It was just more than a century ago that young F. Scott Fitzgerald came down from his native Minnesota and visited Lake Forest for a few days.
Out of that stay in the northern suburb, which spawned his romantic idealization of beautiful 16-year-old gazillionaire Ginevra King, Fitzgerald famously wrote: “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.”
As Ernest Hemingway supposedly replied, “Yes, they have more money.”
But Fitzgerald meant they have a different attitude about life, about the rest of us mere humans.
He meant that they have separated themselves mentally and physically from the vast regions of working people, from citizens who worry daily about the staples of existence, security, safety and, yes, pleasure.
It’s what huge money can do. What it allows.
Which brings us to houses — which, of course, are not necessarily the same as homes.
Letter to the Editor: Ricketts family consultant responds to this column
What started with old-world castles and fortresses became mansions and estates in modern America as the very rich built structures of such opulence, range and privacy that the only explanation could be, ‘‘I did it because I can.’’
I’m thinking here of Ted Turner, who owns (unless he dumped some on a whim) 2.2 million acres across the U.S., including his 113,000-acre ranch in Bozeman, Montana, which he bought in 1989 for $21 million.
I’m also thinking of Cher’s former 32,000-square-foot compound in Beverly Hills, with its 16 bedrooms, 22 baths, two horse-riding rings and $85 million price tag.
And, of course, I’m thinking of the Cubs. Well, Cubs owners.
We all know sports team owners are rich. We expect that. We’re just un-rich fans who randomly cheer for and complain about ownership without being able to do a thing about it.
The rich are different from you and me, as we know. And among those differences is that they don’t have to give a damn about what we think.
I won’t put the Ricketts family in that category of arrogance, but some of the aw-shucks-we’re-just-Cubs-nuts-from-Nebraska aura might be evaporating as the Cubs mature into a financially unique monolith.
The Rickettses bought the team for about $700 million in 2009, and it now has an estimated value of $2.9 billion, according to a recent report by Forbes. A World Series championship, rooftop purchases and some big signs have made the Cubs worth almost four times more than they were nine years ago.
So what do rich people do when they get richer? They move up the fancy-house scale.
Tom Ricketts had a nice home in Wilmette, which he bought for $1 million in 2004, but he sold it recently for $2.5 million to Loyola basketball coach Porter Moser (moving up, too!) because Ricketts had bought land on the Wilmette beach with a nice house on it for $7 million.
But he didn’t want that house — built in 1914 — just the property, so he tore the old house down. In its place, he erected an $11 million house that sits on elite Lake Michigan shoreline next to Gillson Park. Thus, an $18 million crib.
You can walk down brick-paved Michigan Avenue and look at the house from the front. But unless you go down the driveway, you’re not getting close, because an 8-foot metal fence with points discourages hurdling, climbing or anything but the assault from the Colombian warriors that Tony Montana deals with in “Scarface.”
Out on the beach, you can also look, but you’d better not touch. There are signs that read, “END OF PUBLIC AREA — PRIVATE BEACH BEYOND THIS POINT.”
To the south are all the boats, the public folks, the kids and dogs and beach towels. To the north, it looks like more private stuff. Stuck in between is the narrow Elmwood Dunes Preserve, a sliver of beachfront open to the public, if you traipse down a long path from a dead-end street where there is no parking allowed.
You can — per Illinois law, which is kind of vague — walk along the beach, either up to the high-water mark or with your feet in the water. Then look inland, wave, and say, “Hi, Tom!”
Not far from this Ricketts house is that of sister Laura Ricketts and her wife, Heidi Grathouse, also on the beach. They bought the site in 2012 for $6.5 million, tore down the big existing house and built a new 9,500-square-foot mansion. It was three times bigger than Tom’s old house. Hmm. Competition?
Who knows. But it’s for sure that Tom Ricketts, the face of Cubs ownership, the man who met his wife in the Wrigley Field bleachers, who prides himself on walking through the stands before each home game, is up there in Fitzgerald territory.
Viva la difference!
Sun-Times sports columnists Rick Morrissey and Rick Telander are co-hosts of a new podcast called “The Two Ricks: Unfiltered.” Don’t miss their gritty, no-holds-barred takes on everything from professional teams tanking to overzealous sports parents and more. Download and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts and Google Play, or via RSS feed.