Ben Stein

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

When I saw that the 2008 rate for a speech by Larry Summers was $45,000 to $135,000, I got to thinking.

Out of curiosity, I started prowling the various Web sites of speakers' bureaus and came to six conclusions:

  1. It seems everybody in the world is available for speeches. Included are political and show business stars, second and third bananas, and hundreds upon hundreds of people I never heard of.
  2. All of these people—luminaries and nobodies—get fees from $1,000 to $1 million, plus expenses.
  3. I used to make a lot of speeches, and all I ever got was expenses and a plaque with my name engraved on it.
  4. I was a damned fool. I was as much a nobody as anybody else and could've picked up some dough if I'd just asked.
  5. If someone invites you to make a speech, think about asking for an honorarium at the very least, if not a fat fee, plus expenses. For Colin Powell, expenses include a private jet along with his $100,000 fee.
  6. The worst that can happen is that no money in the budget exists for fees or expenses. If you refuse, someone will replace you.

Last March it was announced that New Century—a giant lender of subprime mortgages—was going out of business, followed in August by the Chapter 11 of American Home Mortgage. Many economists predicted that this subprime debacle had a long fuse. On October 24, 2007 came the announcement that Merrill Lynch was forced to take an $8.4 billion hit in the third quarter caused by a revaluing of the bonds backed by subprime mortgages. Merrill Lynch stock fell 5.8%, its credit rating was downgraded and the overall loss for the quarter was $2.4 billion. Last August 23rd, this e-zine took off on the subprime mortgage crash.

In the late 1970s, I was hired to write a membership mailing for Comp-U-Card, a Stamford, Conn. organization that claimed to have built “a data base of price and product information on approximately 60,000 brand name products.” Consumers could tap into this wealth of information and presumably save many times the $25 membership fee. Goods were shipped directly from wholesalers to the customer. I met briefly with the president, Walter A. Forbes, who was good-looking, articulate and very intense. At one point in our meeting, he took a phone call and asked me to step outside, which I did. When I returned, Forbes told me that

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