The Rich and Famous in Northwest Michigan

Northwest Michigan is not well known by many people that are not familiar with the Great Lakes area. While many think of Detroit when you mention Michigan, the northern part of the state is a beautiful region of lakes, forests, hills and friendly people.

It may come as s surprise that many rich and famous people call this area home. Well, at least in summer or as a second or third home.

Tim Allen is a well-known actor and famous for his role in Home Improvement and several movies. He is originally from Denver but moved to Michigan with his family at a young age. His voice is a familiar sound in the Pure Michigan ads for many Michiganders. According to the talk of the town, Mr. Allen owns a large piece of land in Leelanau County near Northport.  Searches of a more precise location hasn’t turned up much information but that’s probably just the way he likes it.

Madonna Louise Ciccone was born in Bay City, Michigan located in the central part of the state.  At a later age, she lived in Detroit suburbs before she moved to New York.  So why would she still be visiting Michigan while there are more exciting places in this world?  Ciccone Vineyard owned by her father and run by other family members is a short drive north of Traverse City in Leelanau County.

She may not visit very often but the story goes the Material Girl sometimes serves wine in the tasting room to visitors.  I imagine that may make for a quite memorable visit to Michigan’s wine region in the little finger.  While Madonna made fame and fortune all over the world, her older brother hasn’t been so fortunate.  The long story can be found here and he has been living on the streets of Traverse City in and out of homeless shelters.

Ciccone Vineyard sign

Al Capone, the notorious gangster from Chicago was known to visit northern Michigan as well.  It’s about a 6-hour drive these days but probably took a bit longer in his time.  Articles show he visited his hideout Heart’s Ease south of Leland. Legend and rumors say it was a safe place far away from Chicago and many valuables are still burried somewhere near that house on Lake Michigan.  Perhaps a few bodies as well.  None of this is really ever confirmed but sometimes rumors are more itneresting than reality.  But you just never know for sure, right?

Bruce Willis and Demi Moore occasionaly flew into Traverse City airport many years ago.  While I am sure they enjoyed Northern Michigan, their main purpose for visiting was their daughter who attended Interlochen Center for the arts.  Their private jet was often seen at the hangars near the private avation area of the airport.

This renowned  arts education institution was also the place where singer Jewel learned to play the guitar and majored in operatic voice, according to Wikipedia.

Michael Moore is a film maker, journalist, political activist and author who originally is from Flint, Michigan. Business has been good and his estimated net worth was $50 million in 2014.  He founded the Traverse City Film Festival in 2005 and has a home nearby on Torch Lake near Central Lake in Antrim County.

Unfortunately, the house is no longer his and belongs to his ex-wife.  It was listed for sale in July 2015 and can be yours for just over $5 million.  222 S East Torch Lake Drive is close to Central Lake and the guest cottage can accomodate all your friends and family.  According to Mlive and the listing real estate agent Albrecht “a lot of well-known celebrities are in the market” so you shouldn’t wait too long if this cottage on the lake peaks your interest.


People often talk about other famous people choose Torch Lake as their home and who can blame them.  It is said rapper and tough guy Eminem owns a house on the lake but I haven’t found any source that confirms this. The rumor goes Mr. Shady sometimes hangs out at local bars and perhaps he can be seen on a jet ski or boat enjoying the lake.   You sometimes see pictures claiming they show his mansion (or “cottage”) on Torch Lake but they often are false claims.

The same is true for Michigan native Kid Rock.  You can find articles about his riverfront home in Detroit and mansion on Lake Fenton in southern Michigan but no online records or news articles stating he actually owns a house on Torch Lake.  But perhaps he likes it that way and who can blame him to want a bit of privacy.

Mario Batali is an American chef, restaurateur and writer and was featured in an article of the New York Times in 2007 where he talked about Northern Michigan and his home in the Leelanau Peninsula.  Mr. Batali co-owns restaurants in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Westport, CT, Singapore and Hong Kong so he may not have all that much time left to enjoy the 4 seasons in quiet Northern Michigan.  He often posts on Instagram and Facebook about Northern Michigan like this time when The Edge from U2 visited before a concert in Chicago.


Batali and The Edge from U2 at Blackstar Farms, Suttons Bay in 2015

James Earl Jones was born in Mississippi, moved to Jackson, MI when he was 5 but later moved to the town of Brethren in Northern Michigan.  His acting career started at a local theatre in Manistee.  An interesting article about his childhood describes how he found his voice that later became known all over the world (and far beyond) as the voice of Darth Vader.

Ernest Hemingway spent many years of his childhood and young life in Northern Michigan.  Hemingway visited the General Store in Horton Bay quite often and wrote about it in the story “Up in Michigan”.  The store is still open for business in summer.  The area around Petoskey, Charlevoix and Boyne City was his playground and there are a few tours that can explore many of those locations.

Horton Bay General Store

General Store in Horton Bay, Michigan

Gary Morse wasn’t a famous person and he preferred it that way.  Morse was raised in Central Lake, Michigan where his family ran Brownwood Farms.    Morse’s father Harold Schwarz bought a few thousand acres of land in Florida south of Ocala in 1959.  He started selling lots and that’s how the huge retirement community The Villages was started.  Gary Morse took over the business in 1983 and continued building the community with homes, pools, restaurants, gold courses and town centers.

Morse lived at a secluded home in The Villages but often made the trip back to Northern Michigan where part of his family still lives.  When your family is worth an estimated $ 2.5 billion, you travel in style with your own jet.  The Villages Corporation actually owns 4 private jets, as well as a 147-foot yacht Cracker Bay which was often seen in Charlevoix.

Private aircraft are not uncommon but a large jet aircraft at the small Antrim County Airport caught my attention.  Tail number N902YP reveals this Dassault Falcom 900 is owned by The Villages Corporation so a good indication Mr. Morse was visiting his family and friends in the place he grew up in Antrim County.  Mr. Morse died on October 30, 2014 at age 77.  These pictures at Antrim County Airport were taken on October 5th so possibly his last visit here.

N902YP airplane Gary Morse


Added 2 August 2016:

Kid Rock was mentioned before and he was recently spotted on Mackinac Island enjoying the wonderful northern Michigan summer.  Facebook reports show pictures of him walking around on the island and comments say he bought some fudge, took a carriage tour ride, visited Fort Mackinac and had a drink at the Pink Pony.

Much more interesting than Mr. Rock was the yacht he arrived with on the island.  He apparantly was a guest of Jimmy John’s restaurant owner Jimmy John Liautaud who cruises around in style on his 200 ft yacht Rock.It.  This yacht was build by Feadship/De Vries Scheepsbouw in Aalsmeer, Netherlands and reportedly cost 100 million dollars.

After visiting Mackinac Island, the yacht made its way to Charlevoix where it anchored near the shore.  That location was probably chosen because it may be too big to fit through the Pine River.  The harbor in downtown Charlevoix is usually pretty crowded in summer so there probably wasn’t much room to fit a 200 ft yacht anyways.  And I imagine the lack of privacy would be a bit difficult as well.

There are many beautiful and big boats in Michigan but it is not often a yacht this size visits this area.  I wonder how many sandwiches you have to sell to be able to afford a 100 million dollar yacht?

Update February 2018: was listed for sale in early 2017. The listing is not available anymore so it appears this yacht has a new owner or was taken off the market.
Feadship motor yacht Rock.It for sale




Do you have any information about rich and famous people in Northern Michigan?  Please add your comments below.


14 thoughts on “The Rich and Famous in Northwest Michigan

  1. The 1 lady from CBS Sunday morning. Can’t remember her name Martha maybe bought land and gave it back for preservation. Short dark hair. I think her family lived in Traverse City.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mario Batali spends his summers in Northport. Saw him at the Farmer’s Market last year (which I understand he visits frequently). And who did Mario have with him? The Edge from U2! Mario also brings his co-stars up to his beach house and posts about it on Facebook quite often.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. American Rock Artist: KidRock has a house on Torch Lake on the southside by the sandbar. He talks about Northern Michigan often in his songs.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I added some information to the article about Kid Rock’s visit to Northern Michigan and the yacht of Jimmy John. It is not everyday you see a 200 ft yacht like that in this area.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kid Rock does have a place on the west side of Torch Lake. On the 4th of July, he hangs a large American Flag across his properate and a fireworks show. His place is in the upper 1/3rd of the lake and only the boat docks are visiable


  6. Uncle Kracker has a home on Long Lake near Hale Michigan. Himself and Kid Rock visit often they can bee seen in town or out on the lake boating.


  7. You forgot to mention Al Capone had a home here in Berrien Springs. It was also owned by another rich an famous person Muhamned Ali. It was his residence and small traing camp for many years.
    Copone used to travel between Chicago and Detroit…..for “business”…. lol
    His mansion outside Berrien Springs was abandoned for a long, long time until Ali came along.
    On many his trips from Chcago to Berrien Springs….he and “his boys” would stop at Driers in Three Oaks.
    This store was a favorite of all. Driers was a butcher shop and sold cheese as well.
    Its still open to this day under a third generstion. Autographed photo of Mr. Capone and many other famous visitors
    still hangs in Driers.


    • Berrien Springs is in Southwest Michigan near the Indiana border so quite a distance from NW Michigan. But still interesting, haven’t heard of this before.


    • The Winery is BONOBO, and it is owned by Carter Oosterhouse and his brother, Carter was best known for his TV Show Trading Spaces where he was a carpenter on the show until 2008; He was born and raised in the TC area.


  8. Tim Allen has a large home on Lake Charlevoix but was said to have moved over to Leland because it was less crowded and more private.
    Bob Seger still has a home just south of MACKINAC City I thought!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The Rock.It yacht is currently for sale and asking price is €70,000,000 (Approx $82,353,000 ).

    ROCK.IT Yacht for sale
    The 198-foot (60.35m) luxury motor yacht ROCK.IT is the epitome of on-water luxury. Her exceptional style and design personifies the quality of builder Feadship. She is the newest 60-meter Feadship available for sale.

    Launched in 2014, ROCK.IT was built for an experienced yachtsman who required a yacht for personal, corporate and charter use. Ideally suited for families, ROCK.IT is safe, comfortable and stylish.


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