|Celebrity body parts: Million-dollar thighs
So, would you cut off your legs
for $1 million?
We would guess not. On the other hand, it probably
never occurred to you to buy an insurance policy for them either.
Unless, of course, you're a celebrity.
The tradition of celebrities insuring talents and
body parts is a long and storied one, ironically re-introduced to
public consciousness lately by a fiction -- the insuring of Jennifer
Lopez's body (or booty) for $1 billion. While the story was widely
reported, Lopez's representatives insist it never happened, and
there's no evidence that it did.
Although juicy tales of Lopez's body being priced
in parts like a fine Holstein (legs -- $400 million, breasts --
$200 million, or so went the rumors) proved false, many other celebrities
have provided us with a menu of limbs and other, um, attributes,
neatly broken down by price per part.
Alan J. Levin, a partner at Edwards & Angell,
LLP, in Coral Gables, Fla., traces the origins of celebrity insurance
to the 1920s, when silent movie star Ben Turpin, famed for his crossed
eyes, took out a $20,000 policy against them uncrossing.
Crooner Jimmy Durante followed suit years later, taking
out a $50,000 policy on his moneymaker -- his infamous schnozzola.
Female stars, perhaps more conscious of their attributes,
raised the stakes. Marlene Dietrich insured her voice for a cool
$1 million, and Betty Grable insured her dynamite legs for the same
amount -- thus coining the phrase "million-dollar legs."
(By comparison, dancer Fred Astaire had his legs insured for a paltry
Other stars of the day took out unusual insurance,
including Bette Davis' $28,000 policy against weight gain.
But while superstars added a new element to the insurance
business, some celebrities of a lesser caliber kept it equally interesting.
Harvey Lowe, winner of the first World Yo-Yo Contest in 1934, had
his hands insured by the Cheerie Yo-Yo Company for $150,000.
And while Britain's skiffle craze was on its way to
influencing The Beatles (who themselves were insured for $1 million
on their first American tour), a washboard player named Chas McDevitt
protected his own career by insuring his fingers for £5,000.
Unfortunately, he didn't think to insure the popularity of skiffle,
an early form of rock 'n' roll that eventually melted away.
Celebrity insurance stayed strong in the '60s as Angie
Dickinson insured her Sinatra-loved legs for a cool mil, and famed San Francisco topless
dancer Carol Doda, in what would become another
bizarre insurance practice, insured her breasts at Lloyd's of London
(the standard bearer for this sort of thing) for $1.5 million.
The insuring of breasts and other sexual attributes
has become standard among the A-list and B-list alike. Dolly Parton
insured her infamous, theme-park-inspiring 42-inch breasts for $600,000,
since who knows where her career would be without them.
In Brazil, a 20-year-old Playboy model named Susana
Alves, famous in that country for portraying an S&M queen on
television, got what is perhaps one of the best insurance deals
ever. A company there insured her buttocks, knees and ankles for
$2 million in exchange for placing her image on its billboards.
In Brazil, in fact, policies on celebrity rear ends are so commonplace
that insurers coined a name for them -- bumbum policies.
Equal rights advocates will be happy to note that
sexual insurance is not merely the province of women. A British
male stripper named Frankie Jakeman insured his penis for $1.6 million
-- no doubt inspiring shrieks of laughter from Jakeman's ex-girlfriends
And sometimes, gender is irrelevant. One of the oddest
examples of celebrity insurance came when a 24-year-old Thai transvestite
performer named Poh was told her breast implants could explode at
high altitude if she flew to an appearance in Edinburgh. The implants
were therefore insured for $500,000.
While the body parts themselves produce healthy profits
for insurers, voices also generate business. Bruce Springsteen has
a legendary policy on his for somewhere in the $6 million range,
and Rod Stewart has insured his scrubbed-with-steel-wool pipes as
Other body parts also rate protection. Liberace, French
pianist Richard Clayderman and Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards
-- an unlikely trio -- all insured their hands.
Surprisingly, one category where you would expect
lots of insured parts -- the world of sports -- yields none. While
one would expect that superstars like Kobe Bryant, Randy Johnson
or Roger Clemens would have more insured arms that the United States
military, it turns out that the sports world finds little time to
quibble with details.
Sports teams take an all-or-nothing approach. Why
just insure a part when you can insure the whole package? These
teams, rather than insuring their main attractions' body parts,
just take out special disability insurance on the athlete himself
-- like the St. Louis Cardinals did with a $12 million disability
policy on now retired Mark McGwire.
Even in this area, though, teams take wildly divergent
approaches to insurance. Over the past few years, The San Francisco
Giants insured only one player -- Barry Bonds. That policy wasn't
renewed in 2001, however, because at that time Bonds was in the
last year of his contract, and the deductible was more than the
premium. Other teams, such as the Seattle Mariners, insure no one
as their draw is more dependent on fan loyalty at this point than
on any one superstar.
And sometimes, players take on the insurance burden
themselves. Outfielder Juan Gonzalez, for example, while a free
agent, purchased a $50 million personal disability policy that was
transferable to whichever team signed him in order to reassure teams
concerned about his history of back trouble (he eventually re-signed
with his old team, the Texas Rangers).
And in football, where there are no guaranteed contracts,
the insurance risk falls solely on the player, leading superstars
such as Rams quarterback Kurt Warner to purchase policies for themselves
as soon as they take on major roles. Warner bought his when he took
over the starting quarterback position.
Of course, some athletes are so successful -- and
so rich -- that they are beyond insurance. Golfer Tiger Woods, for
example, makes so much money that to insure himself against injury
would cost him $10 million to $20 million a year, more than he made
in 2002 from golf. Most of his money, more than $69 million a year,
comes from endorsements.
But luckily, non-sports celebrities do not have these
restrictions, and keep themselves "covered" from head
And, perhaps since much of this insurance has been
handled over the years at England's Lloyd's of London, that country
seems to have (or at least publicizes) more than its share of odd
policies. British food critic Egon Ronay insured his taste buds
for $400,000; comic actor Ken Dodd insured his teeth for £4
million; and a cricket player named Merv Hughes took out a £200,000
policy on his moustache.
But the most common celebrity insurance seems to be
for legs. Betty Grable inspired a legion of celebrities to protect
their golden gams. Entertainment Tonight's Mary Hart has her legs
insured for $1 million dollars, as does actress Angie Everhart.
Jamie Lee Curtis insured hers for $1 million while doing advertisements
for a stocking company, and porn star Porshce Lynn has had her legs
insured for the same amount.
In this area too, both genders are represented, as
Lord of the Dance Michael Flatley insured his legs for an astounding
Even the non-famous can enjoy this type of protection.
When Miami resident Domitila Hunnicutt won a Most Valuable Legs
contest sponsored by Jergens, the company insured her legs for $2
million for one year, thereby bestowing her title with literal truth.
While there are sound business reasons for much of
this, rest assured that the insuring of attributes does have its
limits. A British performer known as Mr. Methane sought coverage
against the loss of his "talent," which consisted of performing
standards such as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "How
Much is That Doggy in the Window?" using his naturally-produced
He was refused.
-- Updated: June 27, 2003