: Celebrity Houses / Celebrity Politics :

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an excerpt by Daniel Harris

MTV's television program Cribs provides tours of the McMansions of current sports, music, and film celebrities.  The camera pries into cavernous closets (fashion model Kimora Lee Simmons's contains three hundred pairs of shoes, boxer Floyd Mayweather's, sixty coats), surprisingly barren refrigerators, gazebos equipped with four plasma screen TVs, forty-person hot tubs in climate-controlled grottos, and whore-house boudoirs with mirrored ceilings and circular massage beds.  “Cribs,” the narrator tells us, “let[s] you see what it's like to live in the lap of luxury,” a lap full of the $50 bills that one sports figure hurls into the air like confetti at the end of his segment, taunting the audience by chanting, “I make it rain, I make it rain.”

The stars on Cribs and those featured in countless other profiles in magazines and television programs welcome the cameras into their bathrooms and hot tubs, exhibiting a degree of hospitality surprising in light of the way celebrities generally shun the press, vilify the paparazzi, and defend their right to privacy in the face of the effrontery of addled groupies and over-zealous reporters.  Given their hostility to our relentless examination of their personal lives, one would expect their houses to be fortress-like sanctuaries in which they retire to enjoy the pleasures of solitude.  In fact, however, virtually every room suggests that they are uncomfortable with being alone.  Their aggressive protestations of their need for seclusion are belied by spaces that seem to have been designed for occupants who have little time, patience, or imagination for amusing themselves outside of the limelight, who seldom read, who have no hobbies, few creative pursuits, and, worse, an apparent dearth of any inner life. 

Even their bathrooms suggest that they have little use for privacy (in one episode of Cribs, R&B singer Mariah Carey slips into a bubble bath wrapped in a towel which she coquettishly threatens to drop for the camera).  Stars describe the very room in which they carry out their most intimate bodily functions as a heavily trafficked entertainment center, an indoor water park in which they host parties for dozens of naked swingers, cavorting in what one singer calls his “love tub” and a famous football player his “car-wash shower,” less a tiled stall than a capacious spa capable of accommodating dozens of good-looking groupies.  Celebrities return home, not to collect their thoughts and escape the onus of publicity, but to entertain.  Many have even built replicas of night clubs in their basements, complete with smoke machines, laser-light shows, and fiber optic stripper poles:  drummer Tommy Lee's Club Mayhem, rapper Big Boi's Boom Boom Room, Redskin cornerback Deangelo Hall's Club 21, hip-hop singer T-Pain's Club Nappy Boy, and NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Sugar Shack, as well as his Whiskey River, a facsimile of an old-timey Wild-West frontier village located on his property, equipped with a free-standing jail, church, hotel, and saloon.