From Eastwood to Pavarotti, the Money Machines' Theme Is Cold Cash for Hot Stars
Nonetheless, the truth will out. Associates have axes to grind. Agents look to boost deals, contracts and salaries by revealing—and sometimes exaggerating—how much the Client was paid for his most recent masterpiece. Producers, networks and product manufacturers know that the vast amounts paid to a star for a performance can increase the commercial success of the venture. If Dudley Moore is making $2.5 million for starring in a film, we must assume it's a good one. If Dan Rather is getting $2 million a year to tell us the news, he must really know what's going on. If Alan Alda mines all that gold to tell the tale of Atari computers, they must work.
Moreover, there are those stars who recognize that their riches are an important ingredient in their fame—perhaps even the important ingredient. It is interesting, for example, how easy it is to uncover financial information about Wayne Newton and Kenny Rogers.
Our survey of money machines, bullishly researched by Ned Geeslin, is not meant to be definitive. Rather it offers a representative sampling of the brightest stars in several fields and the astonishing sums they command.
Country Gold: Kenny Rogers opens his mouth, unleashes his trusty inoffensive voice and the bucks roll in—to the pleasant tune of $2 million or so per month, month in, month out. The money comes from record royalties, movies ($1 million for CBS's The Gambler II) and show appearances ($100,000 to $300,000 per). Dolly Parton commands even higher appearance fees, up to $400,000 per show. Together on their current No. 1 single, Islands in the Stream, they have already made more than $100,000 each.
Dustin Hoffman: Paid $6 million for Tootsie—$3.5 million in straight salary and $2.5 million in points. His asking price is now $6 million per movie up front.
Richard Pryor: Signed a $40-million, five-year, seven-picture "production arrangement" with Columbia Pictures—complete artistic freedom on four of the pictures (as long as he stays within the budget), the other three "major" Columbia releases to star Pryor.
Highest-Paid-Jack-(and Jill)-of-AII-Trades: Sly Stallone collected $7 million—plus a hefty percentage of the worldwide box-office gross—to write, direct and, of course, star in Rocky III. He is also being offered a record $12 million merely to star in Over the Top and got $1 million to direct and co-produce Staying Alive (which is what it cost to make the original Rocky). By contrast, Barbra Streisand is paying herself a paltry $3 million to direct, co-write, produce and star in Yentl. But if it hits, she's rich, because she owns the movie.
Burt Reynolds: Asking price of $5 million per movie plus points.
Clint Eastwood: Has parlayed the Man With No Name into the Man With No Financial Worries. His personal fortune is estimated at $50 million, which puts him in the same fiduciary class as Merv Griffin.
IRS Pinup Couple of the Year: Christie Brinkley's 4½-year deal with Russ Togs will net her untold millions. Since June she has pulled in $300,000 on sales of her 1984 calendar and her exercise book. In a similarly modest period of time, her great and good friend Billy Joel has racked up profits of close to $2 million on the sales of his album An Innocent Man.
Joan Rivers: The Wicked Witch of the Night makes $250,000 for nine weeks' worth of savage appearances on The Tonight Show. The exposure pays huge dividends—like a one-year, $2-million contract with Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, $1 million for her next comedy album and $600,000 for a single gig in Atlantic City.
Larry Hagman: $2 million per year to act filthy rich in Dallas.
Highest Per Diem of All Time: For a couple of glorious weeks in August of 1982 Steven Spielberg collected $1 million per day in personal profits from E.T. and Poltergeist. His movies—including Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark—have grossed more than $1 billion.
Men at Work: More than $8 million in royalties from their first two albums, Business as Usual and Cargo.
The Police: Their 25-stop American tour this summer grossed $25 million, with Sting & Co. receiving $250,000 per show, down somewhat from the $1 million the three musicians split in 1982 for performing at the US Festival. Royalties for their No. 1-rated album, Synchronicity, are already more than $4 million. Their single, Every Breath You Take, No. 1 for eight weeks, netted them $187G.
Booty Galore: The first is still the best, especially when it comes to James Bonds. The original—Sean Connery—got $5 million plus a percentage of the gross for Never Say Never Again; Roger Moore had to muddle through with $3 million for Octopussy. But hold any plans for a benefit, because Moore augmented nicely with a two-year, $2-million deal to represent Spectravideo Inc., a home-computer firm.
Alan Alda: Has a five-year, $10-million deal to hawk Atari computer products, low rent compared with the $5.6 million ($225,000 per episode) he made per year from M*A*S*H.
John Houseman: Smith Barney could have had him exclusively for a bit more than they are paying him now, but they blew it the old-fashioned way: by being cheap. So Houseman picks up $200,000 to $225,000 annually each from Puritan Oil, Chrysler-Plymouth and Smith Barney. It ads up.
C.J.: His $100,000 annual salary to create Mr. Smith makes him the Midas of the monkey world. Though he doesn't see a penny, the quality of his life has improved; he now has a $30,000 dressing room and all the Oreos he can eat.
Willard Scott: Why would a man dress up like Carmen Miranda to forecast the weather for the Today show? How does 300,000 bananas sound?
The Heaviest Anchor: According to insiders, NBC's Tom Brokaw is getting $2.2 million per for the next seven years, $200,000 more annually than Dan Rather's highly publicized deal. The new kid on the block, ABC's Peter Jennings, isn't even third. He makes $900,000 per year, $200,000 less than Walter Cronkite's $1.1-million "special correspondent" arrangement with CBS.
Split the Jackpot: Last year Johnny Carson earned about $15 million—$5 million for hosting The Tonight Show—before taxes, $8,559,395 after. His soon-to-be-ex-wife, Joanna, would like to reduce the net substantially. While she and Johnny thrash out a permanent settlement (he's reportedly offered $17 million; she wants $27 million), Joanna's asking for more than $2.6 million per year for temporary living expenses. Meanwhile, George Lucas settled with his ex-wife Marcia for a 50-50 split of his estimated $100 million personal fortune. Of course, unlike Carson, Lucas can afford to be generous. His 1983 income—which will include profits from Return of the Jedi (he owns 65 percent of the film), Raiders of the Lost Ark and endless Star Wars bric-a-brac—according to some estimates, could surpass $400 million.
Rodney Dangerfield: He gets more respect than anyone ever imagined—$1 million worth from Resorts International in Atlantic City for two weekends and one week-long appearance over the next 12 months.
More Chins Than Fins: Liz Taylor was paid $70,000 per week to star in the play Private Lives.
The Great Green Hope: Bob Hope qualified for Forbes' list of the 400 richest Americans, with a personal kitty estimated (by Forbes, not Hope, who pleads exaggeration) at $200 million minimum. He still rakes in $3 million per year for his six TV specials.
Luciano Pavarotti: $40,000 per performance, except at New York's Metropolitan Opera House, which never pays anyone more than $8,000.
Placido Domingo: $20,000 per performance in Europe, $15,000 in the U.S., $8,000 at the Met.
Rudolf Nureyev: $1 million in 1982 and up to $10,000 per performance.
Don't Pay Me, I'm Only the Piano Player: Though David Bowie's recent worldwide Serious Moonlight Tour is expected to gross more than $37.5 million, the Pale One pays his touring musicians the minimum scale of less than $300 per show, whether they play for 3,000 or 30,000. Why? Says Charles Comer, a rock publicist, "David has a reputation for being frugal." He also has plenty to be frugal with, including the $1.5 million he was paid to perform at the US Festival this year, the $2 million he has earned from his latest album, Let's Dance, and his five-record deal for about $12 million with EMI America.
Frank Sinatra: For five or so shows per year, a few advertisements and some vaguely defined work as a "goodwill ambassador," Ol' Blue Eyes will be paid $10 million over three years by the Golden Nugget hotel-casinos of Atlantic City and Las Vegas.
Cheryl Tiegs: Her take from her line of Sears clothing is $6 million per year.
Isabella Rossellini: She had it made in Japan—$300,000 for four days of modeling.
Susan Lucci: $500,000 per year for All My Children.
Tony Geary: Also makes $500,000 per year for General Hospital. The pay apparently leaves him Luke-warm. He's currently renegotiating his contract.
Joan Collins: As spokesperson for Scoundrel perfume, she gets $2.3 million over three years. She also picks up $1 million per year for Dynasty.
Whatever Happened to the Weaker Sex? Jane Fonda's first royalty check for her Workout Book was $3 million, Victoria Principal's The Body Principal added $360,000 to the Bank Account Principal in its first month of publication this September, and Linda Evans' Beauty and Exercise Book has in four months earned her nearly $300,000. Of course, all three earn more money from other sources. Fonda commands $3 million per movie, and estimates of eventual income from her two books (including one on pregnancy, birth and recovery) range up to $13 million. Principal makes $1 million each season from Dallas, and Evans gets $1.3 million per year for Dynasty.
Diana Ross: No need to sing the blues, lady. Ms. Ross has recently signed deals worth $20 million-plus, $2.52 million and up to $2 million with, respectively, RCA, Atlantic City casinos and Paramount Home Video for the video rights to her Central Park concert.
Michael Jackson: His album Thriller is the best-selling record—almost 20 million copies—of all time, bringing Jackson $20 million in royalties so far, plus close to $10 million in royalties for singles released from the album. At its hottest, Thriller sold 600,000 units in a single week.
Wayne Newton: $650,000 for a three-show gig in Atlantic City, about $1 million a month when he works the Strip in Las Vegas, where, for some reason, he is still the King.