The calls went out Wednesday morning that Linda Stein, a fixture on the New York music scene for three decades, had died on Tuesday night in her apartment of either a heart attack or a stroke. She was 62 and had battled cancer bravely, like she’d battled just about everything and everyone: with wit and humor.
Really, all over the city people with long memories of the old work of rock 'n' roll in New York were crying. At least, we said, she died quickly.
Her ex-husband, Seymour Stein, the founder of Sire Records, got the news as he was coming out of a performance of the new Broadway play "The Farnsworth Invention." He and Linda had two daughters and a grandchild. They’d fought their divorce, but they were still friends. Whenever you saw one, you always asked about the other. It was second nature.
Then came the very bizarre news that Linda had been murdered. She was found in her Fifth Avenue apartment, lying face down in a pool of blood. She’d been bludgeoned to death.
It doesn't make sense. Linda Stein couldn’t have been more than 5 feet tall on a good day. She had a gravelly voice, but she also had a wide smile and a hearty laugh. She really loved life. No one would want to kill Linda Stein.
If you saw the movie "Wall Street," then you know that Oscar-nominee Sylvia Miles used Linda as an inspiration for her realtor character, the one who sells Charlie Sheen his penthouse.
Stein already was very famous by 1987 for selling every rock star and newly minted celebrity luxury digs. She sold Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley their apartment on Central Park West, then re-sold it to Sting and Trudie Styler. Up until last week, she was selling the same magnificent duplex again, on the market for $24 million. She was the only realtor to whom that kind of person went.
Linda reinvented herself after divorce. It made sense. She’d risen up through the punk era by Seymour’s side with the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, the Talking Heads, Madonna and the Pretenders. That would make anyone tough.
For a while, she even managed the Ramones. I didn’t know her well then, so it’s hard to imagine someone so tiny dealing with the original American punk rock band. But it was Linda who was with them when the Ramones sang "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker." She was Sheena.
There is no music memoir from the late '70s and early '80s without some mention of Linda. There are six mentions of her in "The Andy Warhol Diaries." She was quite literally at the center of his action-packed celebrity world.
The first entry is about a party she threw for her friend Joan Hyler, a famous agent. The next one was for a party to celebrate Elton John, her close friend. Here’s a typical one:
"Sat with Linda Stein and she talked about trying to sell Stallone a house. He called her from his plane said, 'Linda? Sly. Just one thing before talk at length later. If Elvis were alive would he live in an apartment or a house?'"
Soon we’re going to find out what happened in Linda’s apartment on Tuesday evening. The building is filled with cameras and security.
Who would want to kill Linda Stein? The odds are it was someone she knew or someone who was sent by someone she knew, saw her lifestyle, and panicked.
Like most everyone from the great era of rock 'n' roll, and someone who had cancer on top of that, Linda liked to smoke a little pot. The delivery men are not exactly background checked. Maybe Linda argued with one of them. Maybe she didn’t realize it wasn’t Joey Ramone this time.
For the moment, it’s all speculation. But someone is going to pay for taking a vibrant friend from our midst.
Seymour Stein told me Wednesday, "Our marriage was like a rollercoaster. Only a good one, like the Cyclone at Coney Island." It was a paraphrase of an old quote.
You can read a great piece about Linda by Michael Gross in 1991 in New York magazine at www.mgross.com. He really captured her at the height of her success, at the point when her two successful worlds had merged and everyone knew Linda Stein.
She was one of New York’s living landmarks, and like all of the others we’ve lost this year —Beverly Sills, CBGB’s Hilly Kristal, Kurt Vonnegut, et al — she will be sorely missed.
I’ve seen a lot of reports about who was where on Tuesday night in the A-list celebrity world.
If it matters, yours truly happened to dine at The Waverly Inn that very evening. Yes, Sting and actor Stephen Fry were chowing with friends at a large banquette. They’d been doing some filming earlier that day with British director J.P. Davidson for a five-hour BBC documentary on our 50 states.
Across the room, director Mike Binder and actor Owen Wilson also were out with friends. Binder and Wilson are working on a screenplay for a top-secret comedy. Wilson looked terrific, no sign of his recent problems.
And close by, yes, Lance Armstrong, 36, was with Ashley Olsen, 21. They were just eating. Fashion designer John Galliano was holding court at yet another table.
And so on. I also ran into the great New York actor Giancarlo Esposito. It was just another night at the Waverly. It’s hard to remember when this 76-year-old Village institution was just a place for cozy Sunday suppers.
And here’s something I didn’t know until recently: In 1937, a Vanity Fair secretary married the son of the owner, and the couple took over the restaurant. As you may know, the current editor in chief of Vanity Fair, Graydon Carter, bought the Waverly last year. Talk about historical synchronicity!
And, yes, Lenny Kravitz and "Sex and the City" star Jason Lewis were among those who stopped by Sting’s dressing room last night for the Police’s sold-out-to-the-rafters Halloween show at Madison Square Garden. (There’s a second show Friday night and one on Saturday at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.)
The group introduced a new version of a great Police song, "Hole in My Life," to the already hit-packed set and was greeted with approval by 19,000 screaming fans.
Sting, by the way, came through with the threat he made to Meredith Vieira Tuesday morning when he was on the "Today" show promoting his just-published book of lyrics. He told Meredith he’d suit up for Halloween in tights and a codpiece.
Indeed, his clever costume was a black-and-yellow-checkered Harlequin outfit complete with a jester’s cap adorned by chiming metal balls and the aforementioned genital protector (no jokes, please). Andy Summers turned himself into Charlie Chaplin and Stewart Copeland was a futuristic space hero.
Later, Sting kept his costume on for an outing to Amy Sacco’s Bungalow 8, joined by wife, Trudie Styler, as the sexiest Catwoman this side of Julie Newmar. (She even sported a long red wig!)
When the whole group moved down to the very decadent Box on Chrystie Street, the couple stayed in costume complete with masks. No one knew who they were, which was just the way they wanted it, and the couple danced the night away without giving a single autograph or answering one question about "Roxanne." Bliss!