RISMEDIA, Nov. 2, 2007-(Newsday.com)-A Manhattan real estate agent who moved in elite Hollywood, Hamptons and music industry circles and helped establish the celebrity broker persona was killed in her Central Park apartment, according to New York police and the city medical examiner.
Linda Stein, a feisty, brash presence on New York’s celebrity real estate scene who brokered multi-million dollar deals for Billy Joel, Sting and Steven Spielberg, was found dead in a pool of blood around her head in her Fifth Avenue penthouse by one of her two daughters about 11 p.m. Tuesday, police said.
Although officials initially said her death appeared to be an accident, the city medical examiner later said Stein, 62, was killed by blunt force trauma to the back of the head and neck. Police are treating her death as a homicide. There was no murder weapon found and no sign of forced entry, police said.
Author Steven Gaines, who met Stein in the early 1970s and later wrote about her in “The Sky’s the Limit: Passion and Property in Manhattan,” said news of her death stunned her close circle of friends yesterday. “We’re absolutely positive that no one who knew her … could have done this,” Gaines said. “She had no enemies of that kind.”
“I just can’t imagine this,” said Dottie Herman, a longtime friend and CEO of Prudential Douglas Elliman, where Stein maintained a high-profile client list. “This just doesn’t make sense to me.”
Police said Stein’s daughter, Mandy Stein, last saw her alive at 9 a.m. Tuesday, according to police sources, and had let herself into the apartment with a key.
Stein was born in Manhattan and was working as a teacher when she met Seymour Stein, co-founder of Sire Records, Gaines said. During their marriage in the 1970s, the company helped launch the careers of the Ramones, Talking Heads and Madonna, among others.
Stein, a quick-witted, often bawdy character, fit in well with the rock-and-roll culture, befriended several luminaries, including Elton John, who later became godfather to one of her daughters, Gaines said.
“These people liked her because she was sophisticated, bright,” said Gaines, whose chapter title “Broker to the Stars” became Stein’s moniker. “Bob Dylan used to call her on the telephone at 2 a.m. to chat, I kid you not.”
After the couple divorced, Stein managed the seminal punk rock group The Ramones and other bands before turning to real estate, where she turned her celebrity connections into clients and thrived in the competitive sales culture.
During the 1980s, Stein was profiled in magazines, and her pithy quotes popped up frequently in celebrity gossip columns. Several friends and co-workers said her sense of humor, sometimes tempestuous personality and competitive spirit served her well as an A-list saleswoman.
Stein maintained a busy work schedule in the past decade, despite twice battling breast cancer. “She didn’t let it slow her down. She had appointments today, appointments tomorrow,” Herman said. “She was tough as nails. Underneath it, she had a heart of gold.” Stein’s current listings include a $26 million property in Montauk and a $9 million estate in Siena, Italy.
“She had a huge personality, huge,” said Prudential broker Lori Barabari, who knew Stein for about six years. “She had an edge that let her be comfortable with Hollywood people, financial people, all genres of people.”
Staff Writer Rocco Parascandola and Adam Pincus contributed to this story.