R Kelly's Space Jam Bar?
Just saw this on AV Club and thought it was hella interesting.. can you imagine the Debauchery that went down at this residence?
Back in May, we told you about items allegedly belonging to R. Kelly suddenly cropping up for sale on Craigslist. The ad was tersely worded, but it was hard to believe that a bar adorned with Looney Tunes characters and a glass-backboard basketball hoop could belong to anyone but a Space Jam-era Kells. The day after our story went online, I got a friendly e-mail back from Casey Owca, the woman who placed the ad. Owca explained that she was selling these items for Ilene Greenblatt, a former Chicago dentist who now flips properties for profit as a hobby. She also invited me for a guided tour of the Lakeview mansion after some of the initial renovations had been completed. Two months passed before I heard from her again, and "visit R. Kelly's house" lingered as one of the stranger items in my to-do list. Until Owca and I finally nailed down a time to look around the place together, the house's potential magnificence and laidback policy on urinating on houseguests grew exponentially in my mind. It didn't help that I only had the above photo to go off of while I was waiting.
Before you start imagining an entire house emblazoned with Daffy Duck or a living room wallpapered with the Space Jam poster, I'll bring you down to earth and tell you that this room turned out to be the second weirdest one in the entire house, and most of it turned out to be—of course—the luxurious mansion of a successful R&B singer. It's unassuming from the outside, but on the inside it is, as Greenblatt's interior designer Tim Mathias says, "gaudy as hell."
But it wasn't always this way. The house was originally a church when it was first built in 1885, Owca says, though it eventually became a posh residence in the 20th century. About 20 years ago, a commodities banker bought it, moved in, and fixed the place up considerably. Then, Owca says with a laugh, "African gentlemen moved in and it was party central." Not much is known about this group of people known only to Greenblatt and Owca as "the Africans," but they supposedly threw bashes nonstop for 10 months before the house was foreclosed on. R. Kelly was the next and most recent resident, from 1996 until 2000, taking the party spirit to another level altogether by converting the house into a giant monument to himself. Walking around the 10,000 square feet, it feels more like a house some bratty Gen-Xers would have occupied for a season of The Real World than it does someone's home.
To start, most people don't have a 1,600-gallon fish tank overlooking their foyer-adjacent fireplace and bar. But R. Kelly, as you probably know by now, is not most people. Just about every room but the modestly sized downstairs studio is outfitted with a TV and cable hook-up and also wired for sound. Cameras overlook almost every room, but there are also efforts at privacy. One of the three upstairs bedrooms has horizontal blinds to block out the living room, and one of the five bathrooms has the toilet off in its own separate mini-room—so as not to disturb the kind of friend you might invite over to soak in the hot tub but not want to watch you take a dump.
But you know what? This is all probably standard for a multimillionaire celebrity. The rooftop patio, the 40-foot lap pool, the state-of-the-art but unused kitchen, the shark in the fish tank—it's all impressive but not very shocking. The basketball hoop goes with the basketball court, but that part speaks far more to R. Kelly's psyche at the time than what's on the bottom floor. (We'll get to that.)
Owca says when they staked the place out, the basketball court had an electronic scoreboard that, when not used, would default to display "TAZ: 98, KELLY: 100." In other words, the fictional carnivorous marsupial was good at basketball, but R. Kelly was just barely better. There used to be an adjacent mural in which Foghorn Leghorn, clad in a "Mississippi Mudskippers" jersey, cheered the singer on with sign that simply said, "Go Kelly!" The basketball theme probably carried over into the house's red-white-and-black color scheme, which mystifies Owca. I'm almost positive it's a reference to the Chicago Bulls—Kelly moved there in '96, which was the first of three consecutive Michael Jordan-led championships.
You can get a drink of water, but you'll have to deal with Taz looking over your shoulder.
But there is no explanation for the entire basement floor. After descending the stairs next to the pool, you're suddenly in a log cabin. Seriously, it's an entire log cabin beneath the house. "We were all stunned," Owca says of when they first saw the floor. It's eerily quiet and a little cold, but the track lighting, hot tub, and the cherry, mahogany, and cedar walls and ceiling really spruce it up. This is also where R. Kelly allegedly urinated, but there is no toilet here. Owca adds that the floor was originally very porous and they were unable to wash away the creepiness. They have since replaced the floor, but maintained the house's oddest eccentricity: a light switch in a hallway behind the cabin that illuminates a window, so it appears that you're spying on another cabin amid a soothing landscape of trees. It's easy to imagine R. Kelly draped out on one of the couches down here, fastening his robe after a relaxing soak, only to be unhinged by the inability to look through a basement-level window and see another imaginary cabin.
Before you fire up your PayPal account to put a down payment on this place, bear in mind that Owca is estimating an asking price in the millions-of-dollars range and that renovations won't be done until early 2010. "We see more of a professional type coming in here," she says. "Maybe another rapper or baseball player." But for all you wage slaves out there reading this, believe in yourself. Take the words of "I Believe I Can Fly" to heart: "If I just believe it / There's nothing to it." After all, R. Kelly was once just a kid growing up in Chicago.
For the Hot Tub Photos Click HERE