sure your remember me ?? I was Mr. Greenberg’s Diver for the past 24 years, He will truly be missed by many who were fortunate to cross paths with him.,and I am proud to say that he was a great employer, and has given me me a lot of personal advise during the years. Being in his presence for all those years was an education you could never get in any College.nor any institution. I truly hope that he will be remember by all who have had the pleasure of knowing him as I have he is a TRUE NEW YORK ICON . I so sad that he passed on so young.. Yesterday at the Cemetery was one of the saddest dads since the day my mother passed last year at the age of 85. The media have done so many stories on Studio 54, Andy Warhol. etc. its only fare that this great man be recognized as well. He has helped so many people and was a very generous individual Thanks for writing this piece I enjoyed reading,

  22. It’s wonderful to read an intimate account of Steven’s life from a person whom he was acquainted with, but what is going on with all of the grammatical errors? Do you have an editor? This could have been a great piece, and I appreciate that it was written, but it’s a shame that it wasn’t proofread before posting. I worked with Steven for several years and I agree with much of what was said in this article, though many new things were brought to light throughout…things which don’t surprise me. He was an eccentric man with an eclectic taste and a pocketbook with no end. And yes, 230 Fifth still exists. In fact, he had a waterfall installed last year and had many more plans in store, but, sadly, most won’t come to fruition. RIP Steven, you won’t soon be forgotten

  23. RE: “He was involved in some other scandal involving a carpet cleaning company.”

    Was that Barry Minkow’s ZZZZ Best carpet cleaning company Ponzi scheme in Los Angeles in the ’80s?

  24. The famous 1935 French liner Normandie was not USS but just SS Normandie. Any furniture from her is the height of Deco collecting and is worth major bucks. $10k for a dining room chair, $18k for a lounge chair, far far more for artwork. Wonder what happened to his furniture? Probably sold at Christie’s for a fortune.

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