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The apartment block where you can’t say hello

Khashoggi in 1990: Rolexes for guests. Michael Brennan/Getty

The Olympic Tower is “obsessed with anonymity”, says Matthew Sedacca in Curbed. The 51-storey skyscraper on New York’s Fifth Avenue has an “unspoken building-wide arrangement” under which residents don’t say so much as hello in the lift. And it had no apartment numbers for almost half a century, until 2017, when complaints from the fire department led to “minuscule plaques” being added at the bottom of each door.

Some residents think the original policy was to appease Adnan Khashoggi, a billionaire Saudi arms dealer who was one of the building’s first buyers ­­– and “rumoured to be paranoid about assassination attempts”. Khashoggi’s two floors, purchased in 1974 for $3m, included an indoor swimming pool, sauna and ballroom. He would throw parties where Rolexes would reportedly be doled out to guests of honour, “and everyone would drink until heading over to Studio 54”.

Khashoggi, who died in 2017, wasn’t the tower’s only notable resident. Anne Hathaway, Roger Waters and Nicolas Cage are among those who have called the tower home over the years, along with various nobles and Gulf princes. One 43rd-floor flat was home to (at least part of) Imelda Marcos’s infamous shoe collection. The wardrobes “were the size of people’s family homes”, says a former neighbour. “All motorised.”