No Joke: A Tribute to Joan Rivers and a Peek Inside Her $30 Million Old-Fashioned New York Penthouse

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Comedian Joan Rivers' $29.5 million asking price for her Upper East Side penthouse has been no laughing matter.
--Photo Credit: RuthFremson/NYTimes

On September 4th, comedian Joan Rivers’ brilliant 55-year career was cut short when she passed away at 81 years old. We say “cut short” because the feisty, energetic comic seemed destined to bless us with more years, jeers, and tears—all through laughter (she even prepared jokes for her own funeral).

Comedian Joan Rivers' $29.5 million asking price for her Upper East Side penthouse has been no laughing matter. --Photo Credit: RuthFremson/NYTimes

Comedian Joan Rivers’ $29.5 million asking price for her Upper East Side penthouse has been no laughing matter.
–Photo Credit: RuthFremson/NYTimes

Rivers, often called a “queen of mean,” was famous for ripping nearly everyone, including herself via self-deprecating zingers only she and Rodney Dangerfield mastered. She mocked red carpet celebrities about fashion faux pas. She shredded men, women and stereotypes. She unloaded on controversial issues of her time (gender, race, sex, fashion, etcetera). No one was safe when Rivers tossed out her two cents—and it was hilarious.

The only thing Rivers couldn’t unload on the people was her Upper East Side Manhattan apartment at 1 E. 62nd Street. Listed for $25 million in 2009 and $29.5 million in 2012, Rivers’ triplex penthouse was on and off the market for years (she finally took the listing down last year after failing to find any takers). Why didn’t it sell? Likely because Rivers wouldn’t budge on the price and her apartment décor was better suited for Marie Antoinette than modern millionaires post-2010.

Visitors to Rivers' home are initially greeted by a grand ballroom with gilded columns.

Visitors to Rivers’ home are initially greeted by a grand ballroom with gilded columns.

As one real estate executive stated in a 2009 New York Times article, the décor was “unlikely to work in her advantage.” Another real estate expert recommended Rivers hire a decorator to “bland” it up because looking past the apartment’s interiors requires a lot of “imagination,” a quality most buyer’s lack.

While Rivers acerbic wit was surprisingly current for an octogenarian, her extravagant apartment is more old-fashioned, an impressive product but of a bygone era—just like a good movie musical. The nostalgic appeal may be there, but is anyone still buying it? In the Times article, Rivers described her home as “Louis XIV meets Fred and Ginger.”

Rivers' nostalgically described her home as "Louis XIV meets Fred and Ginger” (referring to Astaire and Rogers).

Rivers’ nostalgically described her home as “Louis XIV meets Fred and Ginger” (referring to Astaire and Rogers).

Rivers’ 5,200 square-foot palatial apartment features four bedrooms, five bathrooms, wood-burning fireplaces and two reception rooms. The apartment is dominated by Renaissance themes and a giant ballroom with 23-foot ceilings and gilded columns. The opulent home features terraces, marble statues, cast-iron accents, fancy chandeliers, large mirrors, ornamental ceilings and moldings, tapestry rugs, heavy or lacy draperies, pastel walls, a private elevator, a library and an office where Rivers kept thousands of typed notecard jokes stored in large filing cabinet, alphabetized by topic. A computer just wouldn’t look right in this home.

Rivers' bathroom resembles a Hollywood movie dressing room.

Rivers’ bathroom resembled a Hollywood movie dressing room.

Rivers was born Joan Molinsky in Brooklyn. In her apartment complex, she was called Mrs. Rosenberg (referring to her former married name). According to The New York Times, Rivers served for 25 years as her condo board’s president, a title the comic took seriously. She was active and even proud of her recommended improvements for the building’s lobby.

As condo board president, the comedian upgraded the building's gorgeous lobby.

As condo board president, the comedian upgraded the building’s gorgeous lobby.

Now, Rivers has gone to a new home—and if there’s a heaven, she will decorate it anyway she pleases. Then, she will certainly have the last laugh.

Photos and details courtesy of Curbed and The New York Times

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