The Rental Market

Celebs, they're just like us: They've lived in crappy NYC apartments and had roommates

By Karen Ruttner | May 22, 2015 - 8:59AM

New York is a tough place to live. Just ask—anybody. Even famous people. Having a less-than-ideal living space is a rite of passage for those interested in becoming a  "true New Yorker." From too many roommates to landlords who charge per droplet of water, origin stories— in other words, how you moved to NYC and survived those lean years—always satisfy. 



Maggie Gyllenhaal, who recently revealed she's been rejected for the role of a love interest for a 55-year-old (oh, Hollywood!), has a story in the book My First New York: Early Adventures in the Big City that will ring familiar to many folks who chose NYC for college. She spent her first couple of years living in the Columbia dorms, splitting time between there and her boyfriend’s place. The boyfriend lived on Ludlow Street on the Lower East Side and had a “teeny-tiny” apartment... with a roommate. “They had built bunk beds,” Maggie says, “and I would sleep over. The roommate would still be there, but we figured it out, like you do when you’re that age. We would use the Pink Pony [now closed] like it was our kitchen and living room. I felt it was such a great way to live. I don’t know how I’d manage that now.” Only one way to find out, Maggie, and the good news is — this time around you can probably have artisanal gelato for breakfast.



The late Nora Ephron — the consummate New Yorker — and a friend from college moved into an apartment at 110 Sullivan Street in 1962, according to the Huffington Post. Back then, the neighborhood was far from chic. “The rent was $160 a month, with the first two months free. The real estate broker assured us that the south Village was a coming neighborhood, on the the verge of being red-hot. This turned out not to be true for at least twenty years, by which time the area was called SoHo, and I was long gone," she wrote in her book "I Remember Nothing."



After graduating from NYU, Glass moved into a cheap apartment on Rivington and Allen on the Lower East Side. Gentrification hadn’t kicked in, and Glass recalls in My First New York: Early, “I would get out of the subway on Houston Street at night, and there’d be drug dealers and prostitutes and crack vials on the streets, and I always had to make the decision, Should I run? And I thought, well, that’s just going to look so uncool. But often I would run.” This NYC life, indeed.


Like many others before and after her, Schumer chose to move to NYC after graduating from college. And like many others before and after her, she found her first apartment on Craigslist, she once told us. In 2003, her studio in Chinatown cost a then-steep $1,275, so she got a roommate. In a studio. Said roommate was willing to split the rent for the privilege of sleeping on a loft bed, and needless to say, their social life was essentially dead on arrival. That is, until the infamous 2003 blackout. Schumer ended up spending that night with her ex-boyfriend in his decidedly swisher Murray Hill two-bedroom (he too had a roommate though, duh) — and ultimately moved in there. The things people will do for more space in Manhattan.



Long before playing Detective Jake Peralta on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Samberg and three of his friends from summer camp were sharing a two-bedroom apartment in the Village — on Bleecker and Macdougal, reports PageSix.They sectioned off four sleeping areas using curtains, but the ensuing lack of privacy turned out to be only one of their myriad problems. “We were all really broke, and those dudes were out of control,” he says. (Sure, Andy, I’m sure it was only those dudes, you angel.) “There was no one in the house that did any cleaning, so by halfway through the year there were rats and mice everywhere. At first I was really grossed out by it, but by summertime, I remember lying on my couch watching TV with a water gun, and every time a mouse would run out from behind the TV, I would just spray it.... It’s interesting how much you can adapt to when you don’t have the means to fix it.”

• And before they were stars, they were roommates


                                                                                                                                                                                   Heavy San

Cine Fanatico

Perhaps the biggest sign that celebrities weren't always as rich as they are now: They were roommates. According to the Daily NewsMichael Douglas and Danny DeVito (a seemingly unlikely pair) shared a one-room apartment on West 89th Street in the 1960s. Rather than taking the Maggie Gyllenhaal route of, erm —communal understanding? —Danny and Michael had a more traditional plan for successful co-habitation. “Danny was already spending time with [future wife] Rhea [Perlman],” Douglas recalls. “Me? Well, it was a magical time. You put a sock on the door.”



Chace Crawford and Ed Westwick rooming together makes more sense, given they were both on the same show. The Gossip Girl co-stars shared an apartment when the series began taping in New York. “Initially Ed and I became roommates because we didn’t know if the show was going to last or not,” Crawford said to Interview magazine. “Ed had never lived away from home, let alone in a different country. We got along and figured it would be a smart move financially. And really, it was also just kind of out of laziness.” Heartthrobs, they’re just like us! 


When Dustin Hoffman moved to New York in 1958, he had $50 in his pocket and spent his first three weeks in the city sleeping on the floor of Gene Hackman’s kitchen, says Vanity Fair magazine. Think about that the next time you bemoan a friend’s lumpy futon.


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