I've always loved reading old magazines. As a kid in the mid-1970s, I spent hours on rainy afternoons with issues of Look, Sport, and Life saved by my mom and dad from the early 1960s. It wasn't just the pictures and stories about JFK, Willie Mays and the Beatles that pulled me in; it was also the advertising. The cars, the foods, the TVs — a lot of it was already pretty different from what I knew.
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:
- 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.
- All of these people—luminaries and nobodies—get fees from $1,000 to $1 million, plus expenses.
- I used to make a lot of speeches, and all I ever got was expenses and a plaque with my name engraved on it.
- 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.
- 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.
- The worst that can happen is that no money in the budget exists for fees or expenses. If you refuse, someone will replace you.
I was an official one day at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Ogden, Utah. When the U.S. Women’s Curling Team came off the ice after a game, I was assigned to follow one of the players around until she felt ready to present a urine sample. She yakked with friends and fans, made a cell phone call, downed some bottled water and smoked a cigarette. Eventually, she went into the lounge where the World Anti-Doping Agency had set up shop and my brief officialdom came to an end. I was introduced to her friends as “my watcher” and was uncomfortable the whole time. But