Few showbiz insiders could (or maybe should) argue that famous people, at least those who operate at or near the rarefied peaks of the Hollywood heap, aren’t some seriously pampered individuals. Designers lend them one-of-a-kind couture gowns for red carpet events, and jewelers loan out piles of preposterously expensive sparkly things for every televised awards ceremony. Stars are often upgraded without charge, and it’s not unheard of for an A-lister to have an entire store cleared for a private shopping excursion or, as Mariah Carey did in May 2013, shut down all of Disneyland so she and her now ex-husband Nick Cannon could renew their marriage vows for the fifth time.
Given our own obsessions related to real estate, this property gossip wondered if Tinseltown cynosures are as mollycoddled when buying or selling homes as they seem to be in other aspects of their public and private lives. So, we quietly queried a slew of high-powered real estate agents who do deals with celebs and other high-profile industry types. A few ignored our advances, several politely declined, and many of those who did respond requested anonymity since, as every property agent we talked with agreed, discretion is paramount when dealing with famous folk and/or their influential retinue of representatives.
The agents all said they treat their not-famous clients with the same level of service afforded their famous clientele but, even still, several admitted they will sometimes roll out a bit of real estate red carpet for Hollywood heavyweights: A fancy car and driver might be sent to schlep an out-of-town celeb around to showings, and helicopters are occasionally hired for aerial tours. Champagne is always appreciated during private showings with public figures, say Michelle Oliver and Connie Blankenship of Douglas Elliman, and it’s not unheard of for a listing agent to engage a private chef for a catered showing.
According to a very big fish in the Platinum Triangle real estate pond — let’s call him Agent 42 — one of the most considerate and important things an agent can do for high-profile buyers is both easy and absolutely free: Make sure the property’s driveway gates are open upon the celeb’s arrival and closed immediately upon their entry so as to thwart tabloid photographers … and property gossip columnists.
Every agent we chatted up told us celebrities — both veterans and the newly minted — are, by and large, exceedingly polite and friendly. Several agents did, however, snitch that they’ve had celebs introduce themselves with a fake name during a showing. None would so much as whisper the name of a celeb who’s taken on a nom de real estate, but one agent who requested anonymity told us it’s usually the biggest and most universally recognized stars who will use a fake name.
A surprising number of famous people show up for showings with only their real estate agent and maybe one assistant or manager in tow, while others roll almost comically deep. Agent 42 told us Michael Jackson once showed up to tour a BevHills manse in “full regalia with three carloads of people,” and Partners Trust dynamo Darlene Hutton told us she once squired a professional athlete with an entourage that filled three Hummers. Another agent who we’ve long called Our Fairy Godmother in Bel Air swears she showed an internationally recognized pop star a Beverly Hills house where she and her two children jumped into the pool while the nanny stayed dry on deck.
At least in celebrity hot spots like Los Angeles, one of the ugly by-products of fame is that a recognizable star can’t stop in at their local 7-Eleven for a Big Gulp, pop by their local nail salon for a mani-pedi, pick popcorn out of their teeth at the movie theater or pump some iron at a gym lest they be marauded by ardent fans and/or photographed by the paps. When their pocketbook allows and as an understandable escape from the constant public scrutiny of their professional and personal lives, famous folk frequently seek private and self-contained residential environments.
Every agent agreed that electronic gates, a kick-ass security system and a gym/yoga room are all but mandatory nowadays. “Million Dollar Listing” star and top producer Josh Altman says he finds a lot of younger celebs want “big parking areas because a lot of them collect cars” and that “industry bigwigs want theaters that rival a multiplex.” Agent 42 told us hair and makeup stations as well as boutique-style dressing rooms are increasingly popular with those in the public eye, as are extensive office suites. “It takes a lot of people to prop up a celebrity,” says Agent 42, so a place where the house manager, the personal assistant, the assistant’s assistant, the on-call makeup guy and the full-time stylist, etc., can hunker down and do the work required to keep the life of said famous person sailing smoothly is greatly prized.
If anyone were to ask this property gossip — and nobody did — we’d say that based on our entirely unscientific research, we are 100% certain celebs are indeed every bit as indulged in their real estate doings as they are in so many other aspects of their lives and yet — here’s the important part —they don’t actually seem any more indulged than any other individual with the financial wherewithal to spend many and sometimes tens of millions of dollars on a single dwelling. When it comes to real estate, it seems, the privileges of fame are complimentary, although secondary, to those of wealth.