Meetings & Conventions Starry Starry Sites December
'Ol Blue Eyes lived here.
Starry Starry Sites
Wonder how the rich and famous live? Book an event at a
By Carla BeniniO
ur fascination with celebrities must be part
of our genetic makeup. We pour over People
, and even sheepishly comb the
supermarket tabloids for the latest inflammatory scoop. Our curious
minds want to know about celebrities’ clothes, diets, addictions,
divorces, infidelities and box office bombs, yet the closest most
of us will ever get to them is a few rows from a movie screen or
Unless they let you party in their house. The notion is hardly
believable. After all, why would celebrities, whose private lives
are so often public property, invite strangers into their most
precious refuges? For some, it’s a good deed (and/or a tax
write-off). Many celebrities rent out their homes for a range of
events while others limit rentals to charity functions. But it’s a
different story when the home is no longer lived in by the star.
Then the venue rental is a moneymaker for the current owner.
Getting in is often a matter of who you know. After all,
planners won’t get anywhere by calling Barbara Mandrell to find out
if she’ll host 100 in her living room. A better approach is through
local catering and destination management companies that have an
“in” with the celebrity. Even so, be prepared for restrictions;
many homes allow only outdoor affairs and limit access to the home
As for theme ideas, certain homes lend themselves to pretty
obvious entertainment options. A function at Elvis’ Palm Springs
estate is usually attended by a handful of impersonators, says
Sylvia Schmitt, head of Locations Unlimited in Rancho Mirage,
Calif. For parties at Frank Sinatra’s place, Schmitt plans a
tribute to Ol’ Blue Eyes. Others choose to let the atmosphere of
the venue stand on its own. Says Patsy Bruce, owner of
Nashville-based Events Unlimited, who has arranged functions at
Barbara Mandrell’s house, “Being in a celebrity home is theme
The following is a country-wide glimpse at the domiciles of the
rich and famous.
Peter Max’s studio
New York City
Rental fee: $10,000
Capacity: 100 for seated events and 250 for
Contact: Gene Luntz; (212) 874-6700
Inside a 10,000-square-foot studio, near the tuning orchestras
of Lincoln Center, is a preserved piece of psychedelia. This is
Peter Max’s “creative space,” says Gene Luntz, an associate of the
artist. And, while Max doesn’t live here, evidence of his influence
on pop culture is everywhere. The artist is perhaps best known for
his soft, trippy-hippy images that helped bring the ’60s lifestyle
and politics to the mainstream. The room is noisy with color:
posters from the ’60s and ’70s, magazine covers, oversized oil
paintings in rainbow colors, Save the Rainforest T-shirts, pins,
socks, even a special edition Giants football helmet.
Inside, maze-like walls create several intimate living room-like
spaces, furnished with velvet overstuffed couches and chairs. A
wall of 18 video monitors is often used during corporate product
launches and press conferences.
Charity functions and corporate events that tie in his own
commissioned artwork are at the top of Max’s guest list. Catering
companies that have worked Max parties include Great Performances
(212-727-2424) and Glorious Foods (212-628-2320).
Palm Beach, Fla.
Rental fee: $400 to $650 per person, which
includes location fee, food and beverage, tent, stage and basic
Capacity:385 outdoors, seated or reception-style;
100 seated and 200 standing in the ballroom; 78 seated or
reception-style in the members’ dining room
Contact: Groups must be sponsored by a Mar-a-Lago
club member. Two catering companies, Tropic Temptations
(561-655-4008) and Imaginations (561-533-1115), are members and can
facilitate event planning, although catering is handled by
Mar-a-Lago’s in-house catering staff.
Donald Trump’s Palm Beach escape looks like something out of a
movie set. It can’t be real. What would one person possibly do with
all that house? Trump has found plenty to do, from hosting a
performance by Luciano Pavarotti in the gilded Gold and White
Ballroom to opening the home to Mar-a-Lago club members, who can
romp on tennis courts or bask on a two-acre beach for a mere
$75,000, plus $6,500 a year.
The mansion, which sits on 18 acres of land that stretches from
the beach to Lake Worth, has a history with people who became
filthy rich in corporate America. Its 118 rooms were built in 1927
by breakfast cereal heir Marjorie Merriweather Post and her second
husband, E.F. Hutton.
Its resplendence is remarkable from silk tapestries that once
hung in a Venetian palazzo to the living room’s 32-foot-high
ceiling covered in gold leaf to frescoes framed with marble columns
and ornate carvings. On the grounds are covered and intricately
carved walkways, landscaped courtyards and a bevy of marble
statues. Near the pool, where groups often gather, is the highly
acclaimed members-only Greenhouse Spa.
Trump seems to have an appreciation for the absurdly opulent and
is known to be meticulous in the home’s upkeep.
Barbara Mandrell’s home
Rental fee: Determined on case-by-case basis; fee
is generally donated to charity.
Capacity:50 for seated events and 100 for
receptions in the great room; a dining room table seats 25
Contact: Nashville Convention and Visitors
Bureau’s Convention Services Department (615-259-4716) for
destination management companies with access to the home
On 300 acres of woodlands 25 minutes north of Nashville is the
estate of country music star Barbara Mandrell. The
28,000-square-foot home was designed by the singer’s husband. Made
entirely of light-colored lodgepole pine, the sprawling home is
high on amenities, including an indoor pool, a game room and a
The main living spaces are done in stylish yet rustic decor. A
great room has leather couches flanking a large stone fireplace. A
cathedral ceiling makes the space seem even larger than its 2,500
square feet. Smaller groups also can gather around the dining room
Says Patsy Bruce, owner of Nashville-based destination
management company Events Unlimited, the couple is usually open to
benefits or to groups willing to donate a rental fee to charity. An
added bonus: The couple will sometimes join attendees at the
Liberace’s Las Vegas villa
Rental fee: $3,500 for three-hour event
Capacity: 300 for seated events and 1,100 for
Contact: Tony Gibson; (702) 795-8119
From his studded floor-length capes to his sequined Rolls Royce,
Liberace was all about excess. See for yourself when visiting Las
Vegas, a fitting location for Liberace’s over-the-top tastes.
The 20,000-square-foot home has double doors from the governor’s
mansion in Albany, N.Y., and a hand-sculpted circular staircase
from Paris. Baccarat crystal chandeliers light much of the estate,
including the Eternal Hallway, a Liberace-designed space flanked by
2,000-year-old Grecian pillars. Liberace’s flamboyant taste extends
to the master suite. Pass the fountain and look up: You’ll find a
reproduction of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Several of the home’s spaces are available to groups, including
a 4,000-square-foot ballroom and the Moroccan Room, decorated with
copper tiles and a tiled fireplace. Smaller events can be held in a
Palm Springs, Calif.
Rental fee: $4,000
Capacity: 80 for seated events, 1,000 for
Contact:Sylvia Schmitt, Locations Unlimited; (760)
Elvis has left the building permanently but his legend lives on
at his former Palm Springs estate. The King purchased the house in
1973 when it was a modest three-bedroom home. Not for long. Elvis
added an 1,100-square-foot recreation room now used by groups and a
master suite. He also turned the living room into a studio, where
he recorded songs such as “Are You Sincere?” and “I Miss You.” In
the San Jacinto Mountains, the house also has a pool, two saunas
and a Jacuzzi for 12.
The legend of the hip-swiveling icon is honored by the home’s
current owner, an Elvis-loving Japanese business tycoon. He bought
the house in 1989 for $3 million and visits about once a year, says
Locations Unlimited’s Schmitt. Walls are covered with gold records,
photographs and other memorabilia.
Frank Sinatra’s “Twin Palms”
Palm Springs, Calif.
Rental fee: $4,000
Capacity: 80 for seated and standing functions
Contact: Sylvia Schmitt, Locations Unlimited;
The current owner bought this Palm Springs landmark for its
distinct architecture. Only after researching the designer did he
learn of the home’s first inhabitant. Frank Sinatra had the home
built in 1947 and lived there with his wife Nancy and three
children (and later with Ava Gardner).
Sinatra was known as a consummate party host who would raise a
flag in his yard signaling neighbors it was cocktail time.
The owner has preserved the home’s decor. Some furnishings are
original, including pieces by Herman Miller and Florence Knoll.
Group tours can be arranged during private events, which are held
in the backyard next to the grand piano-shaped pool.
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