It‚Äôs an election year.¬† And you can‚Äôt help but chuckle when the celebrity brain trust in Hollywood tries to act out its quadrennial, superheated air of faux intellectual gravitas.
Though Hollywood celebrities spend their lives in a real-world Magic Kingdom ‚Äď a climate-controlled, airbrushed, CG‚Äôd, surrealistic existence ‚Äď once every four years, they emerge from the studio to shill for whoever the Democratic nominee for President is that particular year.
It doesn‚Äôt matter who: just hand them their lines, give them a latte (or a valium, or a joint, depending on the celeb), and let the camera roll.¬† Celebrities in a Presidential election year are a lot like the 17-year recurring plague of cicadas.¬† Except Hollywood celebrities are far more shrill and much more creepy than insects.
Celebrities don‚Äôt know enough to care about high taxes, because their accountant handles that for them.¬† They don‚Äôt care about food prices, because their maid does the shopping, and their chef does the cooking.¬† They don‚Äôt particularly care about the price of gasoline, because their chauffer handles that sort of thing.¬† ‚ÄúIssues‚ÄĚ ‚Äď political, or real-life issues ‚Äď are abstractions to them.¬† The closest celebrities come to people who actually work for a living are their people cleaning their houses, doing their landscaping, cooking their meals, doing their laundry, and giving them massages (insert Al Gore or John Travolta joke here.)¬† The closest they come to a Republican is checking themselves into the Betty Ford Rehab Clinic, named after the wife of a Republican president.
All they know is that, whatever direction those taxes and prices go, they‚Äôll still have three paid-off houses and millions of dollars in the bank (they just need to ask Barry the Accountant which bank.)¬† ¬†And if they lose their job, they issue a press release, chalk it up to ‚Äúcreative differences,‚ÄĚ go to the studio across the street and make twice as much. It doesn‚Äôt matter if they play a pirate, a policeman, or a politician‚Ä¶ as long as the money‚Äôs good.
Often Hollywood celebs try to project their ‚Äúintellect‚ÄĚ by donning a pair of clear-lens glasses, supporting the liberal cause du jour, and delivering emotive, pithy commentary‚Ä¶ frequently written for them by union script writers or the Democratic National Committee. Of course, after their lecture, movie stars hop in their limos, have dinner at Urasawa, and board a private jet for Maldives for a four-day bender at the Four Seasons with bunch of Lindsey Lohan wannabes.¬† (Unless you are Sean Penn: then the private jet flies to Venezuela for a bender with Hugo Chavez.)
One of Hollywood celebrities‚Äô favorite memes is the ‚Äúunfairness‚ÄĚ in the ‚Äúdisparity‚ÄĚ between rich and poor‚Ä¶ of course, not measured in terms of their own oceanfront Malibu real estate, private jets, or limos, but in the amount of taxes other people pay, and amount business executives earn‚Ä¶ even though working CEOs put in far more hours, and earn a fraction of what these complaining celebrities do.
So, just to level the playing field, let‚Äôs compare celebrity income with that of working CEOs, using publicly-available data from Salary.com; CelebrityNetWorth.com; Forbes magazine; and Equilar executive compensation specialists.
According to these reports the median expected salary for a typical CEO in the United States is $706,673; the middle half earn between $529,165 and $923,354; Only the top 10% — so 50 people, if we‚Äôre talking about the FORTUNE 500 ‚Äď earn more than $1.12 million. ¬†(Most of the crazy CEO salary reports you read about are once-in-a-career stock cash-outs‚Ä¶ like Tim Cook of Apple getting paid $900K and receiving a $900K bonus‚Ä¶ but cashing in millions in a one-time stock transaction that dwarfs his salary and bonus.)
So what happens when you compare CEOs‚Äô $1.12 million to some recently-released FORBES lists of the highest paid people in their fields?
Here are the top 10 ‚ÄúCelebrities‚ÄĚ:
Oprah Winfrey ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $165 million
Michael Bay¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $130 million
Steven Spielberg¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $130 million
Jerry Bruckheimer¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $115 million
Dr. Dre¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $110 million
Tyler Perry¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $105 million
Howard Stern¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $95 million
James Patterson¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $94 million
George Lucas¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $90 million
Simon Cowell¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $90 million
Here are the top 10 Musicians:
U2¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $195 million
Bon Jovi¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $125 million
Elton John¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $100 million
Lady Gaga¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $90 million
Michael Buble¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $70 million
Paul McCartney¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $67 million
Black Eyes Peas¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $61 million
The Eagles¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $60 million
Justin Bieber¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $53 million
Dave Matthews ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $51 million
Here are the top 10 athletes:
Floyd Mayweather¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $85 million
Manny Pacquaio¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $62 million
Tiger Woods¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $59 million
LeBron James¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $53 million
Roger Federer¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $52 million
Kobe Bryant¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $52 million
Phil Mickelson¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $47 million
David Beckham¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $46 million
Cristiano Ronaldo¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $42 million
Peyton Manning¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $42 ¬†million
Here are the top 10 Actors:
Tom Cruise: ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $75 million
Leonardo DiCaprio: ¬†¬†¬† $37 million
Adam Sandler: ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $37 million
Dwayne Johnson: ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $36 million
Ben Stiller: ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $33 million
Sacha Baron Cohen: ¬†¬† $30 million
Johnny Depp: ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $30 million
Will Smith: ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $30 million
Mark Wahlberg: ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $27 million
Taylor Lautner: ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $26.5 million
Robert Pattinson: ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $26.5 million
Here are the Top 10 Actresses:
Kristen Stewart¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $35 million
Cameron Diaz¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $34 million
Sandra Bullock¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $25 million
Angelina Jolie¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $20 million
Charlize Theron¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $19 million
Julia Roberts¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $16 million
Sarah Jessica Parker ¬†¬† $15 million
Meryl Streep¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $12 million
Kristen Wiig¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $12 million
Jennifer Aniston¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $11 million
Here are the top 10 fashion models:
Gisele B√ľndchen¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $45 million
Kate Moss¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $9.2 million
Natalia Vodianova¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $8.6 million
Adriana Lima¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $7.3 million
Doutzen Kroes¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $6.9 million
Alessandra Ambrosio¬† $6.6 million
Miranda Kerr¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $4 million
Lara Stone¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $3.8 million
Carolyn Murphy¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† $3.5 million
Candice Swanepoel¬†¬†¬†¬† $3.1 million
The moral of the story: Better to be behind the camera, than in front of it.¬† Earnings-wise, better to be a man in Hollywood than a woman (but being in ‚ÄúTwilight‚ÄĚ is good either way.)¬† Being a rock star in your 50s, 60s, or 70s doesn‚Äôt mean you‚Äôre washed up.¬† Athletes‚Äô argument that their ‚Äúprime years are numbered‚ÄĚ is negated by their making $40 million per season.¬† And if you are beautiful and not shy about photographed in your underwear, you won‚Äôt die poor (if for no other reason than how overpaid males rock stars, athletes, directors, and actors are.)
According to CelebrityNetWorth.com, Matt Damon is worth $65 million; Sean Penn is worth $120 million; George Clooney is worth $160 million; and Barbara Streisand is worth $340 million.¬† And they are usually among the first complain about capitalism, and the horrors of free enterprise.
I‚Äôm sorry‚Ä¶ but if Lady Gaga is worth $150 million, and makes $90 million a year wearing dresses made of meat, nobody should be blowing a gasket over the average CEO making 1/90th of that. ¬†Even if a CEO is in that top 10%, and makes $10-20 million, he or she is still earning a fraction of what the Hollywood Big Wigs are.
Here‚Äôs the important part: on a cause-and-effect basis, Lady‚Äôs Gaga‚Äôs high-rolling lifestyle has a lot to do with the fact that, if your daughter is dying to see her in concert, you‚Äôll end of shelling out up to $200 for the ticket.
Conversely, the fact that Procter & Gamble‚Äôs CEO makes $16 million has a negligible impact on the price of toothpaste, soap, toilet paper, etc‚Ä¶ where free market competition drives the prices we pay down on a daily basis.¬† Should we take the CEOs salary and divvy it up among P&Gs 138,000 employees?¬† Well to the extent we cut his pay to $1 million, and divide the rest‚Ä¶ they‚Äôll each get a whopping $2.07 in their weekly paycheck.¬† Of course, the next year, that CEO will be working for one of P&G‚Äôs arch-rivals‚Ä¶ with a brutal understanding of its weakness.
Celebrities are certainly entitled to their opinions.¬† This is America.¬† But whenever they sound off on how much someone else makes, they need to remember that they run the risk of people asking why movie ticket prices are up 72% over the past 10 years.¬† And those of us go to the movies for fun ¬†(instead of the French Riviera) need to remember three things:
- The people on the big screen are actors, and their lines are written for them by others;
- Every deep thought you hear them utter was the result of multiple do-overs called ‚Äútakes‚ÄĚ‚Ä¶ which are then focus-tested for maximum impact;
- They are making more money for their 95-minute movie, than you will make in 10 lifetimes.
So a note to the Occupy Wall Street movement: spend five bucks‚Ä¶ pick up a map of Hollywood stars‚Äô homes‚Ä¶ and have at it.
The weather is nice, year round.¬† And the people you‚Äôll be protesting really, really support your cause.