You cannot, contrary to the excited trumpeting of the British tabloids, rent President Obama’s college apartment on vacation rental site AirBnB. You can, however, stay in Obama’s building. Or Jim Morrison’s former flat. Or Bode Miller’s ski cabin.
AirBnB, a business that helps people rent their homes to strangers, has attracted 500,000 listings and numerous regulatory battles during its five years in operation. But as the site has grown in profile and popularity, it’s also had some surprising, high-profile additions — such as the $134-a-night digs where Obama maybe-possibly lived 30 years ago, flagged Monday by the Daily Mail.
After all, if you can’t actually meet a celebrity, you might as well stare out their current/former windows, swim in their pools and use their washing machines. (Let’s avoid parsing whatever weird, voyeuristic psychology lies behind that impulse.) We rounded up a few rentals that, according to their owners, boast bona fide celebrity credentials:
1. Ava Gardner: Gardner lived in this one-bedroom home in Burbank, Calif., with husband No. 2, jazz musician Artie Shaw. The house has stables and “a huge library;” it rents for the puzzlingly affordable price of $85/night.
2. President Obama: Obama lived in this upper East Side apartment building while he was a student at Columbia. The owner writes that “it has been said” that Obama stayed in that very two-bedroom — though said by whom, we may never know.
3. Bing Crosby: Crosby’s former four-bed, four-bath hacienda in Palm Springs, Calif., rents for $675/night with a three-night minimum. It has a heated pool with seating for 30 (!), a wood-burning fireplace and several citrus groves, among other glitzy amenities.
4. Charlie Chaplin: This rental, part of the ramshackle L.A. apartment community that Chaplin built in the ’20s, was recently featured in Apartment Therapy — maybe because it’s cute, or maybe because it’s cheap, at $120/night. Rudolph Valentino allegedly lived here at one point, too.
5. Conan O’Brien: O’Brien listed his TV studio for the low low price of $1/night in 2011. No word on whether he ever followed through with the gag.
6. “A former Fruit of the Loom Guy”: This L.A. house is notable primarily, and hilariously, because it’s being marketed as a “‘Celebrity’ Home.” (The owner later clarifies: “That’s right! Celebrity! Provided you would call a former Fruit of the Loom Guy a celebrity. You wouldn’t? Oh.”) Still — a nice place! And only $175/night.
7. Jean-Michel Basquiat: The acclaimed artist’s (alleged) former loft on Crosby Street in New York City now rents for $650/night.
Jean Michele Basquiat’s Crosby street loft up for short term rent. $650 a night. https://t.co/2edOxmKdSJ— the.LIFE Files (@thelifefiles) August 14, 2013
8. Jim Morrison: This two-bedroom apartment in West Hollywood was Morrison’s last U.S. home before he moved abroad — and it has the plaque to prove it. Even better, the apartment is now proudly managed by Cheri Woods, “the ex-wife of International pop star Stevie Woods, daughter-in-law of jazz icon Rusty Bryant, and cousin-in-law of “Miami Vice” TV star Phillip Michael-Thomas.” Right. The apartment rents for $3,180/month.
9. Kevin Jonas: Alas, Jonas’s six-bedroom complex in Denville, N.J., is available no longer. But the erstwhile boy-bander and his wife, Danielle, did list the house for $20,000/night during the Super Bowl — tickets included — with promises to donate the proceeds to charity.
10. Edward Cullen: Yep, Edward is fictional — but this Brazilian movie set is not! The six-bedroom, 11,000-square foot home was purportedly the setting for Edward and Bella’s honeymoon in the movie “Twilight: Breaking Dawn.” No one has reviewed the rental, though — maybe because it costs a whopping $3,083/night regularly and $6,000/night (with a minimum three-night stay!) over holidays.
11. Mickey Rooney: Rooney’s former house, 15 minutes outside of Malibu, inexplicably has four dining areas … and only two bedrooms. It rents for $195/night with a three-night minimum.
12. Morgan Miller: Miller, a professional volleyball player (and the wife to five-time Olympic medalist Bode) listed the four-bedroom ski “estate” in Carroll, N.H., last fall. She tweeted at the time that the house would only be available until October, but it’s still listed at $800/night or $10,000/month.
13. Orson Welles: Welles purportedly moved into this 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom L.A. villa a few years after actor Sidney Toler built it, in 1933. The house now rents for $1,195/night.
Of course, unless a home is listed directly by its owner, as in Jonas’s and Miller’s case, it’s difficult to know for sure who lived there and for how long. (Hollywood is, after all, teeming with hucksters selling access to the stars.) In fact, listings like this are interesting more as illustrations of the “celebrity worship culture that we have somehow adopted in our American psyche” — to quote Zach Galifianakis! — than actual, historical facts.
So you probably shouldn’t drop $3,000 for a night in some dubious celebrity cabin. Unless it’s a really, really nice celebrity cabin, in which case — party on.