Rent Out Their Digs; Rolling Stone Gathers $15K for a Week at
The Wall Street Journal,
for a special place to unwind with friends recently, Joy Evans
chose to rent a private villa in Acapulco, Mexico. But it
wasnt just the stunning view of the bay or the opulent
décor that lured her. It was the homes owner:
singer Julio Iglesias.
the celebrity treatment youre buying," says Ms.
Evans, a marketing director from Chappaqua, N.Y., who chose
the home because she assumed the staff would be top-notch.
The highlights: a bartender, who manned a thatched-roof bar
in the middle of the pool and a team of masseuses who came
the Lincoln Bedroom. These days, more celebrities than ever
rent their homes to strangers. Upscale-vacation planners say
there has been about a 50% jump in this part of their business
in the past two years. Virgin Group Ltd. Chairman Richard
Bransons private island, for example, is booked more
than a year in advance, as are Mick Jaggers and Princess
Margarets homes on the Caribbean island of Mustique.
all, nothing confers bragging rights like sleeping in a movie
stars bed or romping in a rock stars Jacuzzi-even
if the owner is nowhere in sight.
of this comes cheap. Rocker Mr. Jagger commands $15,000 a
week for his six-bedroom villa. Actress Jane Seymour gets
$21,000 for seven days in her 14th century castle
near Bath, England. Elvis Presley, nearly a quarter century
after his death, fetches $ 6,000 a week for the Palm Springs,
Calif., home where he proposed to Priscilla. And that doesnt
even include security deposits, which run as high as 20% of
why are celebrities-many of them increasingly protective of
their privacy- so quick to open their doors to anyone who
can meet their asking price? Some are discreetly trying to
sell their homes by offering the buyer of the real estates
equivalent of a test drive. Others are trying to raise money
for a pet charity, bring in some extra cash or keep their
staff occupied and well tipped.
Duke of Devonshire cant walk all 60-plus rooms of his
manor everyday," say Gregory Patrick, owner of Tours
of Enchantment in Houston. "So although he doesnt
need the money, it helps to have the toilets flushed."
The leasing of celebrity homes almost always is handled by
management companies so guests rarely have contact with their
famed landlords. Tenants who try to initiate communication-
say by leaving behind a demo tape or a phone number- are usually
foiled when housekeepers throw them away.
Arnold Chiet of Bethesda, Md. He spent a week at the Mustique
home of Lord Litchfield, Queen Elizabeths cousin, and
was tickled to find a telephone directory that included numbers
for David Bowie, Tommy Hilfiger and Princess Margaret. Although
he says he "never dreamed of dialing any of the numbers,"
he did talk the staff into giving him a tour of Princess Margarets
house next door, which was empty at the time.
fun," says Mr. Chiet, a retired vice president and general
tax counsel for Lockheed Martin. "You think, Gee,
she could have been queen of England, and Im standing
in her bathroom," he adds.
the Celebrity Treatment
simply revel in the chance to live like a celebrity, with
amenities such as security guards, butlers, chauffeurs, chefs,
and masseuses. Tom Blumberg spent $100,000 to take his family
to Necker, Mr. Bransons private island in the Caribbean.
The price included a staff of 31, three villas and two beaches
complete with electric coolers stocked with champagne.
to mention cachet, "If youre a businessman, youd
like to think of yourself as good leader, with verve and flair,
ready to take on great companies," says Mr. Blumberg.
Living in such a place, even for a week, "lets you think
of yourself as a Branson kind of guy."
be sure, the custom of staying in the well-appointed homes
of famous people isnt new. In the mid-18th
century the French aristocracy maintained huge country estates,
with thousands of acres and hundreds of servants. Yet, they
were rarely used by their owners, who instead loaned them
out to other gentry.
agent Mr. Patrick says a guest who rented country and western
singer Randy Traviss home on the Hawaiian island of
Maui asked the female chef to work naked. She quit on the
owners arent always flawless hosts. For example, some
travel agents say some celebrities string clients along for
months before telling them exactly which week they will allow
them to book. "Celebrities can be just a little more,
shall we say, star like," says Wendy Wachtel, a vacation
planner in Sag Harbor, N.Y.
can lead to perhaps the ultimate thrill of renting a celebrity
home: outclassing the stars. Explains Mr. Chiet, who leased
a house on Barbados where the rock star Sting had stayed:
"The butler said hed rather work for me."
from the Stars
Below are some celebrity retreats that are available for
use by the rest of us.
Who: Ian Fleming, author of James Bond novels
What: 17-acre retreat with five private villas
Cost: $35,000 a week
Who: Elvis Presley
What: Three bedroom, mountainside estate
Where: Palm Springs, Calif.
Cost: $5,000 a week
Who: Julio Iglesias
What: Cliffside estate with view of Acapulco Bay
Where: Acapulco, Mexico
Cost: $25,000 a week
Who: Mick Jagger
What: Six bedroom villa with Japanese pavilions
Where: Mustique Island in the Caribbean
Cost: $15,000 a week
Who: Jane Seymour
What: Castle on 14 acres with stables and church
Where: Outside Bath, England
Cost: $21,000 a week
Tours of Enchantment at