Hint to celebrity apartment-shoppers: "The minute you walk in with a bodyguard, the asking price goes up," Barbara Corcoran says. "If you're that important, you must have a lot of money."
Corcoran, who sold her New York City real estate agency for a reported $70 million in 2001, offers plenty of tips like that in her just-published memoir, Use What You've Got & Other Business Lessons I Learned from My Mom. She also offers details of her dizzying rise from dyslexic D-student growing up with nine siblings in Edgewater, N.J., to queen of Manhattan real estate. The daughter of Ed, a retired printing press manager, and homemaker Florence, Corcoran, 53, got into real estate influenced—and financed—by a beau in the business. The Corcoran Report (which lists sales, rentals and trends in the city) made her one of the most-quoted real estate experts in New York City. During her 30 years on the job, Corcoran has had her share of famous clients. Now living in a nine-room Park Avenue apartment with husband Bill Higgins, 58, a retired real estate broker, and their son Tommy, 9, Corcoran shared some of her more interesting celebrity stories with PEOPLE.
Young Divas Need Not Apply
Tried to buy: 4,1OO-sq.-ft. duplex penthouse on Central Park West
Asking Price: $7.5 million
Marian Carey Although Barbra Streisand was thrilled to unload her 16-room pad on Carey, the co-op board nixed the deal in 1999 after Mariah showed up for an interview in a tank top, with bodyguards, says Corcoran. "That's a building," Corcoran says, "filled with dogs and kids." (A nonstar finally bought the duplex for $4.75 million.)
Room for an Entourage?
Looked at: $5 million apartments
Bought: Nothing; rented in this Trump building instead
She may have traveled with two bodyguards and a sheepdog that "shed all over everything," Corcoran says, but the "soft-spoken" singer thanked Corcoran with tickets to one of her 1993 concerts. "It was great, because my stepdaughter was 14," Corcoran says. "And Janet allowed us in her dressing room!"
Shady Lady on Noctural Round
Looked at: 30 properties over six months
Bianca Jagger "She only wanted to see apartments at night," Corcoran says, and she always showed up wearing "Sophia Loren-type sunglasses." But the attempt to stay incognito didn't work. Long after Jagger's visit, says Corcoran, the doorman would still be talking about her. "She was drop-dead gorgeous."
From Manhattan Loft to Love Shack
Bought: SoHo loft
and Mark Consuelos The Live with Regis and Kelly star and her soap-hunk husband wanted a "light, happy space" in 2002. "They were so affectionate with each other, always holding hands," says Corcoran. "The broker said she almost felt embarrassed, as if she was intruding." The loft they chose was "totally raw space"—and now they must weather the renovation.
Village Wise Man
Bought & Sold: Greenwich Village Penthouse
Richard Gere Corcoran calls the Chicago star "a dream client, Easygoing, a real gentleman, but he knew what he liked," And he never quibbled about price. Yet he obviously knew a good deal when he saw it, Gere sold this penthouse—which he bought through Corcoran in the late '80s—for $5 million last year. Says Corcoran: "He's made an enormous amount of money."
No Limo Parking Needed
Bought: Two-bedroom East Side apartment for about $600,000
"She's probably the only celebrity we ever had who would arrive for appointments in a cab," Corcoran says. And when the real estate broker who was working with her in 1999 brought along his young daughter one day, Corcoran says, Shields "was more interested in his daughter than in the apartment. She could not have been nicer to that little girl." Shields, who was single at the time, ultimately settled on a small two-bedroom in a quiet neighborhood and a quiet building.
No-frills Lifestyle for TV Host
Upper West Side pad
Robin Leach Forget Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, says Corcoran, who sold Leach's modest abode for $500,000 in 1995. "Not a fancy building. Not a fancy lobby. Not a fancy hall. Not a fancy apartment. He lived like a simple man.... He was like the nice man next door."
Wardrobe Space a Plus
Bought: Triplex and two-bedroom apartment in NoHo
The pop princess purchased two apartments in two years in the same building—for a total of more than $3.8 million, Each, says Corcoran, had to pass muster with Spears's parents; her dad even videotaped the closets. "She was very quiet," says Corcoran. "She didn't have a lot to say."
88 Keys a Must
Looked at: 25 apartments
Courteney Cox Arquette
Referred by Sting, who had toured apartments with a Corcoran broker, the Friends star went home-shopping in Manhattan two years ago. "Most people say, 'I have to have a view,' or 'I have to have a terrace,' " Corcoran says. "She said she had to have a living room big enough for a grand piano." And a kitchen big enough for a coffeemaker. Says Corcoran: "She carried a Starbucks cup everywhere she went."