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Celebrities get rich and famous. That’s what they do. They buy multi-million dollar houses with pools larger than some small seas, and they drive cars that cost 100 times more than an ordinary person’s home. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but still, they have a certain magic about them, don’t they?

Usually, they are the most famous and fashionable among us—and a lot of  the time they’re not even among us, sitting in their Mount Olympus-like mansions somewhere off in the Hollywood hills while attracting moviegoers to the big screens with their luminous smiles, flawless complexions, and perfect figures. Add their looks to their two-thumbs-up acting abilities and their films’ five-star CGI budgets, and it’s no wonder they’re so successful.

Then the inevitable happens. Like a San Andreas Fault earthquake, a recession comes along, and a lot of people are knocked off their feet, including the rich and famous. Celebrities are the royal families of the United States—though perhaps lacking the traditional senses of politeness and grace—and when news about their financial troubles breaks, we want to hear about it.

You know times are hard when celebrities have to sell their castles—and I don’t mean just big houses; I’m talking actual castles. Nicolas Cage recently sold his medieval German castle, Schloss Neidstein, and the forested plot on which it sits, a total of 165 hectares (for all you Americans, that’s over 17.7 million square feet). “Due to the difficult economic situation,” he said, “unfortunately, I was no longer able to keep it.” Luckily, he still has another castle in England to fall back on if the French ever invade when he’s abroad.

Let’s not forget the King of Pop. Good old Michael Jackson nearly had to sell his 2,500-acre Neverland Ranch last year because he owed more on the property than it was worth, approximately $23 million. It must be nice owing over $24.5 million, having your loan bought by an investment company, and realizing you can wake up tomorrow and still find that $1.5 million shortfall laying around somewhere. But still, he has enough other problems to last him several lifetimes.

Although Donald Trump doesn’t seem to be in any immediate financial danger, he recently sold his seven-acre Palm Beach palace for $100 million. It’s a big house for a man with big ambitions and big money and, biggest of all, big hair. He bought the waterfront house for $40 million and had an underling on the show The Apprentice renovate it. Those must have been impressive renovations, especially for one person to undertake, because for two years, Trump kept it on the market for $125 million. After no one bought it, he knocked off a meager 20%.

The largest home in L.A. and the most expensive in America, known only as the Manor, is the Spelling mansion, originally purchased by famed producer Aaron Spelling (Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place) and childhood home to actors Tori Spelling and brother Randy. Will anyone buy this 56,500-square-foot behemoth of a home at the asking price of $150 million? In such dire times, it seems no one has enough money, but maybe if several famous families pooled their resources, they could afford it. The attic alone, which is 17,000 square feet, could easily house an entire flock of celebrities who are down on their luck, and the basement bowling alley could provide their main source of entertainment. Or, more than likely, some rich person will buy the mansion and put up 100 new signs emblazoned with the warnings “No Trespassing” and “Beware of Genetically Enhanced Dog.”

Other celebs feeling the squeeze are Ed McMahon, Buddy Lembeck (anyone remember Charles in Charge?), Evander Holyfield, and Michael Vick (who deserves it!).

Not all celebs are hurting, though. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes just bought David and Victoria Beckham’s 13,000-square-foot house and yard, who sold because they couldn’t afford the payments. Complete with pool and palm trees, this little slice of Italy-in-L.A. is smaller than Cruise and Holmes’s other house, so are they hurting as well? Nope. They’re keeping both houses. The new one is merely a guest house, maybe for those pesky relatives who Cruise and Holmes feel obligated to entertain, but who haven’t quite gotten behind the doctrines of Scientology yet.

And that just proves it. Celebrities are the royal families of the United States. They have their enormous mansions where they sit and eat and colon cleanse and swim and sometimes venture out to grace us mortals with their divine light. But even kings and queens have mortgage problems every now and again. Not all of them, mind you, just those of them (and us) who aren’t smart with their money and who can’t budget themselves to save their lives.
www.Dishmag.com / Issue 103 - September 9531
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