The wild story of the real building “Only Murders”


On a Friday evening in early June, Debbie Marx, a Latin teacher and longtime Belnord resident, led a visitor through her unrenovated classic seven, its winding, book-lined hallways, a time capsule from 1959, the year her parents moved in. His father, Josef Marx, was an oboist and musicologist who had his own music publishing company; his mother, Angelina, had been a ballerina. Ms Marx moved back to her childhood flat in the late 1980s, when she was pregnant with her first child and her mother lived there alone. Ms. Marx’s father had died in 1978, a victim, of sorts, of the Battle of Belnord, after suffering a heart attack at the courthouse during a hearing with his roommates.

Ms Marx remembers growing up in the building – playing handball in the yard, which was forbidden by Ms Seril, and slipping through the bars of the fence to the forbidden garden, then a riot of shrubs and of trees. She had her own gang in the yard, with Walter Matthau’s daughter, Jenny, and others, but their transgressions were minor: ripping off a doorman’s hat, commandeering the service elevator, dropping a water bomb.

“It’s like an archaeological site,” Richard Stengel said of the building. “The deeper you dig in, the more different culture and history you get.”

Mr. Stengel, the author, journalist and former State Department official, has been a tenant since 1992, when he moved into an apartment charred by fire and left vacant for years. (If you see Mr. Stengel on MSNBC, where he’s a contributor, with a dark red bookshelf behind him, he’s broadcasting from his apartment at Belnord.)

John Scanlon, the shrewd public relations man who died in 2001, was also a tenant in the 1990s. Around this time, Mr. Scanlon was embroiled in another long-running real estate battle in New York: Trump’s first divorce. (He was Ivana Trump’s spokesperson.)

Like Mr. Stengel, Mr. Scanlon was part of a Belnord demographic that you might call literary and editorial adjacent. He liked to tease Mr. Stengel, then editor of Time magazine, when they bumped into each other in the yard: “How does it feel to be on the cutting edge of the past?

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