I was puzzled, even amazed, and truthfully disappointed when I saw an ad on a page of NYTimes.com touting Bill Clinton speaking at something called The Power Within. Is Clinton turning into a motivational speaker? In a manner of speaking, yes. President Bill meets Dr. Phil.
I was even more amazed when I saw the cost and the cast of players at the Power Within site, with all kinds of well-known names ready to stand up on a stage and tell you how to run your lives. A New York event includes Clinton (who can teach you — what? — how to redefine nothing less than the verb ‘to be’?), Michael Eisner (how to piss off an entire industry and lose your job), Mark Burnett (how to make the tackiest entertainment in decades and redefine reality), plus Lance Armstrong (insert your punchlines here), Jonathan Tisch, and Peter Guber. At least Donald Trump tells you how to get rich.
Sorry to be cynical. But I am. I can’t stand this crap. I spent too many years in San Francisco covering the likes of Werner Erhard’s est and the self-centered babble fad of the moment. I wonder whether these guys are doing this for the ego or the money.
Well, pap pays. The New York event at Javits — a damned big hall — costs up to $1,078.33 (don’t forget the .33) for “VIP executive,” down to $644.83 for the merely desperate to have has-beens tell you the secrets to their former success. I have no idea how many will buy tickets, but Trump says his last event at Javits lured 20,000 people. Figure an average $750 per ticket. That’s $15 million. Split — unevenly — among six speakers; it would seem that they’ll each get $1-3 million for a day’s “work.”
Hey, more power to them: Make a buck anyway you can. But make this much from the poor shlubs who are spending this fortune only because they can’t figure out what to do with their lives? The only thing more pathetic is exploiting the same void in people’s lives with the same sort of motivational speakers hauled out during PBS pledge weeks, in Yanni breaks.
I’m a big an of Clinton’s. But can he be this desperate for money and/or attention?
Oh, but he’s hardly alone. The list of people who want to tell you how to live is stunning. It includes:
* Cherie Booth, British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife.
* Gooshy book writer Mitch Albom (no surprise).
* Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benezir Bhutto (surprise).
* Gooshy goosh seller Deepak Chopra (no surprise).
* Singer Naomi Judd.
* Celebrity something-or-other Bianca Jagger.
* Sir Richard Branson (is he not rich enough yet?).
* Les Brown, “one of the nation’s leading authorities in understanding and stimulating human potential” (huh?);
* The Freakonomics boys (big surprise; so much for their hard-edged analyses).
* John Edwards (who speaks on, what, how to lose?).
* Gloria Estefan (no surprise whatsoever, if you’ve ever heard her low-oxygen monologues).
* Tim Sanders, author of “Love is the Killer App” (doesn’t title make you want to puke?).
* John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and He’s from Pluto.
* Suzanne Somers (thinner thighs and fatter souls in 30 days, I suppose).
* Jack Welch (miss that expense account, fella?).
* Irshad Manji (a very disappointing personal surprise).
* Dr. Phil McGraw (of course!).
Mind you, I’m all for people making money speaking. Believe it or not, I very occasionally make a buck (not much more) that way. That’s not my issue. What amazes me is the company they all keep. These leaders of industry, government, entertainment, and publishing selling their — what? spiels? souls? — right next to:
* Rosemary Altea “an internationally renowned spiritual medium” who “gives the world a new ‘soul system’ for understanding our relationships, our successes and failures, and ultimately our most fundamental selves.” She has even been on Oprah (no surprise).
* Crystal Andrus “a leader in the field of self-discovery and personal power.” (Who are the runners-up?)
* Sylvia Browne, “a world-renowned psychic.”
* Debbie Ford, “internationally recognized expert in the field of personal transformation.”
* Carolyn Myss who says she can “see” illnesses in patients’ bodies. Uh-huh.
If these people are internationally recognized, world-renowned leaders, why have I never heard of them? Guess I hang out with the wrong crowd. Thank goodness.