Now that her Nova Scotia home is on Airbnb, Rita MacNeil is in great company in the afterlife of the celebrities

Do your post-double vax plans include a trip to Cape Breton?

If so, Rita MacNeil calls.

I was delighted to see the other day that Nova Scotia’s response to Graceland is now one thing: an Airbnb listing dubbed (what else?) Rita’s Retreat, posthumously using the waterfront that l Canadian song icon and, yes, First Lady of Cape Breton, called home. Set on six acres and perfectly positioned for ambitious hiking and fishing projects, it features an outdoor saltwater pool and indoor grand piano.

In the garden too – if you really want to put your Canadiana on – there’s a chair where MacNeil, who died in 2013, apparently wrote some of her most beloved songs, like “Working Man,” a haunting ode to coal miners.

All of this made me think about how much of a staple the singer was at one point in this country and how – due to generational amnesia – it might be difficult for some young people to appreciate her uniqueness. The whole icon – and one gay icon, in particular, I’ll add – she not only sang like a lark and was synonymous with Christmas because of her CBC TV specials, she had a personal story that made her endless. rootable. Sexual abuse. Depression and other demons. Addiction. Obesity. The cleft palate she was born with. She took on all kinds of challenges.

And yet, she was also the one who landed her first Juno at 42. “The most promising singer”, indeed, well in the meadows of the fifties. (This year alone, she was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.)

MacNeil may not have had the wider pop culture cachet of Joni Mitchell, or Celine’s vavoom, but in her salt of the earth way, she remains just as poignant. I mean… did those other two show up in RCMP documents decades later like Rita did? Her involvement in the feminist movement in Toronto in the 1970s drew Rita’s attention to the intelligence branch of the force, as was surprisingly revealed years later. She was a real activist who marked the sidewalk.

The same day I read about Rita’s Retreat. I also came across a message of appreciation from Rita from someone I follow on Instagram. Coincidence! Teigan Reamsbottom, who is acquainted with the camp, wrote, showing pride: “One Canadian gay icon who is often overlooked is Rita MacNeil: one of the greatest friends and supporters of our community. Her performances are all pretty campy… she wasn’t the greatest dancer and usually wore outrageous (and not the most stylish) hats. Rita was a feminist who overcame a very troubled past, and was often cruelly mocked for her weight and cleft palate, spent her life promoting love and compassion through music. Rita was actually arrested in the 1970s at a feminist rally in Toronto while fighting for women’s rights and LGBT rights. It was a real badass!

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

So Rita in the afterlife? She is in good company with the homes of famous people – both dead and alive, but mostly deceased – currently available for rent. It’s a bustling microeconomics, in fact.

Think: the Provencal house where Julia Child lived with her husband Paul and where she wrote “Mastering the Art of French Cuisine”. Essentially a cozy three-bedroom chalet, with a well-tended garden and pot-lined kitchen, it’s called La Pitchoune and costs $ 670 (US) a night.

Alternatively, if architecture is your jam, the famous Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut is also open for sleepovers. If you have $ 30,000. The place was the legendary Philip Johnson’s weekend retreat for nearly six decades.

Likewise: the rustic heap in Bath – England! – where none other than Jane Austen found her muse. Do you prefer Jimi Hendrix? His old place in Maui – quite quaint, with cathedral ceilings – is ready for retirement.

In Palm Springs, meanwhile, is the former Dinah Shore Estate, a mid-century oasis designed by legendary Donald Wexler. I visited the place a few years ago – before Leonardo DiCaprio bought it – on one of my California desert getaways and it’s spectacular: offering floor to ceiling windows that wink to the mountains of San Jacinto. The 50s singer and TV personality’s home is a masterpiece and although Mr. Wolf of Wall Street picked it up a few years ago, he also made it available for rent – for a pretty dime.

And then, of course, there’s the Fleming Villa in Jamaica, named after James Bond writer Ian Fleming, which I also had the opportunity to visit several years ago. A-mah-zing. Sitting on the edge of the gilded GoldenEye Resort, the bohemian-chic abode has a private beach, 52 acres of landscaping, and even the office where Fleming wrote those Bond books, for $ 5,000 (US) a night.

As true for Rita as for the others, in other words: RIP becomes Airbnb.

Shinan Govani is a Toronto-based freelance columnist who covers culture and society. Follow him on Twitter: @shinangovani

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