SELLER: Uri Geller
LOCATION: Sonning-on-Thames, Berkshire, U.K.
SIZE: 12,000 square feet,
YOUR MAMA’S NOTES: World renown telekinetic spoon bender Uri Geller has not so quietly hoisted his multi-acre estate in the U.K., about 45 miles due west of Buckingham Palace in the decidedly sleepy, verdantly scenic, and increasingly celebrified village of Sonning-on-Thames, up for sale with an asking price of £15 million, an amount our handy-dandy currency conversion contraption shows equals $22,817,400, at today’s rates.
The smooth talking, publicity grabbing, and enormously confident 68-year old illusionist and self-proclaimed psychic claims a wide array of madcap and crowd pleasing paranormal powers that are extraterrestrial in origin. He has, hence and not surprisingly throughout his 40-plus years in the limelight, fought off an onslaught of vocal skeptics like stage magician and professional pseudoscience debunker James Randi who essentially says ol’ Geller ain’t nuthin’ more than a media savvy charlatan who employs standard stage magic techniques to perform his on-the-surface convincing feats of telepathy and psychokinesis. Randi, once a frequent guest on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and about whom there was a documentary made last year, is so outraged by and convinced of Mister Geller’s psychic chicanery he wrote an entire book about it called “The Truth about Uri Geller.” Naturally Mister Geller did not appreciate the book one little bit so three times he sued Mister Randi and/or the book’s publisher, among others, for slander and/or libel. Alas, each time Mister Geller came up the loser and was required by the court to pay his opponents legal fees. Whether his otherworldly abilities are authentic or merely well rehearsed theater, the Israeli-born entertainer — who does not exactly dispute allegations he’s many times operated as a “psychic spy” for Mossad and the CIA — has earned piles and miles of money with his supernatural showboating as evidenced by his lavishly appointed and eccentrically furnished Sonning estate.
Apparently modeled on the White House with a quartet of fluted Ionic columns that support an embellished pediment over a double-height portico, the approximately 12,000-square-foot Greek Revival pile, owned by Geller and wife Hanna for about 35 years, is privately sited down a long, gated drive and symmetrically stretches the full width of a massive motor court that accommodates 30 or more cars. Enormous, forty million year old crystals — Geller told the Daily Mail they “govern the house,” whatever that means — stand sentry outside the glossy black front door that opens to a center hall entry with a curved, tomato red-carpeted staircase. Listing photographs show over-scaled Parquet de Versaille flooring throughout most but not all of the many and generous living and entertaining spaces that include a pair of living rooms, study, an all-glass atrium, and both formal and informal dining rooms. The kitchen is expensively fitted with imported German cabinetry and a partly paneled and partly mirrored lounge has a fireplace flanked by scalloped bookshelves and a terrifically contemporary 30-foot bank of floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open to an elevated terrace that overlooks the estate’s expansive backyard towards the Thames. Listing details show the mansion has nine bedrooms — seven of them en suite and a total of eight bathrooms while a subterranean entertainment complex includes a movie theater where the walls are carpeted in red shag, well-stocked gym with glass doors that open to a lower terrace, bar room, wine vault, and panic room. The grounds, which border the Thames and provide privately owned moorings, offers a broad sweep of lawn that doubles as a helipad for quick jaunts into London and lush gardens that surround a small pond crossed by an arched footbridge. There’s also a lighted tennis court, a small cabana next to the heated, L-shaped outdoor swimming pool— a luxury that surely costs a small fortune to heat in the hardly tropical locale, a spa tub set into a deck, and an essentially pyramidal red steel and glass garden folly that undoubtedly for the self-styled “mystifier” has some sort of mystical significance and utility.
Among his many possessions and treasures, which he’s reportedly willing to sell along with the house, are a variety of splashy artworks that include a sculpture once owned by President John F. Kennedy; a custom-made brown velvet sofa upon which Mister Geller’s late and good friend Michael Jackson used to like to sleep and meditate; an Eames lounger once owned by Yves Saint Laurent; and a green marble fireplace mantelpiece Geller says he trash picked from a dumpster outside a Rockefeller mansion in New York. A high-tech and probably preposterously costly talking toilet in the master bathroom asks for preferences as to things such as the temperature of the seat as well as washes and dries the user before it emits a more pleasant scent than what might have resulted from the deposit. Call this property gossip a curmudgeonly Luddite — and we’ve really been called so much worse — but we really prefer our commodes to be of the less chatty variety. But, anyhoo…
Sonning-on-Thames may be wee and sleepy but has none-the-less lately become increasingly attractive to high-profile types seeking a low-key getaway. In addition to widespread but totally unsubstantiated rumors that Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are — or were — interested in buying in the area, Boris Johnson, the brash two-term incumbent mayor of London, maintains a weekend home in the area, Led Zepplin guitarist Jimmy Page owns the historic, Edwin Lutyens-designed mansion across the street from the foot of Mister Geller’s gated driveway, and last year George and Amal Clooney dropped somewhere in the neighborhood of £10 million for Aberlash House, a 17th-century Georgian manor set on a semi-private islet in the Thames that’s currently undergoing an extensive renovation and expansion scheduled to include the addition of a 15-seat screening room.
Mister Geller, an empty nester with adult children who were raised in the Sonning mansion, reportedly plans to move to a “modest flat in Tel Aviv” that overlooks the Mediterranean and, he says, is furnished with inexpensive Ikea furniture. We’re not sure we really believe a fella who lives with two dishwasher-sized and custom-mounted forty million year old crystals and a private helipad in the backyard is all of a sudden going to find an $819 Norsborg sectional sofa sufficient for his new living room but who are we to challenge Mister Geller’s seemingly newfound penchant for inexpensive flat-pack furniture? Whatever the case, in addition to his modest flat in Tel Aviv and his conspicuous mansion in Sonning, Mister Geller also somewhat famously owns Lamb Island, a tiny, 1.2-acre volcanic bump in the Firth of Forth off the southeast coast of Scotland, near Edinburgh. He acquired the uninhabited and uninhabitable island amid much publicity in 2009 for £30,000 — a bit more than 45,000 U.S. dollars at today’s rates — after he felt a “strong instinctive urge to buy it.” So the story goes, the island, the middle of three that form a short chain, has a mystical connection to the pyramids at Giza, near Cairo in Egypt, which are supposedly lined up in the exact same formation as the three islands. Plus, according to Mister Geller, Egyptian boy-king Tutankhamun’s half-sister, Princess Scota fled to Ireland and Scotland some 3,500 years ago and may have buried treasure and relics on the tiny island. Don’t roll your eyes and pop your mouths, children. You don’t know that didn’t happen!
listing photos: Savills