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They've Gotta Have It

You've watched the outrageous rich-girl antics of Paris Hilton (search) and maybe even read "Bergdorf Blondes." Now comes a new glimpse at the spectacular wealth of the Upper East Side — from a black perspective.

In the new novel "Gotham Diaries," Tonya Lewis Lee (search) and Crystal McCrary Anthony (search) celebrate and skewer a life of wealth and privilege among the city's African-American elite they've seen first-hand — as the wives, respectively, of director Spike Lee and former NBA star Greg Anthony.

Beautiful Lauren is on the rise, nasty socialite Tandy is going down, and small-town Manny tries to make good in this shrewd look at the black tycoons of business and their charity-board obsessed wives.

In this African-American, married-with-money version of "Sex and the City" (search), new rapper money clashes with more refined manners. Breathtaking penthouses tower over Central Park. Flashbulbs pop at galas, and elegantly manicured claws are on permanent extension.

One wrong move can lead to exile from the exclusive set that revolves around Westchester golf clubs, Upper East Side parties and posh restaurants like Bilbouquet.

"It really is a cautionary tale of coming to New York City and getting chewed up and spit out - and the danger of believing the hype that NewYork City will feed one," Anthony said the other morning over coffee and bagels in her Upper East Side kitchen.

Her elegant apartment, just off Madison Avenue, is laced with orchids, white roses and original works by Robert Mapplethorpe and Diego Rivera. In short, it's the kind of home one of her characters might inhabit.

Obviously, she and Lee know a thing or two about this life. Both are lawyers and authors, and Lee is married to one of the most famous filmmakers in the world. Anthony's husband (they're separated) is a former Knick and a TV baketball commentator. Both women are avid patrons of African-American arts.

In the world they've created in "Gotham Diaries," the African-American rich seem no different from their "Bergdorf Blonde" counterparts — the women quick to rip someone wearing the wrong designer gown to the big charity event of the year. Only in this case, the charities of choice aren't the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Metropolitan Opera, but the Studio Museum of Harlem and the Dance Theater of Harlem.

All that's missing in "Gotham Diaries" are the real-life boldface names. Both in the book and in person, Lee and Anthony avoid naming any prominent rappers, basketball players or business tycoons who might have inspired their characters, who frequent the upper crust of black society.

Nary a P. Diddy, Russell Simmons or Kimora Lee Simmons crossed their lips — and a reader can only speculate on whether the flamboyant rapper couple greeted with such distaste by the other characters was based on anyone in real life.

The one exception, they say, is Manny, the Alabama boy who's based on an actual friend and real-estate broker of both writers. Manny comes to New York with nothing, and rises by cultivating rich and powerful women.

The real-life Manny is "just this larger-than-life person who taught me a lot about New York City," said Anthony, a Detroit native who moved here a decade ago as a young law student in love with a Knick.

"Real-estate brokers know a lot about people," Anthony says. "They even know where you keep your toothbrush."

Their heroine, Lauren, is a beautiful young trophy wife who married her billionaire for love and not money, and has no interest in claiming her rightful place at the helm of black society.

Then there's evil-bitch Tandy, a used-up social queen who's jealous of Lauren's marriage, and can't believe Lauren doesn't want to spend her husband's treasure chest conquering New York society.

It's real estate that brings the main characters together, and real estate that destroys them.

"Chick lit" might be all about power, greed, lust and husband-stealing, but add the temptation of below-market property to the mix, and — whether your protagonists are black or white — you've got trouble.

And a real New York story.

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