In spite of their best efforts, wealthy show business celebrities are not the most sympathetic figures in the world. I swear to God, with blood in my eyes, I'm about 10 pop singers, botoxed actresses, and leathery, aging rockers nagging me to social distance, wear a mask and vote away from limiting myself only to the music, TV and movies of dead people. Thanks, Hot Dog Lips. You're the first person to mention this. Without your noble guidance I wouldn't know what Covid is or that I even have a polling place in my town. Luv ya!
But sometimes a story of a rich celebrity getting richer can be exactly the sort of inspirational moral tale that can be a dopamine shot to your soul. At least if the celebrity in question created one of the most indelible and beloved characters of all time and used the leverage from his creation to squeeze an untold fortune out of the even richer Hollywood studio who made billions off of his work.
First, the character in question:
And now, the story:
Ed O’Neill … recently told Page Six that he only really began to make serious change on “Married … with Children” after the eighth season when his then-manager — the legendary Bernie Brillstein — negotiated a sweetheart deal.
O’Neill remembers that Brillstein explained they had Columbia TV, which produced the bawdy Fox comedy, at a disadvantage because all the other cast had re-signed except him and he couldn’t be replaced.
He says that while Columbia exec Gary Lieberthal had offered him a huge amount, it wasn’t what he and Brillstein felt was fair for his portrayal of famed hapless shoe salesman Al Bundy. And when they let Lieberthal know that, he blew a gasket.
“What the f—k are you talking about?” Lieberthal allegedly bellowed three times after being told O’Neill wouldn’t sign. …
About a week later, O’Neill says, he received a call from his manager letting him know they settled on an amount — only it wasn’t enough for Brillstein, who decided that O’Neill needed a new car thrown in too. …
“Gary said, ‘What does he want, a Corvette?’ Bernie said, ‘I think he likes German cars. They got that Porsche dealership on Burbank, you know where it is. There’s a black Porsche coupe with wire wheels, they were a Carrera 4, they were brand new. It was 95,000 then.
“‘It’s on the showroom floor. Hey, take him over there on Monday. Have him come in early, drive him over, get him that car. Be that guy, Gary, be that f–king guy.’”
That Monday morning, O’Neill drove a Porsche Carrera 4 off the lot.
Sure, we've all got our own problems. And maybe a guy you'll never meet getting a huge pay raise and a German luxury car back in the 90s doesn't impact your life. But there's a certain karma to a guy who made himself rich playing a downtrodden loser who hates his life and who's still reliving the glory days of the four touchdowns he scored in a single game for Polk High before knocking up his girlfriend and damning him to an existence of selling shoes in a mall, levering that character to give him the upper hand over a powerful corporate entity that's used to holding all the cards.
It's a great David and Goliath story. Especially if you know anything about show business and how they build empires by ripping off their artists. Musicians who don't own the rights to the very songs they've written. Directors who make blockbuster films who don't get paid much because thanks to creative accounting the studio says it lost money. Comics who don't get paid what was agreed to (I raise my hand to that). Talk to anyone who's ever acted in something like some friends of mine have, and chances are they've gotten a residual check in the mail for less than 10 cents.
It's not like Hollywood stars are ever going to crack my Top One Billion people I worry about in this crazy, mixed up world. What I'm saying though is that, when the creative genius who gifted Al Bundy to the world wins, then in a way, all of us win. I hope Ed O'Neill bought himself a Ferguson with that money. The King of Bowls. That's a man's flush.