John Travolta turned his Florida home into a fully operational airport, complete with control tower, 1.4-mile runway and ex-Qantas commercial airliner parked up in his back garden. Bill Gates’s $123 million Washington pad Xanadu 2.0 contains $80,000 worth of computer screens that guests can use to change the artwork on the walls, and a library containing a 16th Century Leonardo Da Vinci manuscript worth $30 million. Naomi Campbell lived in a place that looked like the Starship Enterprise had crash-landed in the side of a hill just outside Moscow.
MTV’s Cribs provided copious evidence that most average mid-level pop star simply aspired to live in a rap video – pool full of bikini models, TV the size of Victoria Falls, heavily mirrored bedroom where “the magic happens”. The homes of the really rich and famous, however, are batshit bonkers. Leonardo DiCaprio’s private eco island. Katy Perry’s converted convent. Frickin’ Neverland.
So we all clicked on last week’s story about The Who‘s Pete Townshend selling his Richmond home expecting plush Rightmove pictures of marble corridors hung with shattered guitar necks – only to find that all he was leaving behind was a common or garden home studio, albeit one he’d originally built for Ronnie Wood. If Keith Moon had ever even stayed the night there, the very least we should expect is half a stretch limo crashed through the conservatory.
Sadly, most pop gods’ homes fail to live up to the promise of their public personas. Lady Gaga’s new $22.5 million Malibu mansion, for instance, is a sprawling palace of tasteful beige, with nary a closet decked out like the back of an abattoir in sight. Photos from the insides of Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s numerous mansions reveal sweeping staircases, intimate fire-pits, infinity pools, overflowing sneaker closets and gigantic glass box reception rooms that are undoubtedly elegant, stylish, sleek and spectacular, but very little of it, beyond a Malibu villa they reportedly rented for $400,000 a month in 2017, looks shipped wholesale from Versailles.
When those pop star homes go up on Zoopla and we all flood the listings for a brief, wide-lens insight into what – but for blasted fate – it might be like to actually be Bez, we expect luxury as a minimum. But what really hammers home our fandom and repays our faith in the whole overblown edifice of rock’n’roll is when the pads have even a glimmer of their famous owner’s personality.
When country singer Randy Travis converts his property into a working ranch, complete with buffalo, a shooting range and a chapel installed with a bowling alley – when we discover that Elton John really did live in wedding cakes festooned with rhinestone encrusted pianos, or that George Harrison’s Friar Park home is set in a surrealist garden wonderland of grottos and underground caverns, capped by a scale model of the Matterhorn.
50 Cent’s house has 5 jacuzzis because… duh! Celine Dion’s Jupiter Island home has its own water park because… Titanic! Slash has a black leather ‘nightclub room’ with its own lap-dancing pole because no-one’s managed to cancel the entire 1980s yet. But best of all was when the gates finally opened on Prince’s Paisley Park complex in Minnesota and it was everything we ever hoped it would be. There were psychedelic purple studios and jamming rooms. Shag-piled red home cinemas that clearly transform into BDSM lash dungeons at the flick of some hidden button. There were lounges with his squiggle symbol embedded into the floor and the balconies painted in ‘Raspberry Beret’ clouds.
Frankly, having made them rich enough to buy their mum her own spaceport, the very least our heroes owe us is to live somewhere so fundamentally reflective of their pop persona that it’s rendered totally un-sellable to anyone else. How tedious it is for the avid coveter of Malibu property, such as myself and my millions of fellow crypto hopefuls, to watch the same interchangeable, blandly luxuriant mansions change hands between The Rolling Stones, supermodels and Adele when the truly authentic pop legend extravagance is to build a shrine to yourself that can only be purchased by a billionaire super-fan and kept exactly as you left it once you’re gone.
The rock star home should be a museum to your unique and eternal brilliance. We paid for these places, so at least give us the chance to drag our bored grandkids around it for a fiver a pop in years to come, or try to pilfer a gold disc ‘souvenir’.
If Snoop Dogg isn’t living in a luxury treehouse in his own personal marijuana forest, he’s short-changed us. Unless Clown from Slipknot has built himself a haunted fairground mansion on an ancient Sioux burial ground, he’s not living it. If Chris Martin‘s lavatory doesn’t shoot out rainbow confetti streamers with every flush, he’s just faking it. Face it, superstars, if you don’t leave behind your Graceland, were you ever really here?