Max and Naomi Birnbach: Wonderful

Max and Naomi Birnchach were an exceptional couple—very sophisticated, very knowledgeable, a lot of fun to be with, and everyone wanted to be with them.


     Max and Naomi Birnchach were an exceptional couple—very sophisticated, very knowledgeable, a lot of fun to be with, and everyone wanted to be with them.

     I believe that Max is from Austria—he spoke with the most elegant accent. 

     But there was more than that to the magic of Max. It was the way he held himself, the way he talked with and listened to others—and it was the business he was in that made him so well-known and well-respected all over the world.

     Max dealt with important diamonds. Importantdiamonds.

     Before you could even consider buying from Max, he’d have to know you, and everything there was to know about you. Where you came from, what you did, where your money came from, what you planned to do with the diamonds, everything.

     And that helped to develop our friendship.

     I recommended a few people to Max who I knew would meet his criteria for a client. I’m sure they were all happy with their purchases, but I never found out any of the details of what happened after I recommended them—Max was very discreet about the people he did business with, and so were the people who did business with Max.

     Naomi was a New York City girl. She was so fabulous! She was in the social end of New York, involved with the hospitality of having guests and friends in all the time.

     Their daughter Lisa became very well-known as well. She wrote The Preppy Handbook, which was one of the great book successes of its time, spending an astonishing 38 weeks as the Number One New York Times Bestseller in 1980.

     We had so many good times with Max and Naomi in Bedford, but one of the good times I remember with them took place in Palm Beach.

     Joe and I often got away for a while in the winter, and we often went to Palm Beach and stayed at The Breakers.

     Just going for breakfast in the morning at The Breakers was a delight, for me at least. Breakfast was in a magnificent dining room where the men had to wear jackets and the women had to be properly dressed. No blue jeans or shorts of course.

     I didn’t mind this, but Joe was never fond of the dress requirements. He was always ready to go and play golf after breakfast, and you couldn’t wear golf clothes into the dining room at The Breakers. So he would have to go back to our room and change before he could play.

     Eventually men were allowed to wear sweaters into the dining room, and that was a little better.

     From breakfast people used to venture into the hotel’s magnificent loggia. It must have been a hundred feet long—it was like a four-lane highway! People could come and go. There was comfortable seating and striking furniture from the past, tall chairs and beautiful rugs, and waiters constantly circulating and trying to keep you happy.

     The reason most people were there in those days was to meet other people and chat and sit and read the Sunday New York Times. Very often you would run into someone you knew, or you could talk to someone you wanted to know.

     I was there one morning with the Sunday Times, and I was looking for my ad in the magazine’s real estate section.

     From behind me as I looked through the magazine, I could hear the familiar, unmistakable voice of Max Birnbach. He was talking with another gentleman and the conversation went on for a long time. I wasn’t eavesdropping or listening in—not at all: I just recognized Max’s elegantly accented voice and his conversational manner.

     Finally, I stood up and turned around.

     And of course, Max recognized me as soon as he saw me.

     It was so much fun to meet someone you knew in that beautiful foyer of The Breakers hotel. In those days, everybodywent there. The accommodations were beautiful, and they still are.

     I remember that when Joe and I would go there and have dinner, the hotel would bring in dancers to get people onto the dance floor with its live band.

     Joe and I used to laugh and laugh when one of these dancers would approach a woman whose husband didn’twant to dance, and taker her out onto the floor. Now, she might not have been the most wonderful dancer, but there was no question that she was having the time of her life. And of course, some of those women never did make back to their table!

     I remember also that at one period instead of alcohol, there was cranberry juice on every table, served in champagne glasses. The Breakers was a sort of health spa as well as a resort.

     The hotel was in town, so golfers had to be careful they didn’t hit the ball too hard—or it might end up in the Post Office building!

     The hotel itself had all the shops you could ever want or need for women’s clothes, for men’s clothes, for jewelry or cosmetics. It had a spa that is probably still rated number one today.

     I used to think every year that when I went back to The Breakers I would look forward to seeing someone I knew. But I was reallylooking forward to seeing Max and Naomi—as wonderful to be with in Palm Beach as in their marvelous Tudor on Springhurst Street.

     They lived in that house for many years, but one day they started to look for a different style of a house, a house better suited to them as they got older.

     I lovedadvertising their house, and did so as often as I could, because they picture of it was just so captivating.  No matter when I advertised it or what price it was, I always got such a great response, not only from people here, but from people all over the world. It was that attractive a Tudor, with beautiful terraces and a swimming pool and garages. It was up a long driveway with a caretaker’s cottage at the beginning of the driveway, which could be used for security or as a guest house.

     All the people who ever lived there were happy people, with happy memories. And it’s still going on today. The family that lives there today expanded it a little, put in a new kitchen and other improvements. But it’s still that beautiful Tudor up on the hill on Springhurst Street.

     Speaking of happy people and that Tudor, Max Birnbach old the house to Jeffrey Steiner, and that’sa happy story in itself, and one which I’ll tell you next.

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