Before the rich and perennially preppy make their ceremonial, beginning-of-summer voyage to Nantucket next Memorial Day weekend; before the island’s downtown cobblestone streets are clogged with fancy SUVs, popped collars and rampaging tourists in high-season, visitors and residents may catch a glimpse of Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough in newlywed blush.
The Morning Joe co-anchors were at the Harvard Institute of Politics in D.C. on Wednesday night when Scarborough told the crowd that he and Brzezinski might get married in Nantucket next spring.
The island nuptials aren’t set in stone (Brzezinski said they “don’t know because we have people to talk to;” Scarborough said they “have to make sure our kids are okay with it”), but the two have reportedly been establishing roots in the cosseted New England enclave in the months since Scarborough proposed to Brzezinski during a late-May trip to France’s Antibes, another fancy coastal retreat.
The two spent the 4th of July holiday there, according to the Boston Globe, after responding on Morning Joe to President Trump’s Twitter snit attacking the “poorly rated” show and claiming he refused to spend time with the morning hosts (“low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and “Psycho Joe”) during a New Year’s Eve trip to Mar-a-Lago because Brzezinski was “bleeding badly from a face-lift.”
They reportedly spent some of the weekend house shopping, though no word yet on where they’re looking to nest on the crescent-shaped island. And Nantucket’s real estate agents are keeping mum on the subject.
“I make my living off of selling properties to very important people--some celebrities, some TV and movie people, some Wall Street people,” Michael O’Mara, principal broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Island Properties, declared wryly in a phone conversation with The Daily Beast. “And the reason I get to sell them to the big celebs is because I don’t talk about it.”
Indeed, Nantucket has long been a vacation destination for the famous and fantastically rich, from Hollywood stars to political power players and Wall Street heavyweights. Drew Barrymore escapes to the island with her husband Will Kopelman, whose family owns a house there.
Ben Stiller is a longtime resident; likewise Tommy Hilfiger, whose 10-bedroom estate went on sale for $27 million in 2013. Former Secretary of State John Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, have a waterfront home on the tony Hulbert Avenue, which is also on the market for $25 million (their 76-foot sailboat, “Isabel,” is going for $4 million).
Other big-name homeowners include General Electric chief executive Jack Welch, Google exec Eric Schmidt, Barclay’s chief Bob Diamond, and Tim Broas who served as ambassador to the Netherlands under the Obama administration.
There’s also a large contingent of current and former NBC execs and media personalities on the island, which may be part of the appeal for Scarborough and Brzezinski. Bob Wright, chairman of NBC Universal, has a house there, as do Greta Van Susteren, Chris Matthews, David Gregory, who was ousted as host of NBC’s Meet the Press last year and is now a political analyst at CNN, and the family of late Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert (his wife Maureen Orth and son Luke Russert).
Scarborough has been vacationing on Nantucket for years, and has occasionally tuned in to Morning Joe remotely from a public-access station on the island. But he was first introduced to Nantucket through Bob Wright in 2004, who invited Scarborough and his former wife to the Nantucket Film Festival.
“Nothing draws you to an island like your boss telling you to go,” Scarborough told Nantucket magazine in a 2010 cover feature. “Within five minutes after getting off the plane, my wife Susan turned to me and said this place is special and we fell in love with it immediately.”
Asked about Nantucket’s “magnetic appeal” to NBC execs and staffers, Scarborough replied: “I think it all started with Jack Welch and Bob Wright but there are very few places that have me thinking, ‘Oh, I’ve got to come back here with my family as soon as possible.’ It was just one of those places where we went for business and stayed for love.”
O’Mara said that confidentiality agreements are almost always involved in sales to the famous and powerful. But he allowed that Polpis, a village on the north east side of the island, has become a real estate hot spot in recent years for those in search of seclusion and sprawling acreage.
“You get privacy, forest, topography—it’s not the sand dune up there,” he said.
Roughly five miles to town, five miles to Nantucket’s renowned Sankaty Head Golf Club, and a stone’s throw from the luxury Wauwinet hotel and its swanky Topper’s restaurant, Polpis is fetching some of the biggest prices on the island.
One Polpis estate, a 64-acre compound on a private peninsula known as “Swain’s Neck,” is on the market for $35 million—down from $59 million in 2012 (at the time, it was the priciest publicly listed home for sale in New England, and among the 20 most expensive publicly listed properties across the country).
But O’Mara, who has lived on Nantucket year-round for more than forty years, said high-profile people who come to the island generally don’t have to worry about fans incessantly asking for autographs.
“The only famous guest who I can remember being harassed was Richard Nixon on Main Street in September 1980,” said O’Mara. “He wasn’t president anymore but he still had secret service with him.”
Celebrities like Kevin Spacey, Leonardo DiCaprio, James Franco, Kourtney Kardashian, and Woody Allen have all visited the island in recent years. Last summer, Woody Allen and his wife Soon-Yi were seen having dinner at Cru, one of Nantucket’s more chi-chi restaurants. Kourtney Kardashian was spotted last summer at the Chicken Box, a nightclub and island institution.
“The Box is both the diviest of dive bars and the sceniest of clubs,” said Tamara Greenman, who founded La Rock Events, an event planning business on the island, and also works as a real estate agent at J Pepper Frazier Co., one of Nantucket’s better known family-operated real estate firms. “The Box has managed to stay relevant with a mix of fresh new bands and classics every night of the week,” she said, noting that its “gritty charm” makes the interminably long lines worth waiting in for patrons.
A former Democratic operative who lives on the island and spoke on condition of anonymity said more people from Washington are summering in Nantucket because it’s become easier to get to in recent years, with direct flights from D.C. National Airport.
“It’s definitely more discovered now than it was five years ago because there are so many more ways to get here now,” said Dalton Frazier, principal broker at J Pepper Frazier Co., adding that easier access to the island’s charms correlates to a surge in real estate market value. At the same time, he said, “supply is going down because every real estate transaction comes with a 2 percent land bank tax. There are also a bunch of other conservation groups buying up open land, which is protected and won’t go back into the market.”
2005 remains the most lucrative year for Nantucket real estate (with total sales of $1.2 billion), though Frazier notes that the $1 billion threshold has been crossed during three other years since then—and expects the market to do so again in 2017.
Indeed, decades-old salty restaurants are being replaced by hip ones or, in the case of The Club Car—an upscale restaurant famous for its old-school piano bar—getting a hip makeover.
The chefs of the celebrated, 42-year-old Straight Wharf restaurant, which overlooks the harbor, bought the Club Car last year and re-opened it over Memorial Day weekend.
“They kept the name but it has a totally different vibe now,” said Holly Finigan, founder of the Nantucket blACKbook, a fashion and lifestyle blog based on the island. “It’s becoming more of a melting pot: the really cool global people and thought leaders who are discovering the island mixed with the locals.”
Despite all of the development, almost half of Nantucket’s is under conservation, including the breathtaking bluff (and its sleeve of white beach) in the town of Siasconset on the east side of the island. Its 10 miles of public beach are all the more appealing in the off-season, when the odds of being alone on the coastline—just you, a few piping plovers, and, perhaps, a private plane carrying Brzezinski and Scarborough overhead—are rather high.