Gaines, Steven S.
Gaines, Steven S.
ADDRESSES: Home—Wainscott, NY. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Little, Brown & Company, 1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
CAREER: Writer, biographer, and investigative journalist.
Marjoe: The Life of Marjoe Gortner, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1973.
(With Alice Cooper) Me, Alice, Putnam (New York, NY), 1976.
(With Robert Jon Cohen) The Club, W. Morrow (New York, NY), 1980.
(With Peter Brown) The Love You Make: An Insider's Story of the Beatles, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1983.
Heroes and Villains: The True Story of the Beach Boys, New American Library (New York, NY), 1986.
Simply Halston: The Untold Story, Putnam (New York, NY), 1991.
(With Sharon Churcher) Obsession: The Lives and Times of Calvin Klein, Carol Publishing Group (New York, NY), 1994.
Philistines at the Hedgerow: Passion and Property in the Hamptons, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1998.
The Sky's the Limit: Passion and Property in Manhattan, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Writer and investigative journalist Steven S. Gaines is also a biographer whose early works consist of biographies of prominent musicians, including the Beatles, Alice Cooper, and the Beach Boys. In Obsession: The Lives and Times of Calvin Klein, Gaines and coauthor Sharon Churcher provide a biography of a celebrity from another venue, that of superstar fashion designer Calvin Klein. The coauthors trace Klein's life from his childhood in the Bronx as a boy who would rather sketch fashion designs than play ball; to his drug-fueled days of ascending fame; to his first marriage to Jayne Center, his divorce, and the birth of his adored daughter Marci; and to his more sedate life in his early fifties, married to second wife Kelly Rector.
Obsession did not have an easy path to publication. Neither Klein nor his closest associates would cooperate with Gaines and Churcher, ensuring that the authors had no direct interviews or inside sources to support their reporting. The first publisher, G.P. Putnam's Sons, dropped the book, but did not ask the authors to return the 400,000-dollar advance they had received. Rumors circulated saying that Klein supporter and wealthy entertainment mogul David Geffen had pressured Putnam to drop the book. At the time, Geffen was a major shareholder in MCA, which owns Putnam, and Gaines and Churcher believe that Geffen was in a position to try to stop the publication of the book. Numerous other high-profile publishers also refused to take on the book; however, it was finally accepted for publication by the privately owned Carol Publishing. The book's troubled genesis characterized what Gaines and Churcher noted was the most difficult obstacle in getting the book published and distributed: "the increasing difficulty of publishing controversial books about powerful people at a time when so many major publishers are owned by multimedia companies," wrote Dana Kennedy in Entertainment Weekly.
The authors "have done a thorough job of covering every facet of designer Calvin Klein's hectic career and jittery personality, and, indeed, obsession is the key word here," observed Booklist reviewer Donna Seaman. "Vividly told and packed with intimate revelations, Obsession dynamites the designer's refined image, exposing a life full of drugs and bisexual escapades," commented reviewer Alex Tresniowski in People. "Like most expose writers, the authors hunt down the bad news about their subject," commented Martha Duffy in Time. "But on a narrower, parallel track they offer evidence of a driven, sensitive man who has made the most of his considerable talents."
Philistines at the Hedgerow: Passion and Property in the Hamptons focuses on a group of wealthy, eccentric, sometimes obnoxious personalities bound together by their life in the prime real estate and exclusive summer homes of the Hamptons, a rarified "world of privilege, social climbing and serious bad taste" located along the eastern shore of Long Island, stated Michael Neill in People. The book contains a wealth of "truly remarkable tales, running the gamut from capsule biographies to historical facts and geographic details," noted Booklist reviewer Allen Weakland. Families whose wealth has been in-hand for generations find themselves in constant conflict with the newly rich, whose habits and attitudes sometimes tend toward the more casual and profligate. Among the stories of outrageousness and excess are those of a businessman arrested for putting pumpkins outside his store; a bathing pool for nudes that scandalized older, more conservative residents; a house bought for 35,000 dollars that sold to businessman Ron Perelman for more than twelve million dollars; and a real-estate tycoon who, it turned out, had deceived everyone with whom he came in contact. With his book, Gaines presents "a fascinating description of the eccentricities of the wealthy homeowners and renters" throughout the Hamptons area, noted Alison Hopkins in Library Journal.
Gaines shifts his geographic perspective some miles to the east in The Sky's the Limit: Passion and Property in Manhattan. He examines the insular, tightly controlled world of high-dollar real estate in New York City, particularly among the "good" buildings on Fifth and Park avenues on Manhattan's Upper East Side. In these locations, social standing is paramount, as the limited pool of individuals who can expect to find housing there are restricted to those listed in the Social Register. Gaines describes the draconian, sometimes neurotic behavior of co-op boards who, for example, turned away music star Madonna the same month nude photographs of her appeared in Playboy; found great significance in the fact that a woman carried a knockoff of a designer purse; rejected heirs of Johnson and Johnson who could not even get an apartment for twenty-seven million dollars; and turned down Barbara Streisand on the assumption that the celebrity singer and actress would host too many parties. To find the inside information for his story, Gaines interviewed dozens of people whose lives touch Manhattan real estate every day, including doormen, real-estate brokers, co-op members, building managers, and more. His "profiles of his guides—some of the fanciest real-estate brokers in the city—are charming," observed Benjamin Schwarz in Atlantic Monthly. "For the most part these people come off as ironic, skeptical, and very smart—and a lot more interesting, sensible, and humane than their clients." A Publishers Weekly contributor remarked that "throughout this addictive narrative, [Gaines] weaves a captivating history of the city and its toniest neighborhoods."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlantic Monthly, May, 2005, Benjamin Schwarz, "Eminent Domains," review of The Sky's the Limit: Passion and Property in Manhattan, p. 111.
Booklist, February 1, 1994, Donna Seaman, review of Obsession: The Lives and Times of Calvin Klein, p. 978; June 1, 1998, Allen Weakland, review of Philistines at the Hedgerow: Passion and Property in the Hamptons, p. 1712.
Entertainment Weekly, May 20, 1994, Dana Kennedy, "Fashion Show and Tell," about the publication of Obsession, p. 34; May 19, 1995, review of Obsession, p. 57; May 20, 2005, Jessica Shaw, review of The Sky's the Limit, p. 79.
Fortune, August 8, 2005, Kate Bonamici, review of The Sky's the Limit, p. 111.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2005, review of The Sky's the Limit, p. 398.
Library Journal, June 15, 1998, Alison Hopkins, review of Philistines at the Hedgerow, p. 97.
People, May 23, 1994, Alex Tresniowski, review of Obsession, p. 27; July 6, 1998, Michael Neill, review of Philistines at the Hedgerow, p. 47.
Publishers Weekly, March 28, 1994, review of Obsession, p. 79; March 14, 2005, review of The Sky's the Limit, p. 52.
Time, April 25, 1994, Martha Duffy, review of Obsession, p. 80.