Q: Recently, I was watched “The Today Show” while Tom Brokaw was interviewing Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. At the end, Brokaw mentioned that they would soon return to their “compound” near a Missouri lake, but didn’t say where. Can you tell me?
J.L., of Collinsville
A: For those who are not Brangelina groupies (as I am not), you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that the handsome hunky actor and his wife apparently have a house just a stone’s throw from where his parents put down roots a half-century ago — in Springfield, Mo.
Although William Bradley Pitt was born a week before Christmas 1963, in Shawnee, Okla., his father, who ran a trucking company, soon moved to Springfield, where he and his wife raised their three children. The kids attended Kickapoo High School, where Brad joined the golf, swimming and tennis teams. He also competed on the debate squad and, of course, enjoyed his first taste of the spotlight in the school’s musicals. In 1982, he started his studies at the University of Missouri at Columbia, where he majored in journalism with an emphasis on advertising.
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But just as he was about to graduate, Pitt apparently had second thoughts. He had fallen in love with movies — “a portal into different worlds for me,” as he called them. So, like ol’ Jed Clampett, he knew Californy was the place he had to be, so just two weeks before earning his degree, Pitt loaded up his car and moved to Tinseltown, where he started taking acting lessons and working odd jobs.
In the 20 years since, he has earned dozens upon dozens of award nominations and wins, including an Oscar as one of the producers for “12 Years a Slave” in 2013. And even as his five-year marriage to Jennifer Aniston was hitting the rocks, Pitt said he “fell in love” with Jolie when they were paired for the first time as a bored middle-class married couple in the 2005 rom-com “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” Before the couple married last year, Jolie gave birth to Pitt’s three children (including twins in 2008) while also helping raise their three adopted children — one each from Cambodia, Vietnam and Ethiopia.
But you can imagine the hassle it would cause if eight people invaded your house for a lengthy holiday stay. So to ease the strain on their occasional visits to his parents, they reportedly did what any couple with megamillions would do — they built a mansion just down the road from his folks near a Springfield lake. According to reports, it has seven bedrooms (which is not surprising considering their brood) and is richly decorated with furniture and artifacts from Africa (where Angelina gave birth to the couple’s first child, Shiloh, in the spring of 2006).
Of course, talk of the stars’ coming to the heartland fueled all kinds of speculation when a gargantuan palace began going up in 2008 between Springfield and Branson. According to submitted plans, it was going to be one of the largest mansions in the country with 13 bedrooms and 14 bathrooms included in the 72,000-square-foot monster. The buzz was that it was almost big enough for the Brangelina clan, but as it turned out, it was being built as a single-family home by Steven Huff, owner of a building materials technology firm. He said he was constructing his Pensmore estate to better test his company’s products, according to a myth-busting story in the New York Times.
So it appears that despite the gossip, Brad and Angelina are having to make do in their far less gaudy home away from home. Of course, gossip is nothing new to Pitt and Jolie. A few years ago, Us Weekly told in detail how their kids destroy area businesses every time they retrun to Springfield.
“The place shuts down for the entire night and the kids raise a ruckus,” an “insider” told the magazine about a 2012 family visit to Arris’ Pizza. “They jump on tables and even throw food at each other! Brad and Angelina just sit there and talk to one another while the children run around in circles.”
The allegations probably sold magazines in supermarket checkout lanes, but for those who devour these National Perspirer type of publications, Arris owner Tani Kremer told GossipCop.com it simply wasn’t true.
“The last time they were in, their kids were so well-behaved,” she said, adding that the restaurant never closed for its Hollywood guests and that “if (the children) got a little loud, (Jolie) would come over. We’d like for them to come in again.”
Q: Can you tell me how they change the lights that burn out way up in the ceiling at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Belleville?
B.T., of Belleville
A: Monsignor John Myler probably seldom gets to joke while answering questions from the press, so he took full advantage this time to show off his sense of humor.
“We hire very tall maintenance men,” he told me with hardly a moment’s pause.
Or maybe he waits for the NBA season to end and asks a couple of 7-foot centers looking for an extra buck to stand on each other’s shoulders. But I suppose that wouldn’t do it, either, so they have to resort to a much more mundane solution.
“Between the ceiling and the roof, there is a long walkway,” he said. “So the fellows who change the lights take a ladder up into that area between the ceiling and outer roof, and they actually reach down and change the lights. Next time they do it, I’ll give you a call.”
I’ll look forward to it, especially if he has a few more zingers saved up.
In the first drafts of the original “Star Trek” TV series, what was the name given to the USS Enterprise?
Answer to Monday’s trivia: If you’re thinking about chucking it all and moving to Venice, Italy, to become a gondolier, you’d better have a lot of pasta ... er ... bread saved up. A new 35-foot-long gondola that takes tourists for romantic trips through the city’s famous canals would run you between $37,000 and $53,000, according to the experts on Rick Steves’ Europe. Weighing about half a ton, they are made of eight different kinds of wood, travel about 3 mph, and, according to a 17th century law, are always painted black (six coats). Every 40 days, they have to be treated with a new coat of varnish to protect them against an indigenous pest that would feast on the wood. But the numbers would be on your side. In the 1800s, there were 10,000 gondolas in Venice; now there are only 400 licensed gondoliers left.