New site: We'll tell you how mansion owners made their money
Mansion Map is a faintly creepy new site that lets you discover who lives in the biggest houses and how the 1 percent of the 1 percent made their money.
You're quite a nosy type, aren't you?
You like to pretend that you don't care about other people's business, but then you crawl around the Web, stalking mercilessly for information that you hope might make you feel better. Or worse.
This is something that Greg Berry understands. He comes from Waterbury, Conn. According to Money magazine, this is the worst place to live in America.
Berry claims that, as a kid, he used to drive with his brother through rich neighborhoods and stare longingly at the mansions.
Now he'd like to take you on that trip too. Because he's created Mansion Map. This delightful site claims that it will not only show you where mansions are, but tell you who owns them and how they made their money.
You might imagine that mansioneers will be up in arms about such a common concept. What business is it of anyone's why they're so rolling in dough that they have staff to roll it for them?
Berry insists he's only using publicly available information. Where there isn't any, he's not hiring private detectives to weed out the dirt.
I can attest to this. I so wanted to know how Isabel Y. Alvarez of Collins Avenue, Miami made her money. However, the site couldn't tell me. Sadly, it couldn't tell me if she was married, either.
"I strongly believe showing the wealthiest zip codes in the country, viewing the mansions, and learning a bit (what's publicly available) about the owner is very inspirational," Berry told me. As this was by e-mail, I couldn't be sure of the position of his tongue in relation to his cheek.
Of course, the joy of all this is that mansion-dwellers aren't just celebrities. They're the people who made money out of silly widgets, brass rings and pornography.
Wouldn't it be lovely to discover that this sort of person lived somewhere near you?
Berry says he's just a solo entrepreneur, sitting at a computer, trying to be upwardly mobile. I asked him, though, whether he was worried that having all this information in one place would encourage protesters to target their most reviled mansioneers.
He told me: "If you're determined to protest something, I am sure you already realize there are many sites out there that offer this same information. Whitepages online has been around since '97. This is public information and also on a local basis if you live in a 10,000 square foot house I am sure most of the neighborhood knows who you are. Isn't that why you would build a 10,000 square foot house?"
Well, no. I would build a 10,000-square-foot house, so that when the revolution comes, no one would know which room I'm in.
I'd also build a 10,000-square-foot house, so that I could keep a considerable distance from the neighbors.
Berry, though, seems a much nicer person than me. I asked him how he'd feel if he'd married into a mansion. He told me: "I didn't marry into a mansion so I guess I would say that I don't believe in it, but if my wife came with a mansion I would be more than happy to call it my own!"
Please parse the logic in that at your leisure, while sipping camomile on a chaise-longue in one of your four drawing-rooms.
I worry, though, that this site -- which seems to lack any mansions in states such as Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska and even Kansas -- was his way of getting a mansion of his own.
Berry told me: "Quite possibly. It is quite motivating to see that somebody can afford a $30M house while I'm worrying about making ends meet. It shows what is possible and keeps me striving for sucess and helps me move forward at all times."
So you see, some people still believe in the American dream. They believe that they can make money out of people's dreams of the American dream. Indeed, they hope they can make them enough money out of people's dreams of the American dream to live the American dream themselves.
This entails a mansion, apparently.