By Rhymer Rigby and Jade Garrett
So Angus Deayton can earn £50,000 for hosting an awards ceremony. He’s not the only one. A famous face and a nice line in after-dinner patter can earn you a fortune
Angus Deayton’s £50,000 pay packet to host this year’s Bafta awards catapults him to the top of the super-league of celebrities who can earn more from presenting award ceremonies and after-dinner speaking than from their TV careers.
A few years back, Deayton charged £6,000 for a 20-minute after-dinner speech at the far less glamorous Gwent Training and Enterprise Council. Next month Bafta will fork out £416 a minute for the Have I Got News for You host’s two hours’ work delivering several one-liners and schmoozing back-slapping luvvies.
According to sources at some of the country’s top talent agencies, this places Deayton just behind Lady Thatcher, who can now demand up to £60,000 for a couple of hours’ work, ahead of David Frost at £25,000 and Carol Vorderman at £20,000. Davina McCall received what was considered a generous £15,000 to front the Brit awards for ITV last year, a similar amount to that offered to Ant and Dec, who hosted the ceremony this year.
Jeremy Lee, managing director at JLA, a London-based speakers agency, says the amount a star can earn is practically limitless.
“There is one artist, who shall remain nameless, who describes it as a ‘bank raid’,” he says.
“Their careers are like that of Premier League footballers. They have comparatively short careers in which they earn vast sums of money. A lot of them earn between £10,000 and £20,000 for each appearance, and they could feasibly be doing something every week. Some are in a position where they can earn more from the corporate circuit than from their TV careers, but they are all aware that it is their TV profile that enables them to earn so much, so that is always prioritised. Very few have any great longevity.”
He adds that demand for stars is huge because of their ability to add a level of prestige and glamour that only celebrity endorsement can.
This is the world of celebrities’ second incomes. For while most associate the wealth of Jonathan Ross, Deayton, Vorderman and pretty much every other star with the telly, chances are they are also pounding the after-dinner circuit, appearing at everything from surveyors’ soirées to oil-industry beanos. Anywhere, in fact, where the organisers will stump up the cash.
Even Michael Fish, the BBC weather man, is getting in on the act. The 57-year-old Fish has signed up as director of publicity for Wrinklies Direct Names and Faces, which specialises in finding work for ageing celebrities. His details are displayed on the company’s website along with those of 35 other ageing “celebrities” keen to cash in, including Cynthia Payne and Neil and Christine Hamilton, who are running corporate training courses on crisis management.
“It’s a very significant income for some,” says Khalid Aziz, chairman of the Aziz Corporation, a spoken communications consultancy. “It can be far more than they get from the BBC.”
From the celebrity’s point of view, it’s a lot of cash for what, even if they prepare assiduously, isn’t a great deal of work. “It remains a nice little earner,” says Dominic Morley, a former managing director of After Dinner Speakers UK, “and usually they’ll do it as often as they’re asked. It’s very good money.”
Fair enough, but what about the companies in question do the celebs bring enough to the party to justify their enormous fees?
“If your objective is a morale boost for the troops,” says Aziz, “then a TV personality is a great help. You get success by association. Some, like Nick Ross, are very good. But others regard it as a bit of gravy and give the minimum possible.”
Speakers such as George Best may come with a health warning, though you have to suspect that most of those who’ve hired him would feel a bit let down if he didn’t fall over. Interestingly, repetition tends to reflect badly on the organisers rather than the celebrities.
“It’s pointless and ridiculous to suggest they start each speech from scratch,” says Lee, ” but ideally you wouldn’t book someone for events with audience overlap so close to each other.”
“With sporty people,” says Morley, “the truth is, many are hopeless. Just because you can kick a ball doesn’t mean you can speak.”
The financial rewards paid by British awards ceremonies pale in comparison with their competitors in the USA. The American actors Steve Martin and Billy Crystal each commanded fees said to be in excess of £500,000 for hosting the last two Oscar ceremonies. Even the value of the goody bags handed to the stars at awards events can outstrip a British compère’s fee. Top guests at last year’s Oscars received a £1,000 Cartier watch, a £500 bracelet, a £300 pen and a £120 crystal heart.
The presenters of last month’s Golden Globe film awards each received a Dior watch in an antique Chinese wedding-chest, a pair of Chanel sunglasses, a Palm electronic organiser, a Phillips MP3 player and 2lb of Godiva chocolates. Total value: £5,000.
For now English audiences are happy to be entertained for a couple of hours by a celebrity chef, ageing agony aunt or former politician. But when it comes to real professionalism and good value, one name comes up again and again. From audiences to agents, no one, but no one, has a bad word to say about Bob Monkhouse.