Bottom, right: Duplex penthouse with 16-foot-high brick ceilings in New York City's NoHo neighborhood. Listed at $23 million.

For those on the outside of this exclusive world looking in, there's always television. As brokers become boldface names in their own right, reality TV has hitched its star to them. Perhaps the biggest—and most outlandish—example is 36-year-old Fredrik Eklund, the perma-tanned Swedish star of Bravo's Million Dollar Listing New York. Eklund, whose on-air persona can be manipulative, bitchy, and cruel (he once doused another broker with a glass of green tea), says he's using the fame game to augment his bottom line: $220 million in sales last year. Mention Eklund's name to other brokers and it becomes clear that he's a polarizing figure. It's either all praise: "Fredrik is one of the few guys who has built a machine," Orrigo says. "He's huge." Or it's an eye roll and a head shake followed by a telling silence that can be read as: I have things to say about that guy, but I can't. That is, they can't afford to. "The only way to make top money is to be in new development," Eklund says. "Not selling one unit but selling all of them." He should know: He's sold out 23 buildings in Manhattan with partner John Gomes and landed exclusive sales and marketing rights for 16 others, including top downtown loft conversions like the Schumacher and 111 Mercer, both of which feature eight-figure penthouses. Eklund's will to real-estate power dovetails nicely with his hunger for the spotlight. "If I get even one call a year to do a building because of the show," he says, "it's a big deal—it's millions."

Even the Alexander brothers are exploring television, albeit in a gray-flannel way that would target the titans of industry, not the housewives of New Jersey. Tal describes their strategy, based on a pitch he recently received from a producer, by invoking the four most boring letters known to man: CNBC. "We'd be on in every office on Wall Street," he says effusively, "every place in finance, all of the hedge funds." The Alexanders see it as a novel form of direct marketing to the excessively moneyed. In the meantime, their social lives—and social-media personae—are anything but buttoned-up. Oren recently Instagrammed a picture of himself posing with the artist Takashi Murakami. In another one, he's standing in a Kiton suit atop the Opus, the most expensive residential development in Hong Kong. Hashtag: #TakeOver.

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"There's a lot of ego in this business," says Marcos Cohen, speaking in Portuguese-accented English. "I don't have ego." Instead of jet-setting, screen-testing, and publicly advocating for his own awesomeness, this 48-year-old broker from Rio de Janeiro—who arrived in the U.S. in 1987 and worked as a clerk at an electronics store—attends to his clients in the manner of a white-gloved majordomo whose household happens to be that of the global rich. Impeccably dressed (Gucci blazer, custom buttons), Cohen has the kind of old-world manners that seem elegant to the point of myth. His signature touches include sending flowers arranged by Madonna's florist, celebrating closings at new but refined New York eateries like the NoMad, and writing a monthly newsletter (in Portuguese) that's full of reports on market trends, as well as listings of new art exhibitions and restaurant openings, for his 5,000 most important potential buyers. "It makes them not forget me," Cohen says.

His South American roots also helped: Cohen tapped his growing client base of wealthy Brazilians to become Douglas Elliman's top individual Manhattan broker (out of 4,000) in 2012. True to form, Cohen refuses to reveal his sales haul. "This year is going as well as last year," he says, adding that it could be even better, except "I'm having a big problem with the lack of inventory. It's frustrating."

Left: Midtown Manhattan duplex with 4,100 square feet and 51st-floor views of Central Park. Sold for $14 million.