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MacCulloch Properties Inc.
53 Danforth Rd.
Toronto, Ontario M1L 3W5

Tel: (416) 544-1079
Fax: (416) 544-1077

Visiting stars stay at the best addresses

Okay, so actor Kevin Bacon slept here. With his actress wife Kyra Sedgewick. And so did Jane Seymour, the star of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. With her director husband James Keach.

Not at the same time, of course.

But as Diane O'Byrne breezes by the master bedroom of her North Toronto home, there are some questions. It’s one thing to rent your space to celebrity strangers so they can enjoy its elegance, the pool and the well-shaded leafy privacy of a quiet crescent. But the matrimonial duvet as well?


“Listen,” says the perky 40-something mother of two. “For the price they paid, you can buy another bed if it bothers you. But I do change the pillows. There are some things I don’t share.” For O’Byrne and several hundred other members of Toronto’s elite, monied class, renting their homes as private hotels to visiting movie stars is something of a growing business. As the city cements its dominance as Canada’s entertainment capital, the big names coming north are treading a well worn path.

“The growth of this industry has been phenomenal,” says Maureen MacCulloch, whose firm specializes in supplying short term rentals to the stars. Often the actors or actresses are here for a few months at a time. If they have families, they don’t want to live in hotels. There are no toys for the kids, no microwaves to heat a late night snack, no privacy, or parks to take a quiet walk.

So, if your home makes the grade, the occasional rental isn’t such a bad idea. It’s something to talk about, but moreover it pays well. In O’Byrne’s case, the Bacon’s helped her family underwrite a month-long summer holiday in Ireland. “They basically offset the trip,” she says. The rents vary from $1,200 a month for a small bedsitting condo to $20,000 a month for a Rosedale mansion with all the extras. That does not include mandatory cleaning services, nannies, bodyguards or cooks.

The industry grapevine leads them to small, discreet agencies that can find homes with the best postal codes — places like Forest Hill, Rosedale, Lawrence Park, the Annex and parts of the Beaches. There is space, anonymity and 10- to 15- minute access by car to downtown locations where they’re shooting. For the young and the rest-less, there are chic downtown condos, or New York-style loft apartments with bare brick walls and lots of chrome and glass.

Finding homes for celebrities a growing business...

Keanu Reeves went for that and rented one on Queen St. W. near Spadina Ave.

While MacCulloch's firm is the largest in the field, some high-end realtors are also involved. The difference is that MacCulloch focuses on short-term rentals. "We go for everything from small apartments to huge homes," says MacCulloch, who fell into the business 14 years ago. "They have to be nicely furnished and very clean with modern bathrooms and kitchens."

The short-term rentals suit snowbirds who might otherwise lock up their homes and head south for the winter with the burglar alarm on. Likewise, it attracts people who take extended summer holidays either at cottages or abroad. Security was one reason O'Byrne got involved. "I didn't like the thought of leaving an empty house".

MacCulloch aggressively protects her clients' privacy, which is one reason why they come back. "They count on us," she says, "I had a call from a local radio station, the one that does the surprise wake-up calls. They wanted Diane Keaton's phone number. They said they could make it worth my while. I said nothing could convince me to give it to them." Even so, word gets out. A recent Rosedale stay by Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman forced the headmistress at the Branksome Hall private school for girls to get into the act.

The rented home belonged to a Branksome student and before long it was mobbed by curious girls. At least until the headmistress issued her warning. Over the years, MacCulloch's clients have been a Hollywood Who's Who. Alan Alda and his wife are personal favourites ("I was weak-kneed when I met him."). Bette Midler was a charmer. Shirley MacLaine and Rita MacNeil were delightful. In the sporting world, Toronto Blue Jays catcher Charlie O'Brien was a gentleman. As was former Toronto Raptors player John Salley O'Byrne also says her experience suggests that the public perception of star lifestyles as wild may be out of whack. All she's encountered is friendly, hard-working professionals trying to balance their work with family obligations.

Some of MacCulloch’s more recent “celebrity clients”have also included; John Shea (Mutant X), David Chokachi (Witchblade), Andrea Robinson (Doc Series), Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel); Peter Weller (Robocop), Levar Burton (Star Trek) and Donald Sutherland.

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