Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fight Over Photographer Bert Stern's Estate

Best known for his photos of Marilyn Monroe, celebrity photographer Bert Stern died at age 83 last June. In 1997 he made a will benefiting his three children from his first marriage (to the ballerina Allegra Kent) and placing his archive of photographs in a foundation. In 2010 he made a new will, pouring his estate into a living trust. We don't know the beneficiaries of the private trust, but presumably they include the "secret wife" who says she married Stern in 2009. Predictably, his children are questioning the second will.

The dispute caught my eye, taking me back to the days when The Merrill Anderson Company occupied a converted carriage house at 142 East 39th Street and Bert Stern was our next-door neighbor.

One morning as I arrived for work, three tall, thin young women, dressed to the nines, were standing on the sidewalk with a large picnic basket. As I entered 142, a Rolls pulled up to the curb. Bert Stern's models, off to a fashion shoot.

142 and 140 East 39th Street today 
Note that the floors do not line up.We had
lots of stairs.
When Stern left 140 East 39th for presumably more splendid quarters, The Merrill Anderson Company, bursting at the seams, rented the top two floors. Had to break through the building walls for access.

Bill Stafford, our brilliant tax editor, and I took over Bert's top-floor studio. Bill's desk was at one end, mine was at the other, near the fireplace and adjoining kitchen.

Come to think of it, that's about as close as I ever came to the Mad Men lifestyle.

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