The Hell of Living in a Home With Any Celebrity Connection
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The Hell of Living in a Home With Any Celebrity Connection

Move over, Graceland. Thanks to social media and Google maps, even mildly famous houses now get tons of visitors—some owners get a kick out of it.

By CANDACE TAYLOR
Tue, Aug 8, 2023 8:34amGrey Clock 4 min

NEW YORK—It’s a Tuesday evening on Cornelia Street, a side street in Manhattan’s West Village. A little after 6 p.m., 17-year-old Lily Posner and her grandmother stroll down the street and come to a stop about half way down the block. There, they start snapping photos of a brick house.

Posner, clad in a grey hoodie and carrying a shopping bag, explains she is a “very big fan” of Taylor Swift, who rented the house around 2016 and immortalised it in her song “Cornelia Street.” A Vermont resident, Posner spent the day shopping and sightseeing before stopping by to get a glimpse of Swift’s former abode.

Though the singer never owned the house and only lived there for a brief time, Posner’s enthusiasm is undimmed; she calls the Cornelia Street visit a highlight of their trip. “I love the song,” she says. “It’s iconic.” As she speaks, another pair of fans arrive at the house to take photos.

A few blocks away, a similar scene is unfolding in front of 66 Perry Street, a brownstone that appeared as the home of Carrie Bradshaw in the TV series “Sex and the City.” Never mind that the series ended in 2004: Every few minutes, another group meanders down the tree-lined street to snap photos of the house. A chain strung across the stoop bears a “Private Property: No Trespassing” sign as well as instructions to keep voices down and stay off the steps.

Step aside, Graceland. These days, a home doesn’t have to be especially famous to get a steady stream of curious—and sometimes pushy—visitors. Thanks to social media and Google maps, homes that are even moderately well-known can now be inundated with people eager to take selfies or relive on-screen moments. This can come as a surprise to the homeowners, who find themselves fielding requests for tours or overhearing impromptu singalongs.

“Now because everything is online, anybody who has a passing interest can find out exactly where it is in about five minutes,” says Erika de Santis, who owns the Redding, Conn., house where Mark Twain died. She says the number of so-called Twainiacs stopping by to see her home has steadily increased in recent years.

In Albuquerque, N.M., owners of the house that served as the home of Walter White in “Breaking Bad” erected a fence around the property after fans kept throwing pizzas on the roof, in homage to a pivotal scene in the show. When Compass real-estate agent Larissa Petrovic recently showed Swift’s former Cornelia Street home to potential buyers, she says they were shocked by the number of people photographing it. They didn’t make an offer.

Real-estate agent Danny Brown of Compass has the listing for the Los Angeles house that served as the exterior of the home on “The Brady Bunch.” His client, HGTV, renovated the interiors to match the sitcom’s set, and put it on the market in May for $5.5 million. “It’s been bonkers, with nonstop showing requests,” Brown says. Most aren’t from serious buyers, but people simply trying to get a look inside. Recently, potential buyers came dressed in “full ‘70s retro-wear,” Brown says. While they were touring the home, two women stood outside for 20 minutes singing the show’s theme song. The potential buyers headed outside to join the serenade. “It was a whole chorus of five or six people singing the theme song,” Brown says. “That’s the sort of crazy stuff that happens in front of this house.”

The house is now in contract and set to close in a few weeks, he says.

In 2017, John and Katie Tashjian bought the South Carolina house where the ‘80s movie “The Big Chill” was filmed. When they bought the circa-1850s house, it was in disrepair and still had two sets in it from the filming of the movie, says John Tashjian, a real-estate developer. The couple embarked on a three-year renovation before moving in full-time.

The home is a local landmark. Still, they were taken aback by the number and persistence of visitors. Every weekday some 25 to 50 people stop by and twice that many on weekends, John Tashjian says. In addition to snapping photos, many belt out songs from “The Big Chill,” especially “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people singing ‘Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog’ like it’s some kind of old-time revival,” he says.

When they first moved in, they left the property’s gates open. So many people ventured into their yard, however, that they ended up putting in gates that close automatically. “There were people sitting in our yard, taking videos,” says John Tashjian. Others brought picnics or re-created scenes from the movie. Some knocked on the door to ask for a tour. Sometimes he obliged, depending on “what kind of mood I was in.”

These days, visitors are welcome to take photos from outside the gates, he says. He does get irritated when looky-loos drive on the grass, or knock over the steel bollards that edge the property. Still, he realises attention comes with the territory. “If you’re going to own this house, you can’t be surprised by the reception,” he says. “It’s like living next to an airport and complaining about airplanes.”

One reason for the growing attention to these homes is that streaming services make older TV and movies instantly available.

In 2012, real-estate agent Adele Curtis represented the buyers of the Winnetka, Ill., house where the 1990 movie “Home Alone” was filmed. “At that point, it was kind of ho-hum, it’s the ‘Home Alone’ house,” she says. While at the brick Georgian, she never noticed passersby taking pictures.

Nowadays, fans can be spotted outside the house snapping photos “at any time of the day or night,” she says. “It’s become more popular than it ever was.”

James C. Barry, whose parents were longtime owners of the house that served as the home of Blanche, Dorothy, Rose and Sophia on “The Golden Girls,” says the show had a surge in popularity before the family sold it in 2020. Once, a man knocked on the door and said his girlfriend was a huge fan of the show, and asked if he could propose to her in the home’s driveway. Barry’s mother agreed, and after he popped the question, “she came out with some champagne to toast them.” The couple sent Christmas cards every year expressing their appreciation.

Mallory Crichton and her husband live next door to what is known in Los Angeles as the Black Dahlia murder house, where an unsolved 1947 murder is believed to have taken place. Both homes are gated and set back from the street, so the many true-crime fans who stop by each week often get confused and take pictures of Crichton’s “pretty normal” three-bedroom rental instead.

She points them in the right direction if she happens to be home, but she’s not always around so many likely return home with photos of her abode instead. “But good for them,” she says. “Ignorance is bliss. They and their friends probably don’t know that it’s not actually the Black Dahlia murder house.”



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Wild cities and concrete corridors: How AI is reimagining the landscape

A new AI-driven account by leading landscape architect Jon Hazelwood pushes the boundaries on the role of ‘complex nature’ in the future of our cities

By Robyn Willis
Wed, Dec 6, 2023 2 min

Drifts of ground cover plants and wildflowers along the steps of the Sydney Opera House, traffic obscured by meadow-like planting and kangaroos pausing on city streets.

This is the way our cities could be, as imagined by landscape architect Jon Hazelwood, principal at multi-disciplinary architectural firm Hassell. He has been exploring the possibilities of rewilding urban spaces using AI for his Instagram account, Naturopolis_ai with visually arresting outcomes.

“It took me a few weeks to get interesting results,” he said. “I really like the ephemeral nature of the images — you will never see it again and none of those plants are real. 

“The AI engine makes an approximation of a grevillea.”

Hazelwood chose some of the most iconic locations in Australia, including the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, as well as international cities such as Paris and London, to demonstrate the impact of untamed green spaces on streetscapes, plazas and public space.

He said he hopes to provoke a conversation about the artificial separation between our cities and the broader environment, exploring ways to break down the barriers and promote biodiversity.

“A lot of the planning (for public spaces) is very limited,” Hazelwood said. “There are 110,000 species of plants in Australia and we probably use about 12 in our (public) planting schemes. 

“Often it’s for practical reasons because they’re tough and drought tolerant — but it’s not the whole story.”

Hazelwood pointed to the work of UK landscape architect Prof Nigel Dunnett, who has championed wild garden design in urban spaces. He has drawn interest in recent years for his work transforming the brutalist apartment block at the Barbican in London into a meadow-like environment with diverse plantings of grasses and perennials.

Hazelwood said it is this kind of ‘complex nature’ that is required for cities to thrive into the future, but it can be hard to convince planners and developers of the benefits.

“We have been doing a lot of work on how we get complex nature because complexity of species drives biodiversity,” he said. 

“But when we try to propose the space the questions are: how are we going to maintain it? Where is the lawn?

“A lot of our work is demonstrating you can get those things and still provide a complex environment.” 

At the moment, Hassell together with the University of Melbourne is trialling options at the Hills Showground Metro Station in Sydney, where the remaining ground level planting has been replaced with more than 100 different species of plants and flowers to encourage diversity without the need for regular maintenance. But more needs to be done, Hazelwood said.

“It needs bottom-up change,” he said. ““There is work being done at government level around nature positive cities, but equally there needs to be changes in the range of plants that nurseries grow, and in the way our city landscapes are maintained and managed.”

And there’s no AI option for that. 

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