Written by By Lauri Zucker, CNN
Anthony Rapp once complained in an interview that he didn’t have a living room, because he didn’t have to “expect anyone to come down there and sit with me for three hours.” He had room for a bed in his Manhattan apartment, but wanted someone to take up the space for an evening.
Some 20 years later, after an introduction from Mick Jagger , Rapp found himself living in the celebrity-studded, rock ‘n’ roll-dominant, 52-unit River House condominium, as a musician turned actor.
The building was designed by Murray Fidler and Charles White , and built in the mid-20th century, rising about 60 stories, and housing both high-profile residents and famous celebrities, such as Marlene Dietrich, Orson Welles and Janis Joplin , among others.
“This was not my first apartment. It was just the first place I wanted,” Rapp recalls.
Then, a decade after the River House opened its doors to the public, the famed apartment building — considered the pinnacle of New York City luxury architecture — suddenly shut its doors.
“River House was my first apartment, and I was very pleased when I discovered that it would be closing, due to my lack of a living room. I called my manager Mick Jagger, who was dating Liza Minnelli, at the time, and he told me that if I really needed an apartment, he would put one in for me,” he says.
After struggling for several years to find a suitable replacement, Rapp finally did find a new apartment. It has an open floor plan and a well-appointed kitchen.
After settling into the new space, he soon found himself in the thick of River House’s milieu.
There’s a comfort in the chatter and cozy setting that’s immediately apparent when you stroll into his expansive, but otherwise dark, apartment. It’s walled-off by a 200-square-foot theater, and no telling who might be a friend or a foe dropping by to impress and engage in public chit-chat.
Rapp recalls, “I was probably on the fourth row in the dark, but the excitement was immense. Everyone was talking and nothing was changing. It was like going to see a Broadway play.”
Who was there? Diddy, Madonna, Martin Scorsese, Sting, Moby, the Rockefellers.
“I loved the combination of privacy and intimacy that is so accessible in a theater setting,” he says.
River House today
River House is on the market again after the owners, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Marino, decided to sell the 68-year-old residence.
“It was a terrible moment for him and (Marino’s wife) Jeanine,” Rapp recalls.
He adds that if the couple had not closed the deal, “River House would have been demolished.”
But owner bid farewell to River House for the second time in as many decades, and three years after the sale of his old digs, Rapp is back.
The actor moved to an adjacent apartment on the eighth floor of the original River House — built in the 1930s — known simply as “the “Artie Tower.” Its floor-to-ceiling windows offer a panoramic view of Fifth Avenue.
While this is the model the original River House would have followed — with each apartment, architect-designed with maximum efficiency — Rapp has done away with the usual design conventions of studios, one and two bedrooms, and so forth.
“The new building has a lot of luxury, a lot of color, just the nature of the building has changed,” he says. “It’s a lot more open concept. I guess the bedrooms and bathrooms are as big as they are in the old building, but I left the space open.
“I didn’t feel like being confined, and it really fits me — I feel freer and more relaxed.”
Lauri Zucker is a writer for Conde Nast Traveler who writes about design, architecture and interior design.