As one of the high-end realtors on Million Dollar Listing New York (Wednesday, 10/9c, Bravo), Michael Lorber has the keys to Manhattan's kingdom. But he's not some buttoned-down bore who's all about the art of the sale. In fact, this guy is well aware that where one is living is just as important as the act of giving.
TV Guide Magazine: How did you get into the world of reality TV?
Michael Lorber: I was a fan of the L.A. version of Million Dollar Listing — that's actually the only reality show I watched — and then saw that they were casting for a New York version of the show. So I applied and went through the awful, awful long, grueling process of "film this" and "say that," and they finally narrowed it down to the three of us.
TV Guide Magazine: Were you aware of Ryan Serhant and Fredrik Eklund, your costars on the show?
Lorber: It's a huge industry, but everyone knows each other, so it's small in that respect. My firm alone has 4,000 realtors. But I had never actually met the other two guys on the show. Fredrik, I just got to know because he'd started working for my firm when we started filming. There are so many niches in the New York City real-estate market. Uptown, downtown, Brooklyn, Queens, condos, townhouses...you can be a very successful broker and not know some of your competition.
TV Guide Magazine: What's your take on these guys then?
Lorber: They're hard-working, competitive brokers, you know? I don't agree with everything they do, but they're not my children, so I can't scold them.
TV Guide Magazine: Were you aware of Frederik's previous career in gay porn?
Lorber: When I heard he was cast, of course, I Googled him and found out. And you know, I can't say I approve of or understand why he did it. I've never seen his actual 'work.' Actually, between him and Ryan [a former soap actor], I'm the only one without acting experience. [Laughs]
TV Guide Magazine: And since you work for your father, what did he think of you bringing his company into the world of TV?
Lorber: Oh, my father was against the show from the start. [Laughs] He was always saying "Why would you want to do this?" and "No good can come of this." I convinced him [that] this was an hour-long infomercial on prime time television about our business and the firm. You can't buy that kind of advertising! And also, my dad was also a judge on The Apprentice Season 3, so it was like "You're in no position to keep me from doing it." You'll actually see a lot of him...he's kind of like a member of the cast. You know how the L.A. version has the guy and his grandmother? This one has me and my dad. But he's also my boss, so it's a complicated dynamic.
TV Guide Magazine: How do you think the show does, capturing this industry?
Lorber: You have to remember that it's reality TV. The idea of the show is to film us getting the listings, showing them, selling them and the closing. If they actually filmed the reality, nobody would watch this show. We'd have four-hour shows about awful closes...
TV Guide Magazine: It would be a mini-series about paperwork.
Lorber: Exactly! [Laughs] We kill a tree every time we sell an apartment once all the paperwork is done.
TV Guide Magazine: The fun part is watching you guys show the properties.
Lorber: I always say, being a real-estate broker, you're part banker, a lawyer, an architect, a designer and therapist. That's the drama of it. You have all of these wacky clients and wacky properties. And New York is so different from L.A., where you have those glamorous houses and palm trees. It's difficult filming in New York, but that's where the most exciting real estate is. And most people will never get to see it because it's inside the buildings...and that is why people tune in. We're taking you inside those buildings and behind the closed doors.
TV Guide Magazine: Don't you get some sort of property envy when you're showing great places to clients?
Lorber: [Laughs] Its funny, every time I see a new apartment, the first thing I think of, even before I show it to a client and I know this is selfish, is "Wow, what would I do if I lived here?" Or "where would I put that couch I have?" You have to think of your client first, but it's hard to distinguish the two!
TV Guide Magazine: Do you have a favorite neighborhood?
Lorber: God, that's like picking your favorite child. I'm a classic guy, I don't go for the trends and such, so I would say the Upper East Side to me is the quintessential perfect New York neighborhood.
TV Guide Magazine: But you're calling me from Florida now, so what are you doing away from New York?
Lorber: I'm down here doing a luncheon for Mass General Hospital's Cancer Center, which I'm on the board of. So it's like 30, no 40 people at Donald Trump's house down here...just to tell people about the advances we're making with research and how well we're doing. I do a lot of charitable work around Boston, New York and Florida. It's really important to me and something my peers don't do. It's a terrible thing that young people don't give back as much as they can.
TV Guide Magazine: Especially the ones with the financial means.
Lorber: Right! If you don't have the time, write a check. I went to a small college in Boston and a small portion of the alumni gives back. There's no reason why every alumni can't give back.
TV Guide Magazine: Since you mentioned Trump, I assume you're close with him?
Lorber: Yeah, he's one of my dad's best friends and I started my career working for him. He gave me my first job in the business when I was still in college.
TV Guide Magazine: You know, most guys deliver pizza in college...
Lorber: [Laughs] I know. But they probably made more money than I did working for Trump. It was an unpaid internship. But the experience? He's my role model. You can say what you want about him, but he knows how to build, manage and sell the best buildings. What other realtors are rock stars? His name became a brand. It's amazing.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you have aspirations to be the next Trump?
Lorber: Who doesn't? I don't think I could pull it off as well as he has. He's brilliant. He's tall, he's got the beautiful wife and family. I don't have that...yet. [Laughs]