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Cause Celebre
by Jim Rink

By now, everyone knows that rock star Madonna--aka Mother and Child--has purchased some property in Leelanau County for her father to start a vineyard. Her parents are Italian--hence the name "Madonna" and the desire for a vineyard. We can talk about Madonna quite freely, as if she were a family friend or relative--not that we would want her to be, but it's fun just the same. You see, when you become a celebrity, you pretty much give up any rights to privacy that you may have previously enjoyed. And, in Leelanau County, where gossip is King, this holds doubly true.

Why would Madonna buy property in Leelanau County for her father?

Why not?

Celebrities have been coming to the area for years, starting with the infamous Al Capone, who maintained a rustic, yet stylish getaway, complete with a crow's nest for the machine gun and a spring house for the still, somewhere just off M-22 south of Leland.

Back then, you didn't have to worry about "swimmer's itch"; you just got all the snails together and threatened to shoot them (or their relatives) if they imparted any kind of itch at all to swimming gang bosses.

And let's not forget another former Leland landmark and fellow Chicagoan, Will Munnecke, former general manager of the Chicago Sun Times. Will lived in the big white house at the top of the hill just past the Bluebird and Riverside Inn.

Mr. Munnecke was one of those philanthropic sorts who preferred to remain anonymous--he gave freely of his time, talents and cash to various individuals and organizations as the need arose. This was the man who hired Ann Landers and Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Bill Mauldin. Those of you who follow the comic strip Peanuts will come across an oblique reference to Bill Mauldin about once a year, when Snoopy goes to visit his pal in Needles to drink root beer. This is a tongue-in-cheek tribute by Charles Schultz to his former drinking buddy Bill Mauldin.

Anyway, these are just a couple of the more famous celebrities to have graced our Land of Delight over the years. More recently, you can add people like, well...Madonna, Legends of the Fall author Jim Harrison, Home Improvement star Tim Allen and character actor Alan Melvin of Archie's Place and Sgt. Bilko. The Smother's Brothers were here once--scoping out the local wine scene, not to mention Bob Pisor, former Detroit-area newsman, who has opened up a bakery in Leland.

This recent influx of celebrities has lead to some disturbing questions for local business leaders:

  • "Will (fill in the name of a celebrity) agree to endorse my business?"
  • "Will (fill in the name of a celebrity) expect to be treated differently than my regular clientele?"
  • "Will (fill in the name of a celebrity) refuse to give me an autograph even though I live next door?"
  • But, seriously, what kind of effect would a growing number of celebrities have on the local economy? Is Leelanau County destined to become another NMJs featured advertiser Martha's Vineyard? There's already a vicious rumor that George Plimpton is buying his daughter Martha her own vineyard.(1) And how will Madonna's father fare under such intense competition? Will huge numbers of celebrities invade and take over entire towns or counties, like what happened in Beverly Hills, Vail, Colorado or the western half of Montana?

    I believe that large numbers of celebrities are the best thing that could happen to Leelanau County. In fact, I think the Leelanau County Chamber of Commerce should get a mailing list of celebrities and encourage them to settle here. They could even casually mention that Harrison Ford has been looking at some land near Gills Pier. And that Robert Redford has his eye on some swamp land near Cedar.

    Think of it. Once this elitist, ecocentric society became well-entrenched, there wouldn't be a single trillium without a 24-hour armed guard to help preserve the natural scenic beauty of the area. Smart development would be encouraged. Haphazard, sloppy and cheap development would be unheard of. Who could afford to build next door to Rosanne, Cher or the artist formerly known as Prince?

    Architectural Digest would have to open a permanent office in Lake Leelanau to keep up with the steady influx of landed celebrity gentry.

    Yes, that, I think, is the answer. In fact, I think that now would be a good time to place that ad in the Enterprise, establishing myself as the county's first, and foremost, personal shopper. After all, even Madonna has to eat. And she is eating for two now.

    (1)In the interest of accuracy, it should be revealed that Martha Plimpton really is related to George Plimpton, but there are no plans to purchase a vineyard...yet.

    Also by Jim Rink
    The General
    Are computers the answer to the problem of education?
    Time Warp
    Is it just Jim, or is everything comin' round again?
    Christmas Memories
    Rails to Snails
    Jim solves the Rails to Trails controversy
    Squishy Uterus
    On the books and thoughts of pre-parenthood
    A Condo Runs Through It
    More than just rivers are running through Leelanau County
    The Piano
    Ghostly melodies in Traverse City's Olde Towne Playhouse
    Home Page of Jim Rink aka User G E-Mail to Jim Rink

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