MAD DOG: Elton is Back -- and Shopping

Elton John was in court recently where he testified that he spends as much as $2.15 million a month in living expenses. That's $71,666 a day, $2,986 an hour ($4,479 if we assume he's not a member of Sleep-spenders Anonymous), and $74.65 a minute. Not bad for a piano player.

I have to wonder how he spends that kind of money. Isn't there a point where it's hard to find anything to buy that you don't already have? Obviously he's an impulse shopper on a big scale. I don't think I could do that. If it was me spending seventy grand a day I'd still have to be the smart shopper, doing some comparison shopping and carefully considering whether I really needed another solid gold tissue dispenser, even if this one does look like John Goodman in "Normal, Ohio" and the tissues come out his butt when you pull his finger.

But apparently Elton John doesn't have these decision-making problems. I suspect he walks down the street pointing at things in shop windows while staff purchasers scurry behind him. "Have it. Have it. Buy it. Have it. Buy one of each size and color. Have it. Have it. Buy the store. I already own it? Buy it anyway and make sure I give myself a good deal."

The only reason we know all this is because John is suing his accountants and former manager for negligence in handling his financial affairs. As if he's not doing a good enough job of that himself. He contends that if they'd done a better job he'd be able to spend $3 million, even $4 million a month. Life just isn't fair.

His lawyers say the singer's an "overly generous man with a poor grasp of his financial affairs." I can't help but wonder if some of it is that he's English, because you know how they love standing in line, especially if there's a cashier at the end. Recently millions of English drivers lined up at gas stations across the country for as long as thirty minutes, causing some of the stations to run out of gas, and all the while there was no gas shortage and no reason to be doing it. The Straits Times quoted an engineering professor who was waiting in line as saying, "I saw this queue and suddenly, I decided to join in." Parliament is considering changing the national animal from the hedgehog to the lemming.

As hobbies of aging British rock stars go, shopping until your accountants drop isn't so bad. After all, he could have gotten into total body fluid replacement like Keith Richards, performing at state fairs alongside diving mules like Peter Frampton, or gone the way of Gary Glitter and ex-Bay City Roller Derek Longmuir and been arrested for kiddie-porn.

Instead Elton John buys happiness, which apparently is something the English need more of. It might be something in the air--maybe too much rain?--but a recent survey of Brits by NetDoctor.co.uk found that one in three was "downright miserable" and one in ten thought they'd be better off dead. So much for jolly old England.

It could also be that Elton John just has too much money. I don't begrudge him this. After all, he earned it fair and square by writing songs, selling records, and making a fool out of himself wearing ridiculous outfits and outrageous glasses in public. Of course he could have taken another career path to make that money, like posing for Penthouse as Paula Jones did, so let's be thankful for small favors.

The problem is he's setting a bad example for the youth of today. Well, those who accidentally stumble across his CDs while looking for the new one from Britney Aguilera and stop to wonder why Uncle Dudley's photo is on the cover. Teenagers already think that the pursuit of money is a goal unto itself. They want to grow up to be Bill Gates. They think they're a failure if they don't sell an Internet start-up to AOL by the time they're eighteen. They know there are 2 million millionaires and 267 billionaires in the United States and they want to be one, unlike me who has a low seven-figure income only if you count the two zeroes to the right of the decimal point.

That's a lot of people with a lot of money. In fact, it's more people than live in West Virginia. Of course it would take an idiot to prefer living in West Virginia to being a millionaire, but that's not the point. Is it a lofty enough goal that there should be books like Wow the Dow to teach teenagers how to invest in the stock market? Come on, aren't there things teens would rather see rise than the Dow Jones index?

Luckily there's a mini-trend going on which may help steer them away from this thinking. Magazines like Real Simple are promoting the "simpler life, home, body and soul." They promote a life filled with less "stuff" and more quality time, focusing on things that matter. Of course the publishers hope this business venture will make them U.S. billionaires number 268 and 269, but that's only because they want to go on a shopping trip with Elton John the next time he's in town. I sure hope they have plenty of stamina.

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