Even in the vast archives of legendary Manhattan apartment feuds, the story of Apartment 9B in the twin-towered El Dorado on Central Park West stands out as a particularly wild ride. And surprisingly, building resident Alec Baldwin has nothing to do with it! The Times' William Glaberson offers an epic telling of the tale, which is mostly about a mother-daughter relationship that makes Grey Gardens look like a feel-good Hallmark movie. The saga has all the elements of a typical battle over family fortune, and plenty of bonus features. A checklist:
1) A grand pre-war apartment in disrepair: The 3BR/4BA sprawl in the classic Art Deco tower occupied by an octogenarian and her adult daughter has become "like some cobwebby Miss Havisham version of high-end Manhattan living, with peeling paint, torn furniture and a permanent stink of cigarettes."
2) Allegations of attempted murder: Two days after 83-year-old Joyce Cheney met with lawyers to reconsider her will, she was found by her housekeeper in a urine-soaked nightgown with a broken arm. "She tried to kill me," Cheney said of her daughter. Life insurance policies abound.
3) Itty-bitty dogs: Tibetan spaniels Willow and Tibby.
4) A sex change: Diane Wells, the daughter who is now trying to win ownership of 9B in court, was once named Jonathan. Now that's a twist!
5) The fabulously unemployed: Mom Cheney has lived her life off of a trust fund fueled by the South African diamond business. She's been in the El Dorado apartment since 1954. Daughter Diane moved back home in 1989, at age 36.
6) Shady secondary characters: Other siblings include "James, a college dropout who invested in stocks, rarely visited the apartment. He had made a healthy profit of $200,000 on an apartment that Mrs. Cheney had given him $700,000 to buy, but he had not shared the proceeds with her. His living expenses, he testified, were $189,000 a year."
7) Letters, cassette recordings and court testimony recreating the craziness in vivi detail: By the bucketload, friends!
And for a very different type of floorplan porn, there's the NYT's huge graphic, which lays out the apartment along with various miseries that have taken place in the rooms. Fun for the whole family! Er, except for this one.
· Nightmare in Apt. 9B [NYT]