VOICE OF A GENERATION: Everyone knows that former U.S. president Bill Clinton is one of the hottest – and highest paid – speakers you can book for your event. According to a CNN story, he earned US $7.5 million for speechifying in 2005, while his high water mark remains 2002, when he earned $9.5 million as the main event at conferences and gala dinners. He takes in an average of $150,000 per gig, but can earn as much as $350,000 – his price tag for an event in Toronto in 2005, speaking to 8,500 executives at a “Power Within” motivational event.
You’ve got to be flexible if you’re on this circuit, and besides the rah-rah rallies for the suits, Clinton has delivered speeches on politics, AIDS, domestic violence and climate change. Presuming your cheque doesn’t bounce – and your event doesn’t feature white bed sheets and burning crosses – you can probably get Clinton to chatski with you and a few hundred of your close personal friends, but according to a Variety story last week, Clinton has expanded his subject matter into an telling new avenue.
Clinton will apparently be in New York later this month delivering the keynote speech at the upfront event for TV Land, the Viacom-owned retro-syndication cable channel. “You better believe it’s going to be about the economic and cultural and social influence of baby boomers,” network spokesman Paul Ward told Variety.
The implied message is that, as they start leaving the work force and head into their leisure years, boomers will redouble their efforts to indulge in cultural nostalgia. TV Land’s current roster of shows is heavily based on classic TV that beamed into the living rooms of boomers as they moved from their parents’ house to college dorm, swinging singles’ pad, adulterous shack-up, newlywed apartment, humble first home and suburban manse – shows like (in roughly chronological order) Leave It To Beaver, I Love Lucy, The Munsters, The Andy Griffith Show, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Green Acres, Star Trek, M*A*S*H, The Brady Bunch, All In The Family, The Jeffersons, The Flip Wilson Show, Good Times, Three’s Company, What’s Happening, Simon And Simon and Knight Rider.
It’s not hard to imagine Bill Clinton making that voyage, from the Hot Springs, Arkansas home he shared with his mother, brother and abusive stepfather, to his frat house at Georgetown University, to the governor’s mansion in Little Rock where his daughter was born. Out of office, he still dominates public life like no other ex-president, just as his generation will effect culture even as they leave the workplace for the most active retirement since The Who started giving reunion tours. Whatever Clinton talks about in his March 23 speech, you’d best believe it’ll be delivered in his trademark soothing tones, only cautiously triumphant about what his generation has achieved – and that for the rest of us, it should be taken as seriously as a threat.