This column originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune Dec. 26, 2017
I have always taken great pride in my ability to avoid those enticing clickbait headlines at the bottom of my daily newsfeed. Perhaps that’s why I must plead ignorance when conversations begin with, “Hey, did you hear Hillary Clinton’s favorite bedtime snack is puppy innards that she roasts over an open flame and douses with Nutella? I read it online!”
Scroll to the bottom of just about any web page and you’ll find those neatly arranged photos under the banner, “Stories You Might Like,” accompanied by headlines that, admit it, you want to click. Maybe they involve your favorite celebrity, a conspiracy theory that sounds like it COULD be true, or a combination of both. Maybe, just maybe, Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt broke up because he cheated on her with an alien.
But there is one clickbait theme that I’m infatuated with, no matter how busy I am or how many deadlines I’m facing:
I’m obsessed with looking at celebrity homes.
There, I said it. Call it an addiction, a fetish or a byproduct of my voyeuristic nature. I just can’t stop visiting sites like lonny.com and gawking at the palatial residences where movie stars and rock musicians eat, sleep and poop. Yes, the master bathroom is always included in these slideshows that require multiple clicks, each one no doubt sending more information about my surfing habits to some anonymous browser plugin programmed to alert me whenever Ashton Kutcher puts one of his many lavish beachfront homes up for sale.
Sometimes the tours accompany news of a real estate killing: “Ellen Pompeo makes $80,000 profit as she sells her breathtaking mid-century Hollywood Hills property for $2.075 million just MONTHS after putting it on the market.”
Congratulations, Ellen. In case those Grey’s Anatomy residual checks ever dry up, at least you have $80K to fall back on.
Other celebrities fare less successful: “Kid Rock sells in Malibu at multi-million-dollar loss.” No word on where the Detroit rocker currently resides, but chances are when he tires of his present digs he will text Pompeo for advice before pounding a “For Sale” sign in his front yard.
Hours spent ogling at homes of the rich and famous lead me to conclude that all celebrity pads must contain at least three of the following five features:
1. A wine cellar
2. A dining room table long enough to seat more people than I’ve ever met in my life
3. A gym. (Even Kid Rock’s loser property had one. One glance at Kid Rock was all the buyer needed to realize the gym was rarely, if ever, utilized.)
4. An infinity pool
5. A koi pond. (Count New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his wife Gisele Bundchen among celebs obsessed with the oversized goldfish.)
I’ve spent numerous hours, over a six-year period, perusing the interior of Michael Jordan’s Highland Park, Ill., home. The basketball legend’s compound, a term only given to celebrity dwellings, has been reduced in price so many times I expect to soon see it on eBay. Listed in 2012 for $29 million, it can now be snatched up for a mere $14.8 million. And, yet, still no takers, despite the property’s nine bathrooms, humidor and regulation-sized indoor basketball court.
I now know that Taylor Swift’s Tribeca hallway contains a bench and an oriental rug; one needs ladders to reach some of the books in Angelina Jolie’s library; Justin Bieber’s garage holds five cars; and, from the exterior, Leonardo DiCaprio’s California ranch house looks almost affordable. Until one sees the breakfast nook.
One of my 2018 resolutions is to spend less time fantasizing about living where the stars live, and more time writing. When I need a break, I vow to leave my office and take a brisk walk around my own house.
And if the economy continues to grow, who knows? Perhaps I can stock my spare bathtub with koi.