The Closing: Kathy Sloane

The BHS super agent on passing up a movie role from Norman Mailer, working with the Clintons and being Louisville’s first lady

Dec.December 01, 2015 01:21 PM

Kathy Sloane is one of New York’s perennial top agents. Sloane, who has been at Brown Harris Stevens since 1986, has brokered more than $1 billion in deals — $125 million this year alone. Her celebrity clients have included Robert Redford, Diane Sawyer and Martha Stewart. She’s also helped the Clintons buy two homes, one in Chappaqua and the other in Washington, D.C. Last year, Sloane found a buyer for the $70 million penthouse at the Sherry-Netherland, and this past October, she relisted the sprawling pad for $86 million.

Birthday: April 22
Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Family: Married to Dr. Harvey Sloane, three children and four grandchildren

What was your first job out of Wheaton College?

It was at Harper’s Bazaar as assistant to the fashion director. It was the day of Andy Warhol. You name [a 1960s celebrity] and they were in and out of the office. My friend George Plimpton [edited] the Paris Review, and he had parties almost every night. Norman Mailer met me [at one of those parties] and he said, “Oh, you must play Joan of Arc in my movie. We’re shooting this weekend in East Hampton.”

Did you do it?

This falls under “greatest regrets.” I said, “Where will we stay?” He said, “I don’t know, on the beach?” I was so old-fashioned; I had some friends out there, but no one was going to be there, so I declined being Joan of Arc. It haunts me, actually. I was so convent school about the whole thing.

Kathy Sloane (Photo: STUDIO SCRIVO)

Kathy Sloane (Photo: STUDIO SCRIVO)

What was it like running in that social circle?

We knew what kind of time we were living in. There was this pall over all of us, between Vietnam and the second Kennedy assassination. And yet, there was this cadre of intellectuals and artists and people who were simply going to get through it. Fortunately, I was touched by that energy.

How did you meet your husband?

We met at a wedding in Washington in 1968. [At the time, he was a public health doctor in Louisville.] All my friends said, “You can’t move to Kentucky, you’ll never make it,” which made me want to do it. He gave me a Fiat Spider for our wedding present. I’d drive to Indiana [which borders Kentucky] by mistake every day and I’d just cry.

He was elected mayor of Louisville in 1973. How’d he get into politics?

He founded a neighborhood health center for indigent people. Diane Sawyer was one of our friends; she was the weather girl then in Louisville. Her father was running for reelection as county judge executive and put Harvey on the air pollution control board.

Did you embrace the role of First Lady?

I got really involved in saving historic buildings. We lived in 19th-century houses and it was just a passion of mine. As chairman of the state board of historic preservation, I traveled the state and identified all the historic structures in 120 counties.

Is that how you got into selling real estate?

Having identified all these structures, I said to myself, “Who is going to buy these? I need to get a real estate license.” Everyone said I’d fail because no one wanted those old buildings. But I sold them. I sold buildings that had pigeons living in them, that had no roofs. Today, if you go to Main Street in Louisville, where I sold many buildings, it’s the hottest place going.

How’d you land in New York?

Larry Rockefeller [a fourth-generation Rockefeller] was an old college friend. When he reopened the historic inn in Beaverkill Valley, we went up there and loved it. Larry said, “We want you to do all the real estate and we’re not taking no for an answer.” So I got my New York license. Once I did, everyone said, “Oh you must find us an apartment.”

You own a place in the Catskills and a home in Washington. Where do you live in NYC?

On Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side.

How’d you end up working with the Clintons?

I was at a party with Hillary Clinton and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who said, “Hillary, Kathy is going to find you your place in New York. She’s the best.” And that was the beginning. I looked at 91 houses in seven counties to find Chappaqua.

What was it like working with them?

Hillary called me and she said, “We don’t have any money but we need a home.” And I said, “Well, that’s not really true. The newspaper says you have $1.5 million. You’ll need a guarantor.” At the end of the day, Terry McAuliffe [former chair of the Democratic party who’s now the governor of Virginia] became the guarantor. In my entire career, I have never had a customer that more dearly wanted a home than Hillary Clinton. Never.

You also helped them buy a home in D.C.

Three weeks before the president was to leave office, I was at a book signing, and Hillary said, “I have no roof over my head. But the rents are so high.” I said, “Don’t rent. You are going to have your book deal.” I asked her to name four houses she’d ever seen in Washington that she would want to call home. The first address she said was 3067 White Haven Street. It was the address where my husband grew up. That’s where [the Clintons] live now.

How did you celebrate after the Sherry-Netherland penthouse sold for $70 million?

I was so exhausted; I was too tired to celebrate.

Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Paul Newman’s popcorn late at night while watching a movie.

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