MAD DOG: If Only Eleanor Roosevelt Had Worn a Thong
Everyone wonders about their self-worth, and we each have our own way of defining it. If you're a baby boomer or yuppie you add up your assets, subtract your liabilities, then ask the credit card company to raise your limit so you can go out to dinner and drown your sorrows in crème brulée because you're sure the formula is Net Worth = Self-Worth and at the moment they're both in the red.
If you're a New Ager or live in California -- which is only slightly redundant -- you discover your self-worth by sitting in a darkened room, lighting some incense, putting "Yanni's Greatest Hits" in the CD player (available on Oxymoron Records), and staring at your crystals wondering why they're quartz and not diamond like your neighbors,' the baby boomers and yuppies. Then you go online, order a copy of "Chicken Soup For Your Feng Shui", and drown your sorrows in a big bowl of fat-free frozen soy milk with wheat grass-carob topping.
Celebrities have it easier. They don't have to call their accountant or gaze inward to discover their self-worth, there are signs everywhere they turn. If you're a movie star, for example, you can count the number of buses with your photograph on the side, read Hollywood Reporter to find out whether the salary you got for that last movie was ever recouped at the box office, and see how many restraining orders you have against stalkers at any given moment.
If you're a rapper all you have to do is total the number of guns you have down your pants, the jail time you've done, and the lawsuits you're involved in, giving yourself bonus points for those filed by family members. And if you're an athlete, you can use the street price of your rookie trading card, how much you gouge fans to sign your autograph, and the number of times you've been in rehab.
Like everything else, politicians have their own way of doing things. They use public opinion polls to determine their self-worth, which is a slightly more scientifically valid version of Sally Fields' "You like me! You really like me!" But there's a better way: money. And I don't mean how much they've taken in from corporations and special interest groups which want nothing in return or tax evaders who wouldn't dream of accepting a pardon even if Clinton did happen to issue one on his last day in office.
No, this is the Monetary Self-Worth Scale, and it's based on the denomination of paper money their picture is on. Thus, Ben Franklin is worth more than Andrew Jackson, who's worth more than Alexander Hamilton, who's worth more than Abraham Lincoln. Poor George Washington isn't worth much at all, and it's only going to get worse what with this self-prophesied recession staring us in the wallet.
So what are we to make of the $200 bill that showed up in Danville, Kentucky with George Bush's picture plastered on it? Does this mean he's worth more than all the other monetary Founding Fathers put together? In a word: no. The bill was obviously a fake, even though the cashier at the Dairy Queen didn't realize it and gave the customer $198 in change for his double I-Can't Believe-It's-Not-Ice-Cream cone. What it does mean is that Bush is a fraud, something just over half the voters decided before the election.
What about presidents who haven't been honored with their own currency? It's simple: hold an auction. Christie's auction house recently did that and unloaded some of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's personal possessions for $2.7 million. While this sounds like a pretty good haul, it's not. It's just a touch more than Alex Rodriguez will take home each month for playing with the Texas Rangers, which means either FDR was a lousy baseball player or Rodriquez should run for president. Or both.
The highest selling item was a painting of FDR's yacht which went for $149,000. A gold watch given to him by Argentina's minister of the Navy sold for $58,750. And some junk Eleanor kept on her dresser, like hair brushes, a shoehorn, and a $300 bill with Franklin's picture on it, went for $37,600.
About the same time, Christie's held another auction, this one of props from James Bond movies. The 1965 Aston Martin which Pierce Brosnan drove in "Golden Eye" went for a cool $228,737. Robert Earl, co-founder of the Planet Hollywood restaurant chain, picked up the bikini Ursula Andress wore in "Doctor No" for $60,000 so he can sleep with it under his pillow at night. Just kidding. Not about how much he paid, because he did shell out sixty grand, but the truth is he's going to put the swimsuit in his Time Square restaurant. And sleep there at night.
This would seem to indicate that movie stars are worth more than political figures. Or maybe it's just that sex sells, and there's no question bikinis are sexier than shoehorns. Well, to most of us, anyway. But there's only one way to find out for sure -- someone needs to put one of Eleanor Roosevelt's bathing suits up for auction. I don't know how much it will sell for, but I doubt we'll see it displayed in a restaurant anytime soon. Well, not unless someone opens a chain of New Deal Cafés and serves some killer crème brulée.