ENCINO, Calif. -- They once shot a reality TV show here in Tori Spelling’s old house, a five-bedroom pleasure palace with a swimming pool, a gated entry and two blacked-out Batman cars -- a modified Cadillac Escalade and a BMW -- parked in the driveway.
And now that U.S. and New England Revolution star Jermaine Jones lives here with his wife Sarah (a former Miss Germany), their five kids and two French bulldogs, with a circle of Hollywood friends that includes Charlie Sheen, Chuck Liddell, Paris Hilton and Chris Brown, you know what?
They should shoot another reality show.
Call it Keeping Up with the Joneses. Or Jonesing For America. Or maybe just Jermaine Jones and Friends. Whatever you call it, some TV executive needs to make it happen. Now.
“Every European loves Miami, but we never liked it,” says Sarah, welcoming a guest to the house this week. “We always wanted to go to Los Angeles. So we decided four years ago, ‘Let’s buy a house.’ Because we want to live here forever.” She says she looked at 150 houses before deciding on Spelling’s old place. “When I went in, you could feel there was life inside,” she says. “Many kids and animals. And I fell in love with the kitchen.”
“My wife, she found the house,” says Jermaine. “But when I saw it the first time I said, ‘Yeah, that’s the house. We have to take it.’”
Make no mistake, Jones has become a folk hero this year, first to fans of the U.S. national team as he scored a thunderous goal against Portugal in the World Cup before a U.S. TV audience of 25 million -- and now to supporters of New England, which he joined in August on an 18-month, $4.7 million contract and has led to the MLS Cup final against the LA Galaxy in Carson, Calif., on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, ESPN, UniMas).
But what nobody expected was that Jones would become the toast of the L.A. celebrity scene in the heady days after the World Cup. Jones spent a month at home as a free agent while his reps negotiated his deal with MLS, and the priceless Instagram accounts of Jermaine and Sarah started showing photographs of them at house parties with Sheen, Liddell, Hilton, Brown and even Mike Tyson.
“The first time I met Charlie Sheen was at the house party for Paris Hilton,” says Jermaine. “I was there with one of my friends [Dave Osokow, an L.A. hospitality scene fixture]. And Paris, she was cool. She was talking with my wife the whole time. Then Charlie came in, and he was an awesome guy. He’s like, ‘Aaaaah, I watched all the [World Cup] games! Amazing goal!!!’ Then you realize, these people are like really big stars, and they were watching the games.”
During their previous three summers in L.A., the Joneses had largely flown under the radar. But the World Cup was a game-changer. “It was like a bomb,” says Sarah with a smile. “Everywhere he went, it was all these positive people. This is very unique in the U.S.: the people show you such a big respect. Even in a restaurant they just want to shake his hand. I love how you played. You have goosebumps all the time because you see they feel this pride and honor and show you this respect for what you’re doing.”
“Even Charlie Sheen,” she goes on. “The first time he saw Jermaine he was like, ‘Oh, I need your shirt! I really love you!’ He invited us to Mexico. He’s such a nice guy.”
The Joneses are quick to say that they didn’t actively pursue becoming L.A. celebrities. It just kind of happened. Osokow, the director of client relations for the SBE Nightlife Group, was a friend of Jones, and he introduced him to some of his celebrity pals from his 15 years in the business.
“He didn’t really know where to go or what to do in town, so I was the one who was showing him around,” says Osokow, who’s skipping an event with Justin Bieber on Sunday to attend the final. “When he came back [from the World Cup], there wasn’t any place I couldn’t take him where people didn’t say, ‘I saw your goal against Portugal! Incredible!’ I’m around [celebrities] every day, so when I can introduce them to someone who played for our country in the biggest sporting event in the world, that’s something that’s actually cool for them.”
“He’s met everybody,” adds Osokow. “The last time we were out, we ended up at Robin Thicke’s house. ... We’ve met a lot of great people, but the most fun we’ve had is hanging out with Sarah and the kids, to be honest with you.”
The five kids in the Jones household are Liya-Joelle, 13; Keanu, 10; twins Kenyon and Junius, 5; and Jadee-Mae, 2. Despite their busy schedules, the parents have made a point never to hire a live-in nanny because they want to be the ones raising their kids.
“It took me such a long time to decide on schools [in California],” says Sarah. “Then I brought my kids to a doctor testing, which isn’t common in Europe. We don’t know anything about this. But then we realized that my daughter, Liya, she’s highly intelligent. No one told us ever. So now she’s not in the fifth grade, she’s in the eighth grade! She just skipped! No one saw this in Germany because she just went to a normal school, and now here she’s doing math for the 11th grade. That’s crazy.”
“Kenyon, they say he has ADHD, but I don’t believe so,” she says. “He loves sports. So my five-year-old boy has to sit down from 8 am to 3 pm [in school], and of course he’s going crazy. He has to play soccer. He’s very talented. He went to a gym doing gymnastics and had a Russian teacher for three months. He was a national winner in Russia, this teacher, and he said he’d never had a more talented boy than Kenyon. He was in a group with 11-year-old boys, and he’s 5. But now Jermaine said, ‘I don’t want him to do that. How can you earn money with gymnastics?’ So he will find him a football team, because he will be more happy in a football team than a soccer team. Because he’s very strong, more than double the size of his twin brother.”
Sarah and Jermaine enjoy welcoming people to their house, where they would host several Revolution teammates for dinner on Thursday night. On Wednesday afternoon, the house is a hive of activity as workers roam the place getting Christmas lights ready and building a cabana out back next to the swimming pool.
Four of the kids are at school, but Sarah introduces you to Jadee-Mae, the two-year-old, who’s cute as a button and looks just like Jermaine. She proudly takes you to every room in the house. The twin boys’ bedroom has a Stars & Stripes theme everywhere, including the curtains. The girls’ room overlooks the fruit-filled orange tree in the backyard. “Every year we come here and run to the orange tree, because it means paradise to us Germans,” Sarah says. “That’s California.”
Next come the Jones’s two room-sized walk-in closets. One contains rack after rack of their clothes, even though Jermaine still has a big shipment of his to arrive from Germany. (His various hats and fedoras take up several racks themselves in the room.) The other room-sized “closet” is devoted to their shoes, including a sprawling collection of Jermaine’s, mostly rare Air Jordans and Cons.
“Because Jermaine has so many shoes, I had to build another shoe room,” she says. “Now he has a contract with Under Armour, and he can’t wear Nike anymore. He said let’s sell everything. But I said no. Maybe in 10 years you don’t know if you will regret that.” She pauses in front of a rack. “Here are all his Jordans. He loves them. He has a pair that only one of them exists, this neon color. Guys and Jordans! It’s crazy.”
Then Sarah walks through the giant kitchen to one of the living rooms, where they commissioned renowned graffiti-style artist Man One to spray-paint a giant family mural.
“We had this big white wall, and I thought, ‘Why don’t we do something crazy?’” says Sarah. “You can see here this is his number, 13. Then we have all the names of the kids with the birthdates. Then Frankfurt, because we were born there, and then L.A. with all the symbols. It was so amazing to be able to do something in my own house. If you had to move out in a few years, you wouldn’t do that.”
The whole thing -- the Jones’s new American life -- leaves you breathless. And yet somehow it works. Anyone who might have been concerned about how Jones might play after hanging out with so many celebrities got a quick answer when he joined New England and instantly became one of the league’s most influential players (unlike many big-name midseason arrivals, like Thierry Henry and David Beckham, who didn’t establish themselves in MLS until after their first half-seasons).
During New England’s run through the playoffs, Jones has shown again that he’s a freak of nature, a player whose motor runs just as fast in the 90th minute as in the first. What’s more, he has embraced a leadership role on the team. Jones may not have grown up in the U.S., but his style is completely American. Whereas Germans may have balked at his big personality, Jones has found that American fans will love you if you show that bravado and, most importantly, can back it up with your performance on the field.
“He’s been excellent since he walked in,” says New England coach Jay Heaps. “I’m watching him around his teammates and how he interacts, and when he’s the last guy to leave and he’s palling around with rookie players, that to me says a lot about him and his character … After being around him and how he plays, you realize what a good footballer he is. He brings all the energy and defensive work and covers a lot of ground, but how he plays and distributes the ball is also key.”
The biggest challenge for the Joneses, however, is that Jermaine plays in a city that’s a six-hour flight from where his family lives. For the first time, they’re considering hiring a live-in nanny so that Sarah can make occasional visits to New England next season.
“It’s tough when you have kids and you want to be close with them and see how they grow up and everything,” says Jermaine. “But I told my wife, if the league makes the decision that I have to go to New England, then I have to do it. And I have to play one-and-a-half years good, and then we’ll see what happens.”
Who knows? That reality show might even happen. Sarah says the family has been approached about doing one. “People are asking us to do that,” she says, “but when they are telling me they want to write a script, I’m out of it. If it’s only me and Jermaine and maybe my daughter, because she wants to be an actress, that’s fine. But I can’t tell my five-year-old twins like, ‘Just behave like you lost your passport.’ No, I can’t do that.”
“When everyone visits me, they’re like, ‘You don’t need a script, your life is so crazy already!’”
Crazy in a fun way, though. Jermaine has his MLS Cup final on Sunday, and then he’ll stay at home for a while. Next week Chuck Liddell and his wife, Heidi, are coming over with their four kids and a bunch of friends for a Minnie Mouse party the Joneses are hosting for their younger daughter. Then a week later they’re hosting a party for their older daughter.
“It’s like every week you are doing something,” says Sarah with a wide smile.
Yep, the world needs a Jones family reality show. Let’s make it happen.