Throwing a party with million-dollar entertainment

There are two interesting aspects to the news that a California financier paid a million dollars to have Paul McCartney play at his wife’s 50th birthday party. The first is that 50 is now the year when everybody seems to splash out, rather than 40. Traditionally one’s 50th was characterised by a sense of foreboding that even a million bucks wouldn’t fix, but this no longer seems to be the case.The second is that McCartney is now the living embodiment of how far a million dollars will stretch in terms of entertainment, which is to say not that far.

British retail magnate Philip Green spent £5-million on his 50th (a three-day event in Cyprus), and he got Rod Stewart, Tom Jones, George Benson, Demis Roussos and Earth Wind and Fire. It’s not really good enough, is it? Not so long ago a Texas billionaire persuaded the Rolling Stones to perform at his 60th for $6,75-million. Even obsessive fans would think that a bit steep. When you remember there’s only four of them now, you have to believe he was robbed.

The British Royal Philharmonic Orchestra says it would be willing to perform no less than 20 times for one million dollars, but none of the popular rock acts contacted by the London-based Guardian newspaper, including Oasis, Elton John, PDiddy, Atomic Kitten, or even the famously available Girls Aloud, would comment on their birthday-party fees. Only Radiohead’s management said that “The idea is not something they’d consider.”

There are several obvious difficulties with attempting to throw money at such a problem. First, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle then it is for a retail billionaire to be cool. Secondly, these people are turning 50, an age when your judgement in these matters famously goes out the window. Thirdly, any rock band really worth having at your once-in-a-lifetime, no-expense-spared, I-am-brilliant birthday bash would say no without a second thought, like Radiohead did.

In fact, Sir Paul should really be in this category, but he did a little deal so his one million dollar fee was donated to his wife’s landmine charity. Which is fine, except that some of the people you’ve invited might not like McCartney. In fact you’re never going to find a rock star to please all the people all the time, no matter how much money you spend. Why not just hire a DJ and give each of your guests an extra big sack of truffles on the way out? That way everybody goes home happy. — Â

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