The Ultimate Newport Celebrity List

Friday, August 03, 2018
GoLocalProv Lifestyle Team

Left to Right: Kennedy, Kwan and Leno
Newport is the cultural intersection of countesses, sailors, artists, and an ever-increasing list of Hollywood celebrities.

Recently, there has been an influx of super-wealthy Hollywood stars scooping up Newport mansion for as little as $9 million.

On any given July or August the very rich -- and very famous -- may be in town for a weekend wedding or a party, but in recent years a slew of celebrities have decided to make Newport one of their homes.

GoLocal takes a look at some of the homegrown celebs and the "outsiders" who moved to Newport. For some, they came for the summers, the architecture, the food and the “Town and Country” mentions. Others, they came as they had a birthright to summer in Newport.

The list focuses on those of the late 20th and 21st centuries -- the Gilded Age is not included.

  • Jay Leno:

    Leno became a Newport homeowner in December of 2017 when GoLocalProv reported that he bought Seafair at 254 Ocean Avenue in Newport.

    The reported buying price was somewhere between $12 and $14 million. Leno was the famous host of The Tonight Show for 22 years up until 2014, the same year he was elected into the Television Hall of Fame.

  • Judy Sheindlin:

    Sheindlin, better known as Judge Judy, is buying a $9 million Newport mansion. According to “The home was owned by the late Dorrance Hill Hamilton, who died last year at age 88.” Sheindlin originally ruled in criminal courts before supervising family court rulings. She then went on to create her own syndicated courtroom show, where she grew to fame.

  • Countess Anthony Szapary

    She was "the doyenne of Newport society and the great-great-granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt who lived a good part of the year on the upper floors of the Breakers, maintaining the family's presence in the 70-room mansion built by her grandparents," reported the New York Times at the time of her death in 1998.

  • Alexis DeJoria:

    The professional drag racer is the wife of reality television star Jesse James (he was formerly married to Sandra Bullock).

    She bought the mansion Ocean Lawn in January of 2017. She purchased the estate with her billionaire father, John Paul DeJoria. He co-founded the Paul Mitchell hair care products line and the Patron Spirits Company. Ocean Lawn sits on over 16,000 square feet, contains 13 bedrooms and 10 full bathrooms, and overlooks Cliff Walk.

  • Nicolas Cage

    Nicolas Cage was the owner of a beautiful Middletown estate until money and tax problems forced him to sell his place at a loss. Cage apparently purchased the home for $15,700,000 in 2007 but sold it in April of 2011 for a reported $6,200,000. He had originally been asking for $19,000,000 in 2008, but a $13,300,000 lien on it for overdue taxes forced him to sell it far below value. Cage is a well-known actor, featuring in renowned films such as National Treasure, Ghost Rider, and Con Air. 

    As GoLocal reported in 2011:

    After nearly three years, actor Nicolas Cage has finally sold his Middletown mansion for $6.2 million. The 27-acre estate, called Gray Craig Manor House, was sold Friday to Pamela and Andrew Constantine of Forestdale, MA.  

    Because of financial difficulties, Cage decided to sell the expansive 87-year-old ocean-view home.

  • Larry Ellison:

    Ellison co-founded the software company Oracle in 1977 and is now worth $58 billion according to Forbes.

    Ellison bought Astor’s Beechwood mansion back in 2010 and after years of work, it is ready to house his 18th and 19th-century European art collection, which the public will be able to tour.

  • Richard Saul Wurman:

    Wurman and his wife Gloria Nagy lived in The Orchard, which is located along the Cliff Walk. They called the mansion home from 1993 until 2016, when they sold the place for $2.5 million.

    The original asking price of the home was listed at $6.7 million. Wurman is the founder of TED Conference, and Nagy is a best-selling author.

    "I love living in this house, and I'm not blasé about it at all, but this town is an intellectual wasteland without any sense of humor," he told the New York Times in 2010. "I've been living here for 17 years, and if you asked me to tell you when I last had lunch with anybody but my wife or someone that came to see me from India or New York or Boston or Germany, I couldn't come up with a name."

  • Michelle Kwan:

    The figure skating celebrity still has a Newport house on the market. The house, which sits just off Ocean Drive, is listed at a slashed price of $3.999M -- down from $4.395M.

    The sale comes after the divorce of Kwan and Herbert Claiborne “Clay” Pell IV, a grandson of the late U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell. Kwan is a two-time Olympic medalist (winning silver in 1998 and bronze in 2002) and a five-time World champion.  

  • Paul Gordon:

    The late Paul Gordon was a Newporter and graduated from Rogers High school in 1981. He died in 2016 of heart failure and related complications at the age of 52.

    Gordon was a well-known musician, mostly as a member of The Radicals and as the keyboardist and rhythm guitarist for the B-52’s, for whom he played with until his death.

  • Carolyn Rafaelian

    The "Bangle Billionaire" is making most of the business magazines' top lists.

    The CEO of Alex and Ani owns Belcourt Castle, a restaurant, and her company holds a premier retail location on Thames Street. 

    She also owns a nearby vineyard.

  • Claiborne Pell

    The legendary United States Senator made his mark on American history in both education and the arts.

    The name is familiar to anyone in the Rhode Island area, and that would be because the bridge connecting Jamestown and Newport is named for him. Pell was elected to six terms as a Rhode Island Senator. The Pell Grant legislation, another of his legacies, provides funding for students seeking higher education, and since its founding in 1972, over 100 million Pell Grants have been awarded. Pell passed away in 2009.

  • Jane Pickens Hoving

    Hoving was a musical star for more than 20 years and later a  philanthropist. Her singing career began with two of her sisters as the three formed the group the Pickens Sisters. She went on to have success on the radio and on television as well, as she had her own NBC radio show and her own ABC television show.

    In 1992 she died at 83 years old in her home in Newport.

  • Mena Suvari:

    Suvari is one of the few on the list who was born in Newport. She grew up in an 1870’s stone house situated on four acres before moving to the Virgin Islands when she was eight. That was followed by a move to South Carolina and finally Los Angeles where her modeling career took off.

    She has gone on to star in numerous films, including American Pie, American Beauty, and Rumor Has It.

  • James Van Alen

    "Mr. Van Alen founded the Hall of Fame in 1954 at the site of the old Newport Casino, where the first United States tennis championships were held in 1881. He was elected president of the hall in 1957.

    Mr. Van Alen graduated in 1924 from Cambridge University, where he was a tennis champion," reported the New York Times.

    He died aged 88 at his home in Newport in 1991.

  • Richard Hatch:

    Hatch was born in Newport in 1961. Thirty-nine years later he became the first ever winner of CBS’s show Survivor. He went on to feature in the All-Stars season of Survivor, a season of Celebrity Apprentice and one season of The Biggest Loser.

    Also, Hatch is similar to the stars that on grace this list, in that, he too was convicted of tax evasion, which occurred in 2006.

  • Felix De Weldon:

    De Weldon was a famous sculptor, known for making busts of the kings of England and perhaps best known for creating the Iwo Jima monument in Washington D.C.

    De Weldon owned the 22,000 square foot Beacon Rock estate, which he resided at for years. However, in his later life, he continuously ran into financial troubles and had difficulty holding onto his home. Eventually, he sold it in 1996 and later died aged 96 in 2003.

  • John Nicholas Brown

    Descendant of the early benefactors for Brown University, Brown resided in a lavish estate in Newport. The philanthropist and patron of the arts, Brown inherited a fortune that had been passed down for generations. Brown was also a United States Assistant Secretary of the Navy (AIR). In 1979 he died at the age of 79.

    When born, the press dubbed him "the richest baby in the world."

    "I grew up an American legend," he said in an interview shortly before his 70th birthday. "Very little of it is true. They wrote an awful lot of crazy things. They said I had a special cow to provide milk. What a lot of nonsense," reported the Washington Post at the time of his death.

  • Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

    The First Lady was a summer home user of the Stonor Lodge, a 9,000 square foot Newport Mansion.

    However, a massive fire destroyed the place in 2016 while the house was undergoing renovations. Jacqueline and President John F. Kennedy married in Newport in 1953, and the house hosted Jacqueline on the eve of her wedding. For generations, the house was owned by the Drexel family.

    Later, as the wife of John F. Kennedy, the couple summered at Hammersmith Farm in Newport.

  • Dede Wilsey

    "Her privileged childhood featured summers at the family estate Beulieu House in Newport, Rhode Island, and in the south of France. When she made her social debut in 1961, as a Connecticut College student, "Town & Country" magazine featured her on its cover."

    Her father, Wiley Buchanan, a U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg and Australia.  Wilsey, a philanthropist and San Francisco socialite, married art collector John Traina, but later divorced him. She then married the dairy millionaire, Al Wilsey.

    She has been involved with a series of controversies tied to her role with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

    PHOTO: Courtesy of Flickr Viva Vivanista

  • Doris Duke:

    Duke, the daughter of a wealthy tobacco tycoon, was able to live a life of adventure, whether writing journalism, surfing, or playing jazz piano. She owned Rough Point mansion in Newport until her death in 1993.

    The controversial death of interior designer Eduardo Tirella made headlines around the world.

    A Los Angeles Times series on her life wrote, "A Tale of Money and Mystery: Billionaire tobacco heiress Doris Duke's death has spawned a wealth of disputes. She died much as she lived--in secrecy, loneliness and on the edge of scandal."

    The Newport mansion is truly spectacular, as it encased 105 rooms in its 39,000 square feet of space. This beautiful place, which was opened to the public in 2000 and can be seen from the Newport Cliff Walk, was just one of Duke’s many beautiful homes.

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower

    President Eisenhower took to Newport starting in the summer of 1957. His visits to the commandant’s residence at Fort Adams were suppose to be for relaxation and golf, but during visits, he still had to deal with incidents such as the Little Rock Nine and the Soviet’s interest in Cuba and the Congo. 

    At times, both Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy were vacationing in Newport at the same time.

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