I remember being amused to discover that, during his marriage to Britney Spears, Kevin Federline's only personal source of income came from the $20,000 "celebrity" appearance fees he regularly charged for attending private parties. "I wonder how much you have to pay him not to come?" I recall thinking, before chuckling softly at my own cleverness.
These fees amount to mere chump change for K-Fed now, however - in the divorce settlement the former Mr. Spears reportedly received a lump sum payment of at least $1 million. Armed with this information - and a calculator - we can now conclusively determine that having Kevin Federline come into your life is worth exactly 1/50th what it costs to make him go away.
It turns out that celebrities charging party appearance fees is a common practice, with fees ranging from the hundreds of thousands demanded by A-listers like Justin Timberlake and 50 Cent to a few thousand dollars for mostly-forgotten sitcom actors of the '70s like Anson Williams, the guy who played Potsie on Happy Days. I know what you're thinking - all this time Potsie's been raking it in while you and I have been attending parties for free like a bunch of suckers!
Sadly, since the demand at most functions for non-famous attendees is pretty low, we regular folk must remain in the dark concerning our worth on the open market. Oh sure, friends and relatives may value you for your kindness and generosity, but such qualities don't easily translate into hard dollar amounts. You can't exactly fill your tank with gas and say to the attendant, "Well, I don't have any money, but I always remember people's birthdays, and last year when my neighbor was in the hospital with diverticulitis, I walked his Pekingese, 'Yum Yum,' every day."
These thoughts on the subject of personal worth occurred to me recently while attending a fundraising auction to benefit my son's preschool. Listed among the items up for bid, including various weekend getaways, goody baskets and (this is true) a self-portrait painted by an elephant, was a lunch date with a former star player for the San Francisco 49ers.
While the value of this item had been pegged at $500, I learned that last year, fevered bidding for the same lunch date had driven the final price up to $5,000. "Wow," I commented to another parent nearby. "He must be an even better conversationalist than he was a football player."
Much as I felt the $5,000 was going toward a worthy cause, I couldn't help but worry about the expectations such a high price placed on the former 49er to deliver a great dining experience. When someone pays $5,000 to eat with you, you can't exactly spend the whole meal absent-mindedly checking voicemail and looking at your watch. If I shelled out five grand for a meal with a star athlete, I'd expect him to arrive with, at a minimum, a trunkful of top-of-the-line autographed memorabilia, some insider tips to help me win my fantasy football pool and, in case the need ever arises, a spare kidney.
On the other hand, I thought, what if the high bidder turned out to be one of those blowhard sports fans who only attend sporting events to jeer at the players? That would make for an uncomfortable lunch, to say the least.
Former 49er: (to the waiter) "I'll have a cheeseburger please, medium rare."
High bidder; (shouting) "That order stinks, you jerk, and so do you!"
Former 49: "And a glass of iced tea, please."
High Bidder: (standing up) "Boooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!"
These concerns notwithstanding, I couldn't help but get caught up in the excitement of the auction, and cornered the school's director to express my availability for next year's event.
"You want to offer a lunch?" she asked, a little taken aback. "With you? That people would pay actual money for?"
"Of course not," I reassured her. I'm fully aware that "Eat lunch with a local humorist" sounds a lot like the punishment an unorthodox judge would hand down in an effort to "scare straight" a particularly troublesome repeat offender.
Instead, I explained, I was offering my services as a stand-in for the high bidder at an unpleasant or dreaded lunch date he or she would just as soon skip. The event in question wouldn't even have to be lunch - it could be dinner with the in-laws, an IRS audit, anger management class, a performance review with the boss, court-ordered drug test - pretty much any appointment someone would pay to get out of.
No doubt with images of looming parent meetings dancing in her head, the director agreed to think about it.
"If it sweetens the deal at all," I added, "for a few dollars more I bet I could even get Potsie from Happy Days to come with me."