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    Madonna didn't take this 'Holiday'

    While the Material Girl may have shown interest in Baillie's Bluff, a rumor that she made the move proves only a local myth.

    By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published July 19, 2002


    HOLIDAY -- It's a material house for a Material Girl: a 13-acre oceanfront spread of marble floors, three-story Corinthian columns, 7 1/2 bathrooms and a breezy gulf terrace.

    But reports of Madonna's buying a 9,000-square-foot, celebrity-sized mansion on Baillie's Bluff in the Pasco County community of Holiday have been, as they say, greatly exaggerated.

    Boat captains like to point to the multimillion-dollar white edifice beyond the Anclote power plant and spin the yarn to tourists: Yonder lies the castle of Madonna, the rock star.

    For neighbors on Baillie's Bluff, many of whose homes run in the middle-class range, the Madonna rumor can add spice to cocktail conversation. Madonna recorded a song called Holiday, didn't she?

    "If Madonna's there, she's either in good disguise or real well hidden," said Eddie Swartsel, a Realtor who lives on an oceanside lot near the house Madonna was rumored to have bought.

    The mansion actually belongs to Dr. Andrew Jonas, a wealthy pathologist who bought the place relatively inexpensively for about $1-million in 1995. The original owner was Dr. Alfred Bonati, but the bank foreclosed on the then-incomplete mansion in 1993, accusing Bonati of skipping several $17,000 monthly payments.

    But the rock star rumor could have a grain of truth.

    Keith Dunn, a New Port Richey stock broker with ties to the real estate business, said Madonna may have expressed interest in buying the mansion after Bonati lost the house in the early 1990s. But she decided it wasn't secluded enough for her jet-setting lifestyle.

    Other celebrities have peeked at property in the area, too, following the lead of millionaires like Lisa Marie Presley, who bought a house in Clearwater to be near the Church of Scientology.

    "You'd be surprised at the celebrities who have looked at Baillie's Bluff," Dunn said, taking care not to disclose names.

    One of Dr. Jonas' neighbors, former Pasco County Attorney Ben Harrill, recalls when his children several years back rushed to tell him about a helicopter that supposedly whisked Madonna onto Baillie's Bluff.

    Harrill didn't place much stock in the rumor, despite the Hollywood-like no trespassing sign at the foot of Jonas' long driveway.

    "My wife said, "Dr. Jonas' wife doesn't even look like Madonna,' " Harrill said.

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