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.

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Phyllis Barth

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.


Martha Teichner, her father was a famous ski instructor at Leelanau School and Sugar Loaf.

Amy Rafferty

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.

Robert Bunning

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.


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

Thomas P

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.


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.

Shari Ameling

Didn’t Al Capone have a house on Grosse Ile as well?

Jill Anderson

Amy Smart from Varsity Blues has a place in Traverse City and has a winery on Old Mission Pennisula.

Coty Foster

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.


I was there once when Carter was there. Walked right past me, I gave him a nod HI and moved on. His brother was super cool and talkative. Very nice views there as well.

Bj A

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!

Candy Dickson

He does live in Leland. We watched the 4th of July fireworks on Lake Leelanau last night. Our boats were next to each other. I’ve seen him 4 or 5 times up here!

Julie Katsip

Any truth to Dave Matthews having a home on Torch Lake? If so, where?

William Whitehead

The Rock.It came through the pine river into lake charlavoix this morning while i was fishing. No idea who was aboard though.

Jordan deTar

Gary Morse’s family ran/runs Brownwood Acres, not Brownwood Farms. Gary was my grandmothers brother (Great Uncle). I am currently operating Brownwood Acres going into our 80th year!

Kim Kroupa

Word has it that Tom Selleck had a small home on a Private Lake in Lake Ann back in the day.
My husband has told me this many times as we drive by, and he grew up with family on this lake so hard to say!!

I spent 6 summers Babysitting Mario Batali’s kids in the early 2000’s. A very fun position for this Northern girl. They treated me very well and were super respectful. Their kids left a lasting impression on my heart and taught me how to play a mean game of Monopoly when they were only 9 and 10 years old!!

I used to work for Starline in St. Ignace and it was never unusual to run across famous or semi-famous tv stars and athletes. When they did the Soap Opera fest on Mackinac, we had numerous well know actors from Young and the Restless and Bold and the Beautiful ride our ferries over. Most everyone was pretty nice, only a few attitudes over the years.

I also had the pleasure of shuttling Jon Benet Ramsey and her mom to their hotel one summer day when she was about 3 or 4. Her fate still haunts me. Her mom was so proud of her and her pageants. She handed me a business card, sadly I thought it was silly and kinda pompous and tossed it a few weeks later- now I wish I had held onto it. We had a lovely conversation though on the way to their hotel. They spent summers in Charlevoix at their home there.

Lastly. This is a long shot, but my boyfriend at the time who was tagging along (he came up north to surprise me) said that I had Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn in my shuttle. He was a huge fan and the way that these guys acted, it is entirely possible. Neither of us was brave enough to ask though. One of the ladies with them kept asking for a song. It was quite humorous. Not a proven sighting, but anything is likely. This was back in 1995 ish.

I have also shook hands with Michael Moore (while at a dinner party) … needless to say I washed them IMMEDIATELY! I am not a fan. He shakes hands like a dead limp fish and his ex-wife was worse. She was not a nice person at all. If you were a middle-class citizen she would not give you the time of day!! I once stood behind her at Joann Fabrics and watched her chew out the check out clerk, she turned and looked at me with a blank look – Mind you I just met her a few weeks prior!! Skunked!! That’s fine. I am not a fan.

Cathryn Clark

I saw Michael Moore, a few years ago, downtown Traverse City during the film festival. He was getting into a car and he is so large(fat) that he could barely fit in. Seriously! Actually very sad.

Linda Gerlinger

He is not my fav person either, lol. I met Paul Newman, Chris Isaak, John Elway, Purnell Roberts, and others in Denver. Never been to Michigan, since I grew up in Germany 🇩🇪 But I’m all excited to visit Frankenmuth and the wine country in a couple of weeks 😄 I moved from Colorado to Florida. Hopefully it won’t be too cold in Michigan end of Sept. and hope to see some Fall leaves 🍁 Fall is my fav time of year. I never knew Michigan has so much to offer. Only heard about Detroit and Flint.


My son and I met Michael Moore at the State Theater. He was very pleasant and talked to my then 14 year old son – and I was impressed how he actually listened. I am a fan.


Considered one of the all time greats, famed golfer Walter Hagan lived in Traverse City after retiring from golf. He lived here until his passing and often hungout and ate at Little Bohemia.


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Carrie wolfenberger

Kid rock and Eminem both live on Torch lake and if your Lucky you can run into them at the dock side at the greatest bar .. sincerely an Old friend to many on our beautiful lake
..thks Carrie and family. Email me at


So you want a run down on the concentrated wealth in NW Michigan? Start in Harbor Springs, specifically the three exclusive property associations: Harbor Point, Wequetonsing and Roaring Brook. The money is so old it drips from the trees. Try these families: Gamble (Proctor & Gamble); Wrigley/Offield family (Cubs and Wrigley gum); Phyllis Schaffley; Buhls; Fords; Reynolds (Aluminum); Reynolds attorneys in Chicago; Gaylord’s/Nelson’s of Oklahoma. The DeVos and VanAndel’s. This list is endless as is the wealth.

Arron Kenai

We met a really famous person, Star Trek famous at Traverse City State Park. Our toddler that just learned to walk, took off over to this very nice motor home (Florida plate). The particular person picked her up and started talking to her and holding her. We laughed, end up talking, somebody got us chairs to sit by a campfire. There was a group of really nice motor homes, around us. We didn’t have a clue who it was, the person’s voice was so familiar. I was like, I think I know you or met you before?