To which we say, "Hey, gotta feed the monster."
The latest greedfreak to take a dive onto the sword that is the Hicks Dictum* is none other than Lou Reed, he of the supposed avant garde. According to Advertising Age, visiting on tape at the Cannes crapfest with “Tim Mellors, vice chairman and chief creative officer at Grey Group,” Reed said this:
“Ad people play fair with you. A is A, B is B, C is C.”
...That a human being with pretensions to thought and social conscience could have run through the amount of money Reed has devoured and then turn around and say such howling, sycophantic garbage is yet another notable Orwellian aspect of our late capitalist epoch...
*The words of the late Bill Hicks: “Do a commercial, you’re off the artistic roll call. Every word you say is suspect. You’re a corporate whore and eh, end of story.”
One-off celebrities don’t tend to have the kind of influence that long-established lines do. Established elites were able to get rid of Shakur and Lennon rather handily when the latter pair refused to play ball. When Tupac died, people were shocked that, despite several platinum albums, he didn't even legally own the house he lived in. It wasn't really a shock--a lot of young black stars get completely shafted by the financiers who control their earnings.
There's an aspect of self confidence and popularity there also, particularly when you're getting older and realize that you're not longer young and hip anymore. No matter how rich you are, elements of relevance and influence can make you feel worthless. Fronting products sold to young people can make you still feel relevant.
...which is massively sad, and which does not exonerate him in the slightest.
A lot of the one-time artist wonders, like the professional athletes, are different than, say, George Clooney. They got where they are simply by talent and passion, rather than family connections. Once they're at the top, they're incredibly easy pickings for powerful brokerage/law/accounting firms, real estate interests, and entertainment conglomerates.
Remember Trent Reznor, or many of Bernie Madoff's clients: being "rich" does not make you immune from the system. All you are is living "proof" that "anyone" can make it. In exchange for living in a mansion, driving fast cars, and banging groupies, you turn over your life to the businessmen who truly understand what it means to be "worth" $20 million. Ben Bernanke's nameless friends are far more evil and powerful than the snobbiest rock star to ever throw bottles of Dom at the housekeeping staff.
The personal finances of a lot of younger, rural white or African-American basketball/football ultra-rich are abhorrent. Because they don't understand stocks, bonds, commodities, real estate, et cetera--and they know it, and are made to be ashamed about it--they turn over almost all of their affairs to the undying class of major banks and investment houses. Those places lock up their wealth in absurd "retirement plans," using contractual rules with team- and league-owners to control players' (and artists') access to liquid funds. Any "irresponsible" investing or spending choices are met with a horde of managers, including people from the record company and/or sports team, who scold the person for being selfish and arrogant. It's not a joke: record deals or next-season's contracts can literally depend on how willing the "superstar" is to sign over their investments to old money.
Sure, the superstar gets a Ferrari, a house in the hills, and gets flown (by the company) all over the world to eat at nice restaurants. $4-5 million in expenses, right? But who controls the governments that collect property taxes and sales taxes on everything the superstar buys? Who owns the construction company that built the mansion, and the developer that developed the land? Who owns stock in Ferrari to make the car, CSX shipping to ship the car, the dealership that marked it up, and the bank that financed it at the dealer and consumer level?
Even when superstars spend money, all they're really doing is cycling it through the system of thousands of middlemen that takes cuts out, at every level, for the already-wealthy. And who built that mansion? Who trims the grounds? Who washes the Ferrari and takes it for an oil change? That's right--a bunch of poor California Hispanics, or rural whites shipped into the city for superstar labor. The elites are not doing any of the work; it is a simple task to redirect a few luxury toys to the occasional one-hit wonder to make them feel that they've "made it."
That's why it's such a big deal when an actor, player, or musician gets the freedom to do something like start a pukey theme restaurant or a production company: it represents a level of savviness where they've at least wrested some of their investments away from the old-line bankers, and are trying to found independent power. Not just the "wealth" aspect of it, but the ability to control and direct that wealth.