Ulcer City or "Contract? We don't need no stinkin' contract"

When I first entered New York City real estate it was with a fledgling Bellmarc Realty.
There was one office and a motley crew of brokers best described as the magnificent seven +, or the wild bunch depending on your point of view. Many of today's familiar names were there. Gil Neary, owner of DG Neary was one (did you know his real name is Mark, but he had to "choose" a different first name to not conflict with Marc Broxmeyer, one of the partners). Gil was a former designer, a very funny guy, and the best at helping buyers envision an apartment's potential. We had a former tennis pro, Patrick Lilly, now a star with Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy. There was Dan ("no problem") Levitan, today's Managing Director at Manhattan Mortgage. Mary Ferraro from Halstead was there. Others included a former funeral director/licensed embalmer, an actor (not so unusual these days), a horse syndicator, a disco owner who had been a millionaire and pauper many times over, a flaminco dancer, and my future business partners James Queally and John Gaw--James had owned a Charter Boat service in St. Thomas and was a licensed captain, John was an attorney...and poor Marc Broxmeyer and Neil Binder having to manage the whole lot.

But to the ulcer part: I had just gotten a great new listing on Perry Street. It was in the construction stage with the Sponsor working as owner, architect and developer (he still owns the Penthouse there). I had started to work in Murray Hill and was required to work in tandem with one of the "Greenwich Village" people to do any deals below 14th street (office policy). Alex, one of the new guys had a buyer who was interested, and when it came time to negotiate the deal we setup a buyer-seller sit-down at a local restaurant. In the course of the meal the prospective buyer and Sponsor discovered they were both Yalies, and things got quite chummy after that. They agreed on price and at the end of the meal stood up, shook hands and went their separate ways. Great. The next day we called the buyer to get his attorney's name to start generating a contract. The buyer said "What contact?". "Uh, you know, to purchase the apartment." "Guys, Bill and I shook hands, we don't need a contract." "Right" (in the Bill Cosby sense). Freaked, we called the Sponsor to tell him what this nut was saying, but his reply was "Yes, that's right, we shook hands, we don't need a contract." I tell you, as the brokers we just had to go ahead and accept this. What was really tough was this was pretty much a pre-construction deal, we were not scheduled to close for another 5 months, and that represented a lot of stomach acid for me and Alex, and there was no Nexium in those days. However, when the closing date finally arrived, both buyer and seller appeared, passed title to the apartment, and shook hands, again.