Peek into home of 'Empire's' Lucious Lyon -- owned in real life by strip-club mogul

Peek into home of 'Empire's' Lucious Lyon -- owned in real life by strip-club mogul
Peek into home of 'Empire's' Lucious Lyon -- owned in real life by strip-club mogul
The real-life front door appears on Empire.
The real-life front door appears on Empire.
Click a photo for a slideshow.
Click a photo for a slideshow.

The real-life version of Lucious Lyon's palatial home on "Empire" is owned by a real-life emperor, of sorts.

Though Fox's hit show is set in New York City, much of it was filmed in Chicago, including a number of scenes with Sam Cecola's mansion standing in as Lucious'. (Click here or on a photo for a slideshow of the mansion.)

Cecola runs Chicago's (in)famous Admiral Theatre: once a vaudeville theater, later a cartoon-only moviehouse, and now, under Cecola since 1989, "Chicago's adult entertainment playground."

Art imitates life imitates art, a bit

Like the fictional drug-dealer-turned-hip-hop-mogul Lyon, Cecola has experienced his share of threats to his empire, and his wife too has helped him with his legal difficulties.

For 20 years, the Cecolas owned a Las Vegas strip joint called Club Paradise that "regularly was the focus of unsettling reports of illicit activity," according to the Sunday in December 2014. (One example: In 2009, a conventioneer from Massachusetts claimed the club billed him for a $4,000 bar tab and $25,000 in "unexplained services" by women named Paulina, Jani Lee, Isabel, Vanessa, Roxanne and Lexi during a time when he had blacked out.) When Cecola did time for tax fraud in the late 1990s, he had to transfer majority ownership to his wife in order to keep his liquor license.

In June of last year, investigators shut down Club Paradise after a man said he was drugged and robbed there. It reopened in January under new ownership, though the Las Vegas Sun said Cecola was still "working in an undefined capacity" at the club.

Lucious Lyon's Sam Cecola's palatial estate

In 2003, the Cecolas bought property in Barrington, Illinois, a far northwestern Chicago suburb populated largely by people who own estates and at least a handful of horses.

The mansion they had built there took five years to complete -- and within five more years, they'd put it up for sale, first asking $15.9 million. It recently took another in a series of price cuts and is now asking $13 million. (Click here or on a photo for a slideshow.)

The European-style country mansion features five bedrooms, but nine full bathrooms and two half-baths, spread over an incredible 20,000 square feet of space.

A number of scenes from the show were actually shot at the estate. It's hard to tell, as the set designer extensively changed the interiors to make them a little darker, grander and more masculine, but in a few snippets you can see some telltale signs.

Very early on in the show, Lucious sits his three sons down to effectively King Lear them, pitting them against each other to see which one could impress his father enough to take control of the company. He appears through the dining room doorway, and the signature iron railings of the stairway are seen in the background. The living room with a piano and the dining room are also frequent settings where family drama goes down. Over time, however, it appears that the show starts to move toward studio sets.

Click here or on a photo for a slideshow of the real-life mansion that stands in for Lucious Lyon's on "Empire."

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