Our book club’s last selection was “The House of Mirth” by Edith Wharton. Published in 1905, it is the story of Lily Bart, a 29-year-old woman living at the mercy of the New York Upper Crust, a group that proved to be most unmerciful.
Lily, who lives with her wealthy but disapproving aunt, flits from estate to estate, gambling on bridge and trying to hook a wealthy husband. Actually, Lily is quite good at hooking men, she’s just not good at reeling them in. Lily also makes bad choices, with devastating consequences.
In reading the book, I realized how much things have changed while remaining the same. Women have more options, but many still choose the wealthy/powerful/influential husband route, hoping the wealth, power and influence will rub off on them. This often happens in Hollywood — look at Kelsey Grammar’s wives. If he were Joe Schmo down at the bar, do you think he would get the beautiful blondes? Not likely.
I think some Hollywood wives go into marriages with an eye toward a good divorce settlement, or in the case of Kim Kardashian, higher ratings. Ten weeks? Irreconcilable differences? How would they know?
Marrying celebrities is big business. Before the advent of prenuptial agreements, wronged or not-so-wronged spouses walked away with hefty settlements. Forbes.com lists the top 10 celebrity divorce payoffs. They include Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall, with Hall receiving an estimated $15 million to $25 million.
Diandra Douglas, Michael’s ex, received an estimated $45 million along with homes in Majorca and Beverly Hills.
For 18 months of putting up with the apparently insufferable James Cameron, actress Linda Hamilton received $50 million. If you ask me, she was robbed.
Kevin Costner would probably like a do-over on his settlement: He and wife Cindy Silva divorced at the height of his fame and earning potential. She received $80 million, and Kevin’s career has since hit the skids.
Harrison Ford married a smart cookie; he also divorced one. Ex Melinda Mathison received an estimated $85 million plus a percentage of Ford’s future earnings on films he made while they were married. That includes the Indiana Jones trilogy and “The Fugitive.”
Topping the list was Michael Jordan, whose wife, Juanita, closed the deal with $168 million.
If only poor Lily Bart had had the option of divorcing for money. Wharton’s beleaguered character may had had an easier time making her way through life.
Jan Hearne is Tempo editor for the Johnson City Press. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.