Reel Estate

Reel Estate: Running a phone sex operation out of grandma's Gramercy prewar

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When a movie or TV show is set in New York City—and if the people making it are savvy—real estate becomes part of the story itself. In Reel Estate, we look at some of the more memorable domiciles to grace the screen.

What would you do for a spot in a huge prewar apartment right off Gramercy Park? Well, maybe don't answer that yet. But if you're strapped for cash, it might be worth taking a little inspiration from For A Good Time, Call..., in which two penniless roommates start a lucrative phone sex hotline to make rent. We've heard of stranger solutions. 

At the outset, Lauren (Lauren Miller) and Katie (Ari Graynor) are mortal enemies, Katie having accidentally doused Lauren in a cup of her own urine back in college. Still, a mutual friend points out that they both need roommates: Lauren's been kicked out of the apartment she shares with her boyfriend, and Katie has just been told that her place—a rent-controlled Gramercy stunner that belonged to her grandmother—is going market-rate. A broker busts in unannounced to show the place to prospective new tenants, and tells her, "I told you 60 days ago that this unit was no longer going to be rent controlled as of June 1. You've got four days, and if you can’t pay, find somewhere else. Or get a damn roommate.” (Unclear how that could happen since she'd been living there for five years and it's a major undertaking to get an apartment out of rent control, but no one asked us.)

Shaky legal premise notwithstanding, you can see why they'd put aside their differences to move in together:

(Photos via ApnaTimePass and VeryAware)

That galley kitchen! That mantel! Those high ceilings sturdy enough to support a stripper pole! "The whole point of the story is that the apartment has to be worth living with your enemy for," explained Miller, who also cowrote the film, when it was released in 2012. "If Katie was living in a shithole in Brooklyn, Lauren would have found another roommate. I don’t know if Katie would have stayed in the apartment had it been a shithole in Brooklyn."

While Lauren gets rejected from her dream job in publishing, Katie is hustling several side gigs to make ends meet, one of which is working as a phone sex operator. Inevitably, Lauren overhears her, and points out how to streamline the operation. The two end up starting their own phone sex company, headquartered in their giant apartment. (The thick, prewar walls are the unsung heroes of the story.)


While most of the movie was shot in LA on a shoestring budget, as OnTheSetOfNewYork points out, the girls' apartment is at 131 East 19th Street between Irving Place and Third Avenue. The real-life building is a 1930 co-op with just five apartments, where there are no rentals available, and a two-bedroom like Lauren and Katie's recently sold for $1.625 million. At one point in the movie, the girls are making $4,000 a week with their business, meaning that it'd take them a little under two years to save up for a 20 percent down payment. No judgments here if you rush out to buy a landline (and soundproof your walls).


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