It’s amazing how one hit pop song and an electronic gizmo that makes your voice sound like a robot can lead to global domination.
Forbes magazine released its annual “Celebrity 100” list Thursday, power-ranking the world’s greatest actors, entertainers, athletes, authors and other notables according to how much moola they made last year and how much media attention they received making said moola. Most of the names in the Top 10 were no-brainers, given their recent successes: Julia Roberts is the world’s No. 1 omnipotent celeb (with estimated 1999 earnings of $50 million), followed by people like George Lucas (No. 2 — $400 mil), Oprah Winfrey (No. 3 — $150 mil), Tom Hanks (No. 4 — $71.5 mil), golfer Tiger Woods (No. 7 — $47 mil) and Steven Spielberg (No. 10 — $60 mil).
But then there’s No. 9. One word: Cher.
According to the magazine, Cher only made a measly $40 million last year (peanuts compared to Lucas‘ league-leading $400 million haul). Cher’s take presumably came from sales of her chart-topping “Believe” album, and from copies of her terribly thoughtful book, “The First Time,” in which she observed that Jackie Kennedy was better looking than Mamie Eisenhower.
Perhaps based on the power of such ideas, Cher’s Forbes “power rank” was higher than that of Spielberg, Bruce Willis (No. 11 –$54.5 mil), Jim Carrey (No. 19 — $45.5 mil) and Tom Cruise (No. 20 — $27 mil).
Although Cher’s 1999 earnings were less than those of other celebs in the Top 10, Cher’s rank was bolstered by the number of Web site hits, press clips, magazine covers and TV/radio stories she generated. All this from a woman whom Sonny Bono once said was so stupid, she thought the moon was the backside of the sun.
Here are some other notable story lines to emerge from the Forbes list:
BOY POWER: While most members of the “Celebrity 100” are well past puberty, the Backstreet Boys are representin’ the teen crowd (even if they aren’t exactly teens anymore themselves) at No. 8, with 1999 earnings of $60 million.
THE POWER OF THE PRINTED WORD: Most of the celebrities named by Forbes are of the short-attention-span variety (i.e., TV stars, music stars, movie stars and athletes). But lest you think that America doesn’t read anymore, think again. Bestselling authors making the list include Stephen King (No. 14 — $65 mil), John Grisham (No. 21 — $36 mil), “Harry Potter” creator J.K. Rowling (No. 25), Dean Koontz (No. 53 — $34 mil) and poet Maya Angelou (No. 81 — $3.3 mil). Then again, most of these guys, save for Angelou, are makin’ the big bucks off film rights.
WHO? So, we know who Michael Jordan (No. 5 — $40 mil) and Harrison Ford (No. 15 — $46.5 mil) are, but who the heck are Anna Kournikova (No. 58 — $11 mil), Gerald Cassidy (No. 69 — $18 mil), The Rock (No. 83 — $3 mil), Reed Hundt (No. 89 — $2 mil), Edgerrin James (No. 75 — $15 mil), Jean-George Vongerichten (No. 91 — $3 mil) and Jim Romenesko (No. 96 — $60,000)? Answers: A tennis player, an artist, a pro wrestler, an ex-chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, a football running back, a chef and a Web site guy. (But we cheated and looked ’em up.)
FLASH IN THE POWER PAN? Somebody tell “Mambo No. 5” guy Lou Bega (No. 87) to savor the moment. He’s not likely to be included in this list ever again. Of course, with a $6 million haul on the strength of one novelty hit, does he really need to be?
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PHOTOGENIC: These days, you can become a powerful celebrity even if you’ve got a face for radio — or the Internet. That helps explain the lofty rankings of the likes of Howard Stern (No. 30 — $18 mil), Rush Limbaugh (No. 40 — $22 mil), Dr. Laura Schlessinger (No. 70 — $13 mil), Dr. Joy Brown (No. 90 — $2 mil) and Internet movie-rumor guru Harry Knowles (No. 95, with an estimated 1999 income of a whopping $100,000).
GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Taking a year off, quitting your hit sitcom or breaking up the band isn’t healthy for your power ranking. Three celebrities who made the Forbes Top 10 just one year ago fell entirely off the 2000 edition of the “Celebrity 100” list. Notable MIAs include: Leonardo DiCaprio (No. 3 in 1999 with $37 million in earnings); Jerry Seinfeld (No. 4 in 1999, with $267 million); and ex-supergroup Spice Girls (No. 6 in 1999 with $49 million).
FORGOTTEN, BUT NOT GONE: Will someone please tell the Rolling Stones (No. 6 — $50 mil), Mike Tyson (No. 17 — $33 mil), surname-free Roseanne (No. 74 — $8 mil), George and Barbara Bush (No. 76 — $6 mil),and unfunnyman Don Imus (No. 77 — $10 mil) to give it up?
HOW’D THEY DO THAT? What have Penn & Teller (No. 88), that early 1990’s comedy/magician duo, been up to lately? Whatever it is, it’s lucrative: They made $3 million last year.