Last week, a friend of mine casually said, “Hey, I don’t know if you’d be interested, but I have tickets to Nicolas Cage’s estate sale if you want to go.” Which was an odd way to phrase a thing I couldn’t possibly be any more interested in. Nicolas Cage? The man who infamously outbid Leonardo DiCaprio for a dinosaur skull? Formerly married to Priscilla Presley? Constant money woes? Used to own a Caribbean Island and a castle in Germany (both have been sold, see money woes)? Yes. Yes I want to see that.
I had nearly a week to imagine the eccentric treasures I would soon get to witness. I envisioned a perilous drive up into the hills, serpentine roads twisting up higher and higher until I reached an epic mansion that maybe had a front gate made out of machine guns? And then room after room of classic comic books, taxidermied exotic animals and Samurai swords. I stressed about what one wears to a celebrity's estate sale - a term that, until this week, I thought was only used when a person had died. As it turns out, it can also be politely used when the bank has seized your house.
The day-of finally came and I was surprised to find myself in the middle of the Los Angeles flatlands instead of far up in the hills. Sure, there were some winding streets on the way but I was never in peril, which I found somewhat disappointing. I walked up to a house that I would have assumed was the wrong address if it weren’t for a line of middle-aged mom-types lined up out front. It was a one story terra cotta number -- something you’re familiar with if you’ve ever spent time in a particularly boring suburb, and definitely not something you'd expect from a man who averages two films a year at near ten million a pop. In 2007, at the height of Cage’s out-of-control spending, he owned fifteen personal homes from Bel Air, California to Middletown, Rhode Island. I guarantee this is the one that was forgotten about. To be clear: this Beverly Hills mansion I was glaring at skeptically is beautiful and makes my childhood home look like a pile of garbage. But for a man that has made more than a hundred million dollars in his career? He’s basically living like a hobo.
The mom-types were chatting with a giant neck-tattooed security guard, complaining about the wait in a way that was meant only to fill the silence. It wasn’t really the group I had been expecting. These were bargain shoppers hitting up a garage sale, not lower-ranking members of the Illuminati looking for some deals on claw-footed chairs.
We neared the entrance and saw that someone had even pulled the pedestrian move of tying their dog up outside while they went inside to shop. It was a sweet scruffy old thing, sitting there patiently while its owner surely combed through old playboys and polaroids of Patricia Arquette that had been burned with cigarettes and stained with Cage tears. We were next in line to go in when the woman behind me, who had been particularly annoying in her chatter, shouted, “Did that dog pee blood?” Which yes, it did. We walked inside as the owner was called out, in a panic, to see to her ailing pet. Seemed like something that could only happen at a notoriously weird celebrity’s garage sale- excuse me, estate sale.
My friend and I walked in, really just prepared for anything. At the very least, a sex dungeon, a secret tea room, SWORDS (I was expecting a lot of swords), but we were greeted only by a small foyer with a lone Egyptian-themed chair and some cardboard boxes. I was already wondering If I should have stayed outside for the conclusion of the blood peeing dog saga. Forward was an expansive living room, and to our right was a small weight room. We chose to go into the weight room first. I want you to know that it smelled exactly like a recently emptied canister of Pringles. Not original either, maybe pizza? Or cheddar? None of the equipment was any newer that maybe the late-80s. An old stationary bike, weights, and a menagerie of boxing gloves (including several pairs with flames, which would be a theme throughout the house). I began to feel a sinking suspicion that while this may have been a house that Cage owned, he certainly didn’t spend much time here.
We walked back out into the foyer and then into a large, bright living room I can only assume was supposed to be rococo-inspired -- a look that would seemingly appeal more to a mean stepmother with expensive taste and a flair for the tacky than the Wicker Man. Much of house had been picked-over by early birds, but piles of gilded cherub wall sconces and massive chandeliers were littered throughout the house. The man had so many office phones, none of them cordless. Most of the furniture was tasteful and all priced to sell. Mediocre, unimportant art priced to move, including a cross-stitched copy of the Mona Lisa that against a wall in Cage’s current or former wife’s sewing room -- which was also filled with lux bolts of hideous fabric.
There were whispers from the bargain hens that there existed several “sexy whips” for sale, all tame and no worse than anything these women had rushed out to buy after finishing the third installment of "Fifty Shades of Gray." I personally found much more scandal and discomfort rooting through boxes of old books, mostly the self-help books celebrities seem wont to read, art books on drawing the female form, copies of your standard Hemingway classics, and hardbound Encyclopedia Britannicas. Some that would make you laugh knowing they had once belonged to one of our weirder movie stars, and some that would bum you out regardless. There were no comic books, though, aside from one he and his son wrote called "Voodoo Child" that was going for fifty cents a pop. This was weird -- if you know anything about Nicolas Cage, it’s that he loves comic books. (And if you must know one other thing, it should be that he has a tattoo of a lizard wearing a top hat.) The lack of comics made me certain that this was not a house frequented by Cage. Also, that I was a sucker for leaving work undone to come to a strange Beverly Hills model home from the 80s. And that maybe everyone in the place was a sucker.
Things took a turn when I found the leather jackets and pants. I will say that for estate sales, the hunt is thrilling. I passively opened a closet door to discover four of the Cagiest leather jackets I’ve ever seen. Each fit me like a glove because Nic is a tiny little guy, apparently. One was standard all-black, one had flames, one a tough guy motorcycle number, and one looked like it had been rubbed in really expensive mud and then left to dry in the sun someplace exotic. I should have bought all of them and I’m going to regret not doing so until the day I die.
I looped the entire house again, looking for really anything I thought I could care enough about to wait in the line while suffering through excited small talk of asexual forty somethings in fanny packs. I decided on a copy of "Voodoo Child" and walked past a guy in a "Ghost Rider" shirt (I shit you not) asking if there was a room filled with memorabilia. I stepped out of the front of the house and right into an ex-boyfriend -- and not a polite “hi how are you?” ex-boyfriend either. He was there with a woman in kitten heels, and before I could form a sassy comment that I wouldn’t have delivered, they were inside the house. I shelled out my fifty cents and headed down the driveway. The sick dog was gone and the driveway had been washed clean.
Honestly, I think the only person coming out of this looking okay is Nicholas Cage.