“You’re going to the moon!”
One of the most famous lines from the classic TV sitcom “The Honeymooners” involves Ralph Kramden, played by Jackie Gleason, telling his wife Alice, played by Audrey Meadows, where she will end up after he performs an act of domestic violence – a line and act that would not be acceptable today, even though Ralph always calmed down and somewhat apologized with the line, “Baby, you’re the greatest.” That “moon” quote may have been a hidden sign of Gleason’s lifelong interest in UFOs – an interest that showed itself publicly in his two-building home built in in 1959 that looked like a flying saucer “Mother Ship” and a “Spaceship” – Gleason’s nicknames for the mysterious structures. If you’re interested, the property is up for sale for the unearthly price of $12 million. Is it worth it?
“How sweet it is! Deep in the heart of Cortland Manor is the enchanted 8 acre estate of the Great Jackie Gleason & his Famous Round House! Built in 1959 a compound exemplifies the comedian's style & flamboyant persona. There are 3 buildings on the property and 2 inground pools. Drive up the long wooded property & welcome to the Studio affectionately known as the Mother Ship. 2bedrm 2 full bath 50 sq ft in Diameter is completely round. Walk into this magnificent spherical foyer, private library & centerpiece of a marble spiral staircase to 3rd level. Go back in time down the ramp to a smiling Jackie w his cigarette & playing his baby grand. Marilyn Monroe leaning over the strings smiling as Frank Sinatra is crooning by the 14 person bar. It has 2 bars & 3 pit Italian marble fireplace & cardroom. Master bedrm has special 8ft in diameter round bed w/overhead tv. Master bath is huge w/round shower & 10+ heads. 100 yards from “Mother” is a cottage aka “Space Ship.”
The realtor.com listing mentions the price of the New York property but not much on why Jackie Gleason was one of the earliest celebrity ufologists. Despite a fear of flying, Gleason developed a fascination with UFOs and flying saucers, possibly as part of his attraction to parapsychology, witchcraft, extrasensory perception, reincarnation, mental telepathy, clairvoyance and all things paranormal. An avid reader, Gleason amassed a vast library (over 1,700 titles) of paranormal books and materials which now reside in the University of Miami library and are catalogued at LibraryThing. Gleason appeared regularly on a paranormal-themed overnight radio show hosted by John Nebel, where he revealed his skepticism by offering $1 million to anyone who could offer physical proof of aliens visiting Earth.
No one collected the prize, including President Richard Nixon, who is part of possibly the most famous celebrity UFO/alien legend in history. Gleason was a supporter, friend and golf buddy of Nixon, so it’s no surprise they were together in Florida on the night of February 19, 1973. According to the most popular telling of the tale, Nixon ditched his Secret Service detail and drove to Homestead Air Force Base, where they somehow walked in and saw what Gleason described as:
“There were a number of labs we passed through first before we entered a section where Nixon pointed out what he said was the wreckage from a flying saucer, enclosed in several large cases. Next, we went into an inner chamber and there were six or eight of what looked like glass-topped Coke freezers. Inside them were the mangled remains of what I took to be children.”
Gleason allegedly told only his wife (soon to be ex-wife), Beverly, who allegedly promised not to tell and then allegedly told the story anyway to Esquire magazine in 1974. While that story doesn’t seem to exist, another one allegedly told by Beverly appeared in 1983 in the National Enquirer. Gleason allegedly told his version of the story to UFO author Larry Warren shortly before his death in 1987. That’s an “allegedly” because it comes not from Warren but from another ufologist, Timothy Green Beckley. Skepticism abounds in the tale, from the president evading Secret Service agents to the many “alleged” tellings of the story with no concrete evidence. What is concrete is the foundation under the beautiful 7,450 sq ft “Mothership” built for Gleason by a ship builder, who constructed it in an airplane hangar before moving it to Cortland. The round building has no right angles but does have a curved kitchen and a marble spiral staircase. The guest house looks even more flying-saucer-ish (see a photo gallery of both here). While the original construction cost is not listed, Gleason sold the property in 1976 for $150,000, (about $660,000 today)
And yes, Richard Nixon “flew” in Gleason’s Mother Ship, along with Frank Sinatra and other celebrities. Did they talk about what ‘allegedly’ happened one night in 1973 at Florida? That depends on how much booze was consumed. If Nixon asked Gleason if he told anyone, Jackie probably said, “You're a riot, a regular riot!” or “I've got a BIG MOUTH!” or “Homina-homina-homina!”