In the September Style & Design issue (on newsstands now): 59 of the most beautiful products you won’t want to live without; David Amsden heads to a remote Bahamian beach to check out Lenny Kravitz’s spartan digs; and Adam Higginbotham sorts out the complicated life of incarcerated ultramarathoner Charlie Engle.
In the September Style & Design issue (on newsstands now): 59 of the most beautiful, best-functioning products you won’t want to live without; David Amsden heads to a remote Bahamian beach to check out Lenny Kravitz’s spartan digs; and Adam Higginbotham sorts out the complicated life of incarcerated ultramarathoner Charlie Engle.
From David Amsden’s Lenny Gets Real:
Slowly the gate opens to Lenny Kravitz’s home. The grounds are lush, but not fussily manicured: just rolling stretches of implausibly green lawns and thickets of swooping palms divided by narrow, sandy pathways. Only one is wide enough to accommodate an automobile, so you turn down it, a bumpy drive, assuming it will lead to some lavish oceanfront estate, a palace befitting a musician whose public image has often been defined by an unapologetic embrace of the extravagant. But then, just as you’re imagining the kind of home you would have here if you were Lenny Kravitz, you realize that you’ve come to a dead end at a modest Airstream trailer. Must be the home of the landscaper or chef, you think, throwing the car into reverse. It’s then that you hear a soft, familiar voice calling out to you.
“Hey, man! You can just park it right there. Welcome to my home.”
Kravitz, looking younger than his 47 years in faded skinny jeans and a loose-hanging tank top, his face obscured by outsize sunglasses, understands that you were expecting something else from someone whose other home is an opulent 17,000-square-foot mansion in Paris. “The girls passed out on couches?” he jokes with a lazy grin. “We cleaned them up before you got here.” He leads you around to the front of the trailer, which sits on a swath of smooth white sand just a few steps from the glinting turquoise expanse of the Caribbean. Kravitz hands you an ice-cold Kalik, the beer of the Bahamas, and explains that his life on Eleuthera, one of the 29 Bahamian islands, serves as a kind of antidote to his better-known existence: a low-fi world far away from the frenetic orbit of touring and tabloids, a place where he can fully unplug. “There’s the gym and the kitchen,” he notes, pointing to a chin-up bar and an outdoor grill. “And there,” he says, gesturing to a series of streamlined, weatherproof couches that look swiped from the balcony of a boutique hotel, “is the den and living room.” He speaks with a practiced charm — clearly you’re not the first visitor to be treated to this tour — as he leads you out to the water’s edge. To the left are a smattering of chaise longues positioned in the shadow of a black coral cliff; to the right a few padded armchairs under an umbrella. “This is the breakfast nook,” Kravitz says, taking a seat. “I like to come out here in the morning after taking a jog or a swim, sip my coffee or coconut water, and just kind of exist. There ain’t a whole lot to do here, which is kind of the point, you know?”
For more from Lenny Kravitz, check out our September issue, on newsstands now.
From Adam Higginbotham’s Nowhere to Run:
Mimi’s Cafe on West Friendly Avenue in Greensboro, North Carolina, is not an obvious place to pick for a first date. Gloomy and dank, marooned on a concrete island in the middle of a mall parking lot, it’s nobody’s idea of a romantic spot. Nonetheless, when an attractive brunette he had only just met suggested to Charlie Engle that they meet there for lunch one Wednesday afternoon in March 2009, he agreed immediately. Engle was 46 and, once again, single. A divorced father of two, he was living alone in a rented apartment in a complex that was otherwise almost deserted — one of many new developments built in Greensboro during the real estate boom and made unsalable when the bubble burst. So when Ellen Bradshaw knocked on his door, explained that she was looking to rent downstairs, and wanted to ask him about what it was like living in the building, he couldn’t have been happier. Bradshaw was petite, flirtatious, recently separated — and, better still, a runner. Running was Engle’s long-standing obsession and, more recently, his career. In 2007 he and two others became the first men ever known to run across the Sahara Desert, and the journey became the subject of a documentary co-produced by Matt Damon. Engle had turned his subsequent celebrity to his advantage, with sponsorships, endorsements, and engagements as a motivational speaker. Bradshaw was keen to hear him describe his exploits, and they agreed to have lunch together the following day.
They met at Mimi’s shortly after one o’clock. According to the transcript of the conversation that would later be produced as evidence in federal court, they stayed until 2:48 pm. Engle, characteristically, talked a good deal: about basketball, the state of the economy, his children’s education, and a lot about his own life. “I thought she seemed overly interested in me,” he wrote to me in a recent letter, “but what man doesn’t like that?” Toward the end of the meal, Bradshaw, who’d said she worked as a financial consultant, asked Engle if he’d ever done any investing. He had: Five years previously, he had supported himself for a while by flipping houses. “I had a couple of good liar loans out there, you know,” he explained. “With my…my mortgage broker who didn’t mind writing down, you know, that I was making 400 grand a year when he knew I wasn’t.”
Uttering this single sentence would eventually cost Charlie Engle his livelihood, his reputation, his freedom, and — if the government has its way — somewhere in excess of a quarter of a million dollars. Because his date that afternoon had not been strictly honest about her intentions or, indeed, much else. Ellen’s real name was not Bradshaw, but Burrows. And she was not a financial consultant, but an undercover agent for the IRS. She was wearing a wire, and every word she and Charlie spoke was being monitored and recorded by a team of federal agents sitting in the parking lot outside.
Two months later, a group of six IRS special agents in flak jackets handcuffed Engle outside his apartment building and charged him with a total of 15 counts of five separate felonies. In the subsequent trial, the conversation in Mimi’s Cafe would prove to be crucial to the government’s case, and Engle was found guilty of the same crime that was also apparently committed by hundreds of thousands of his fellow citizens during the go-go years of the real estate bonanza. “To the best of my knowledge,” he tells me when I meet him at Beckley Federal Correctional Institution in West Virginia, “I am still the only person in the United States in prison for allegedly misstating income on a home-loan application.”
It seems somehow wrong that the toughest of Iron Men — who has spent more than 20 years seeking out the most demanding physical and psychological tests he could find, in some of the most treacherous locations on Earth — should wind up convicted of minor white-collar fraud, serving time in a prison of such low security that it lacks even a fence. “I wouldn’t even get into the criminal club,” he says. “We’re in a camp. If there’s gangs here, it’s like gangs of accountants.”
For more on Charlie Engle’s bizarre story, check out our September issue.
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