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Stars find safe harbor at Marina Bay

Celebrities enjoy Quincy waterfront's seclusion, proximity to Boston

QUINCY -- When interviewed on national TV last week, New England Patriots' linebacker Willie McGinest was identified as living in "Marina Bay, Massachusetts." Not Green Bay or Tampa Bay or any other Bay familiar to pro football fans. Nor, for that matter, to most New England fans, who may have wondered if Marina Bay were a new golf course community near Foxborough.

The ID did, however, amuse residents of what is actually a sprawling waterfront complex in Quincy, where a number of A-list athletes and media personalities have settled in recent years. Such celebrities as McGinest and Pats glamour-boy quarterback Tom Brady, like their fellow Bay-area denizens, seem to relish the combination of proximity to Boston and small-town seclusion that living here provides.

Still, "Marina Bay, Mass." did not ring quite true to locals' ears, either.

"I heard about (the interview) and thought it was pretty funny," says New England Cable News anchor Chet Curtis, who moved here after his high-profile divorce from Natalie Jacobson. "We are in Quincy, you know."

Although he considers himself "just one of the neighbors" now that the fuss attending his move has subsided, says Curtis, "I feel sorry for some of these other guys, like Brady. He walked into Siro's" -- an upscale restaurant on the marina boardwalk -- "with Tara Reid once, and someone instantly called the (newspaper). I've never even met the guy, but everything I know about him says he doesn't deserve that."

Says Shirley Walker, a resident since 1984 and cofounder of the Marina Bay Civic Association: "Many people around Boston don't really know we're here. We haven't promoted ourselves much, I guess, which is too bad."

One wonders: Might another Super Bowl victory provide the necessary marketing oomph? Brady wearing a Marina Bay T-shirt in the winners' locker room, perhaps? "That would be great," Walker says with a laugh.

Besides Tom Terrific and McGinest, other Pats teammates who've moved here include Daniel Graham and David Givens. Todd Collins, the former Walpole High School star now playing for the Kansas City Chiefs, has a pad in one of the five residential complexes that make up Marina Bay (a sixth is dedicated to assisted living). Lawyer Milloy is among several ex-Pats who used to call it home -- Vincent Brisby and Chris Slade, too -- but after joining the Buffalo Bills this season, Milloy reportedly sold his Bay digs to Brady, who bought it for his sister.

Brady largely keeps to himself during football season, residents say, and may be contemplating a move to a more private Bay location soon. (When burglars broke into his house in the Chapman's Reach neighborhood last fall, taking nothing more valuable than a television set, TV reporters did standups outside his house, all but flashing Brady's address at the bottom of the screen.) McGinest is the more visible of the two, popping into places like Captain Fishbones, a boardwalk seafood restaurant, to chow down on fried-chicken appetizers before and after Pats games.

Media figures sprinkled among Marina Bay's 2,000 residents include Curtis, sportscaster Sean McDonough, and WHDH-TV anchor Caterina Bandini. Congressman William Delahunt sometimes weekends at his condo here, jogging on Wollaston Beach when the weather is accommodating.

Red Sox infielder Tim Naehring used to be a Bay guy. Derek Lowe and Curtis Martin looked closely but never bought. Public-relations czar George Regan owns a house in the ritzy Chapman's Reach district, a few doors down from Brady's.

One of the last Bay enclaves to be developed, Chapman's Reach has rows of elegant clapboard-and-shingle townhouses and single-family dwellings. Current listings run in the $400,000 to $800,000 range. All units are within a short walk from the picturesque boardwalk and marina, which can accommodate nearly 700 vessels. The boardwalk itself boasts a gift shop, music club, nine restaurants, and other amenities.

"There's not a lot of neighborhood interaction, because most of us don't have kids," Regan says. "If I had a family, I doubt I'd live here. But it's close to Boston, there's no crime problem, and parking is easier than the city waterfront."

According to Regan and about a dozen residents and business owners interviewed recently, the community profile looks roughly like this: young professionals, either single or married without children, plus a substantial number of empty-nesters and second-home owners; new money rather than old money; a growing number of home- and condo-owners, as opposed to the more transient rental population of years past; and, of course, boat people and those hitching their buoys to boat people, in one way or another.

Richard McKay, who grew up in Quincy and manages Captain Fishbones, characterizes Marina Bay as "a classy neighborhood with lots of yuppie types." Restaurant owner Denise Renaghan, who also owns a Marina Point condo, calls it "the Cape Cod or Nantucket of Boston" because of its sweeping waterfront views and casual ambiance.

Unlike Nantucket, Renaghan says, "The millionaires here are mostly self-made. They tend to be down-to-earth because they probably started as blue-collar workers. This is not a white-shirt-and-striped-tie crowd."

To be sure, Marina Bay has a much different look and feel in January than in midsummer. This week, the marina area resembled a giant frozen rum drink, and the boardwalk was virtually deserted. From May through Labor Day, though, it pulsates with activity, a huge reason why wealthy young athletes and other professionals flock here.

One hub of warm-weather social life is WaterWorks, a restaurant-cum-nightclub, featuring palm trees, sand, and something of a South-Beach-meets-South-Shore feel. MTV and VH-1 have brought film crews to capture the buzz. The club's private VIP rooms regularly attract Patriot players and their pals. Brady threw a preseason bash there. More publicized -- all right, notorious -- was a post-Super Bowl ring party two summers ago, when eight Quincy cops were suspended for department violations such as drinking while on duty and discharging their weapons in the air.

According to WaterWorks owner Ed Kane, athletes gravitate to his club for a couple of reasons: all the privacy they desire, plus a large surrounding cast of single women. In short, a nearly ideal situation for young men with lots of money and leisure time yet few attachments.

Says Kane, "It's like Newport in a way." And like Newport in its golden era of wealth and fame, he notes, there are always those poobahs who prefer a low profile.

"Tom Brady may be a global celebrity," Kane says, "but when he walks through the front door, he's a regular guy."

Joseph P. Kahn can be reached at jkahn@globe.com.

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