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When the Landlord Is a Legend

Their getaways offer spectacular views, discreet accommodations and first-class amenities -- so stay with Sting, Mick or Francis [This article ran in V Life Oct '05.]

Mick Jagger as an industrious West Indies landlord? It’s almost as improbable a role as his sulky chief of an escort service in “The Man From Elysian Fields.”

But it’s true — the landlord part — and he’s a damn particular one at that. Jagger hired a high-end property agent, Villas of the World, to manage his home on Mustique in the West Indies; but the Rolling Stones legend vets potential renters himself by reviewing a questionnaire.

“He’s mostly concerned with the number of occupants and their professions,” says Alfredo Merat, president of Villas of the World. Presumably because it takes one to know one, Jagger “tends to shy away from people in rock and roll,” Merat says. “In fact, most (rockers) are fine, but we do have a blacklist of people from that world. On the other hand, I’ve worked with many hip-hop and rap artists, and never had any problems. They like nice things and respect property.”

Jagger has good reason to be careful. The four-bedroom beachfront property (offered at $13,000 a week), which he converted into a secluded Japanese-inspired villa screened by bamboo, is made up of six pavilions connected by a walkway leading to a pool and a croquet lawn. It comes with the use of a Jeep and a staff of six.

Even with precautions taken, sometimes there’s no avoiding trouble. Michael Rapaport entrusted his $4,000-a-month New York City brownstone on East 18th Street to acquaintance Natasha Lyonne. He was so offended by what ensued that he later published tales in Jane magazine of her latenight parties, midnight furniture moves, clogged drains and threats against a neighbor’s dog.

Still, as real estate becomes an ever more attractive investment, the trend of industryites offering their vacation homes and other getaways as private rentals — with some of their prized possessions among the amenities — is growing. And management firms specializing in these high-end properties will honor celebrity landlords’ desire for anonymity — if that’s what they ask for.

Bruce Willis offers his three-villa compound in the Caribbean’s Turks and Caicos Islands near the Parrot Cay resort for $15,000-$20,000 per night. Richard Branson’s Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands includes private beaches, freshwater pools and a staff of 18 to show you where everything is; prices begin at $20,000 a night.

Closer to home, Mel Brooks leases out his 1927 Malibu beach cottage (3,400 square feet, five bedrooms) for $55,000 per month. Pierce Brosnan’s oceanfront Malibu home, with a 120-foot pool, goes for $100,000 per month, as does Sting’s 8,000-square-foot Malibu getaway.

Sometimes the property is so exclusive, the rental price is only revealed upon application. That’s the case with Franco Zeffirelli’s villa on Italy’s winding Amalfi coast high above Positano, where the buildings cling to the steep cliff face like colorful barnacles. The five-bedroom, four-bath property is actually three separate villas connected by winding stone steps leading to a dining terrace covered in orchids and bougainvillea. But the real attraction might be the building’s history: Gregory Peck, Rudolf Nureyev, Placido Domingo and Robert De Niro are among the few who’ve been guests at the director’s outpost.

Although most tenants take more interest in amenities than in a property’s history or rarified ownership, some places do good business on the landlord’s name. Merat estimates that about 10% of the people who rent Jane Seymour’s St. Catherine’s Court Manor near Bath, England, are attracted specifically to the idea of living among her personal effects. Seymour admits to having had qualms about strangers wandering among her things. “I was very nervous about it,” she says.

“Amazingly, there’s only one thing that’s gone missing. Robbie Williams proudly announced he’d stolen something, and it turned out to be my (husband James Keach’s) hat.”

The late-Tudor manor is painstakingly restored, with 11 bedrooms, two kitchens, stained-glass windows and even a chapel, and is offered at $23,000 a week. In addition to the period furnishings, amenities include a guest membership at the nearby Beaufort Polo Club, as well as paintings by Seymour herself.

Undoubtedly, the Trump of all industry landlords is Francis Ford Coppola, whose Blancaneaux Lodge resort in Belize includes a personal family villa that sits on stilts and features soaring hardwood ceilings, an open-sided living room and a plunge pool. Coppola and his wife, Eleanor, created it in collaboration with Mexican architect Manolo Mestre. Available when the director and his family aren’t using it, the Coppola Villa is decorated with family portraits and personal artwork, including a painting by daughter Sofia.

The director rents another Belize family villa at his beachfront Turtle Inn resort. At the property, Coppola designed the bathrooms, selected the artwork and installed an espresso machine. The two-bedroom Balinese-inspired structure also has a tiled pool, sauna and Jacuzzi — and starts at $1,200 per night.

However, Coppola isn’t prepared to offer up all his hideaways. He thought about renting his Paris apartment in the Latin Quarter; when he listed the place with a rental agent a few months ago, the huge response was hampered only by the director’s reluctance to say when the property would be available. After realizing he stays there too often himself, he withdrew it altogether.

So stay with Sting, Mick or Francis — just don’t break a teacup, or you might never work in this town again. –Ellin Stein


Plus: Ramis leaves an Ojai gem, Neutra lives on in the Palisades, the Villa Capri fades away

CRYSTAL CONDOS: Michael Bay is among the initial buyers of architect Chad Oppenheim’s latest Miami residential high-rise called Element — a 56-story glass-sheathed tower along downtown Miami’s bayfront. Bay contracted to purchase one of Element’s $5-million penthouse units, a two-level affair with 5,000 square feet of living space, including four bedrooms and four baths. The entire building is designed with flow-through floor plans so that every unit has east and west views, glass terraces and movable glass-panel walls.

Oppenheim has garnered national attention for what critics say is his retooling of Miami modernism. So distinctive are his signature crystalline spires that when director Michael Mann scouted locations for Universal’s feature “Miami Vice,” he sought out the architect after seeing his Space01 and Sky Lofts condominium projects, both airy, glass-walled towers in the heart of the new Miami. Not only will Oppenheim’s buildings be featured as backdrops in the movie, but scenes were shot at the architect’s own Sunset Island home, Villa Allegra, made with walls of glass and soaring ceilings.

All told, Oppenheim has 20 different residential projects in the city, including a futuristic, glass-walled waterfront loft project called Ice that is inspired by the work of sculptor Donald Judd.

Bay will be able to move in some time in 2007 if construction stays on schedule. And he might have a familiar neighbor. The Miami Herald reported in December that Bay’s “Armageddon” producer Jerry Bruckheimer also bought into the same Oppenheim building.

OJAI OASIS: Everyone from Anthony Hopkins to writer-producer David Zucker has snatched up property in Ojai. But director Harold Ramis has put his Monterey-style retreat there on the market at $4.9 million. The adobe was designed by Wallace Neff in 1923 for glass manufacturer Edward Drummond Libby and includes a main house with a walk-in fireplace in the family room, vaulted ceilings with chiseled beams, and tiled floors.

“It is an amazing place with a tremendous history,” Ramis says.

Libby built it as an inn, but architect Austin Pierpont turned it into a residence for Alfred Lucking, Henry Ford’s lawyer, the writer-director notes.

Ramis bought the place some 20 years ago as a retreat where he and his first wife would escape for the weekend with daughter Violet. But now Ramis lives in Chicago with his second wife and family, and “we haven’t used it in a long time. We spend summers in Martha’s Vineyard, and the kids like to ski in the winter.” The seven-acre spread includes pastures and stables, a guest house and art-studio spaces. The listing agent is Larry Wilde of Coldwell Banker.

NEUTRA LAIR: A Richard Neutra home perched on a Pacific Palisades bluff has been sold to Japanese filmmaker Kiriya Kazuaki (“Cass-hern”) and his wife, pop star Utada “Hikki” Hikaru.

That bodes well for the distinct landmark, unlike many other midcentury modern structures in the area whose new owners have razed them to make room for larger homes.

Neutra designed the 2,500-square-foot home in 1956 with all of his usual trademarks: walls of glass; lightweight steel frames; and a broad, flat roof with deep overhangs that merge the indoor and outdoor spaces.

Arilla Troxell and her husband, Sidney, lived in the home until 2004, when she sold it for $2 million shortly after Sidney’s death. The new owners, Elise and Scott Hughes, hired architect David D. Montalba to remodel the structure and design a new terrace and lap pool; then they put it on the market for $4.3 million. The selling price hasn’t been disclosed.

DEMOLISHED: The Villa Capri, the Hollywood eatery once co-owned by Frank Sinatra and a frequent hangout for the crooner and his friends (particularly after post-Capitol Records recording sessions), is no more. Although the Yucca Street nightspot closed in 1982, attempts to save the building proved no match against plans to construct a 54-unit luxury condo complex called The Hollywood, designed by Stephen Kanner. –Laura Meyers

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