Musically speaking, the tastes of the generation of East African men and women in their 40s and 50s were shaped by sounds of the Congolese bands Mangelepa, the big man Franco and Tabu Ley. And from Kenya Them Mushrooms, Slim Ali and the Hodi Boys.
And then big, really big, The Commodores, Kenny Rogers, Abba, Boney M, Gloria Gaynor, Millie Jackson, Tavares, Curtis Mayfield, the love men Teddy Pendergrass and Barry White, Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, Gap Band, Toto, Kool and the Gang, and the “baddest” of them, The Jackson Five (and later a solo Michael Jackson). There is one woman missing from the list – Tina Turner.
If, like one of the two writers here, your parents fed you on Louis Armstrong and Hugh Masekela, the late 1970s and the 1980s offered an outpouring of softer and experimental mesmerising jazz sounds from Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Sadao Watanabe, Shakatak, Al Jarreau, George Benson, and Grover Washington, to name but a few.
However, Tina Turner did something else that was new for us. She, more than any musician of that period, finally allowed East Africans to learn about something that had been around for decades in the West but had not yet come to our neck of the woods — the mythologisation and commercialisation of the body part.
BEST LEGS IN SHOWBIZ
Turner was reputed to have the best legs in showbiz and she had ensured them for millions of dollars. For many young East Africans, that was difficult to comprehend. Turns out, that was more than myth and industry gossip.
A recent report on huffingtonpost.com had it that Tina Turner did insure her legs for $3.2 million (Sh278 million) with Lloyds of London.
Last month, Turner, now 73, married her boyfriend of 27 years, German music producer Erwin Bach. Bach is 57 years. The wedding gave rise to many storylines; about being old and young, about how love works in mysterious ways, about the possibilities of marrying the young man or old woman of your dreams, and of how – like a good wine – you can endure like Turner.
Her wedding also sent us into the world of precious body parts that Turner embodied. Why do it? The clever men who think about these things say it is the free market and capitalism at work.
One of the ways capital grows, and indeed sometimes exploits, is by “removing an object from the conditions of its production”. This is actually well illustrated in music. In times gone by, you would pay the musician to play for you and he would pocket his money.
Then agents, managers, and promoters came up, and they handled all musicians’ (and sportspeople, writers and actors) affairs. Now you paid a little more to watch your favourite musicians so that the agents and managers could get their cut.
But, you see, they don’t sing. Indeed in boxing, the wild-haired and shrewd promoter Don King made several times more money than the boxers.
But clearly too as the entertainment media grew, it expanded the narrative. The media will write about Beyonce’s music when she releases a new album, but also produce as much copy about her posterior in the off season.
And when singer and actor Jennifer Lopez does her thing, half the story is about her famous posterior. And then if there is someone without any talent at all like Kim Kardashian, well, there is her derriere to write about.
MIRROR, MIRROR WHO'S MOST BANKABLE?
We asked around about which Kenyan sports, media and music personalities wananchi thought had insurable bits. There were suggestions about TV anchors’ hips and pretty faces that we shall not dwell on, but many felt that broadcaster Johnson Mwakazi’s voice is worth insurance. Mwakazi is aware of it too, and his twitter handle, “The Royal Voice’ says it all.
Three Kenyans were voted to have the most “valuable legs”: World 800 metres champion David Rudisha, and Premier League club Southampton’s midfielder Victor Wanyama; and not surprisingly, given the larger sample of men among the people we spoke to, Janet Wanja (strange, considering she plays the game with her hands, not legs).
When it came to music, the favourite was Carol Atemi’s vocal cords. Apparently they are in a class of their own. And from Uganda, wild boy Jose Chameleone’s uniquely raspy voice, also got some goods for the insurance market. Jazz pianist Aaron Rimbui’s fingers also received mention from devotees of the music form.
As far as we know, none of them have taken a policy out yet on their valuable body parts, which is surprising considering how long this business has been going on, and just how open the market is.
Here is a list of our top 18 insured body parts as reported in various publications and websites:
Van Halen band frontman David Lee Roth had his sperm insured for £656,000 (Sh89.2m): The policy was thought to protect against a potential paternity suit should he inadvertently impregnate a groupie.
The silent film star Ben Turpin was possibly the first ever celebrity to have a body part insured: As TIME magazine noted back in 1928, “The crossed eyes of Ben Turpin, cinemactor, were insured for $100,000 (Sh8.2 million at the exchange rate then), the money payable to his producer, Mack Sennett, if the eyes become normal.”
American football’s Troy Polamalu’s hair: Shampoo company, Body & Shoulders, took out a $1 million (Sh87 million) insurance policy with the massive British reinsurer Lloyd’s of London on the footballer’s impressive mane. The haircare brand boasts that Polamalu’s legendary locks are “so ridiculously full and thick that end to end [his hair] spans 100 football fields.
Suzana Alves:Famous in Brazil for portraying an S&M queen on television, she got what is considered one of the best insurance deals ever. A company there insured her buttocks, knees and ankles for $2 million (Sh174m) in exchange for placing her image on its billboards. The deal popularised policies on celebrity rear ends so much that insurers coined a name for them — bumbum policies.
English footballer David Beckham: The £100 million (then around $195 million) deal he made some years back was considered the largest personal insurance policy in sport history. It was so large it was said to have been split among several companies.
The policy allegedly protected more than just his pricey legs, feet and 10 toes. Since a good chunk of his income came from commercialising on his good looks, he was also covered in the event of disfigurement.
American actress and model Heidi Klum: The “Project Runway” host had her legs insured by a client for $2 million (Sh174 million) in 2004. However, she revealed to Vogue that since one leg had a scar, it was valued for less than the other.
Singer Dolly Parton’s breasts:Parton’s breasts, measuring a reported 40DD, were insured for $600,000 (Sh52.2 million), that is, $300,000 each.
Egon Ronay’s taste buds. The late distinguished food critic and restaurateur Egon Ronay, christened ‘Britain’s king of good food’, was known for his extraordinary sense of taste. The Hungarian-born food critic was a leading culinary voice in Britain.
According to TIME magazine, he insured his influential taste buds (via Lloyds of London) for some £250,000 (Sh34 million). Others sources put the figure at $400,000.
Merv Hughes’ moustache: The Australian cricketer had his bristly moustache insured for roughly $370,000 (Sh32 million) during his cricketing days as a member of the Australian national team. Although he was a fierce competitor on the field, Hughes is likely remembered most for his legendary drinking talents and some of the manliest facial hair of all time.
Jeff Beck’s fingers: The British rocker sliced off the tip of his left index finger while slicing carrots back in 2010. Surgeons were able to sew the tip of the guitarist’s finger back on and he managed to finish his album ‘Emotion & Commotion’. But he wasn’t taking any chances after that. He decided to take out a $1 million (Sh87 million) policy — on each finger.
Betty Grable’s legs: Despite her enviable singing and dancing skills, the biggest star of the 1940’s was most famous for her legs. The iconic pinup (taken by Frank Powolny) of the starlet in a white bathing suit became a must-have for American soldiers during World War II and inspired Hugh Hefner to start playboy magazine.
Grable reportedly earned $300,000 (Sh36 million) a year, largely because of her legs. So it only made sense that, at the height of her fame, she insured them for $1 million (Sh87 million).
Bruce Springsteen’s voice: The now middle-aged rocker insured his voice with Lloyd’s of London for a cool $6 million (Sh522 million).
Tom Jones’ chest hair: The ageing singer insured his chest hair for £3.5 million (Sh476 million). The 67-year-old, whose hairy chestwig has been a hit with the ladies over the years, has employed top insurance firm Lloyd’s of London to protect his lustrous locks.
Actress America Ferrera’s smile: The TV star insured her smile for $10 million (Sh870 million) with Lloyds of London reinsurers. The policy was bought by home teeth-whitening product Aquafresh White Trays as part of a promotion involving the celebrity that aims to raise money for US charity Smiles for Success.
Holly Madison’s breasts. She took out a $1 million (Sh87 million) insurance policy on her breasts with Lloyd’s of London insurance company in 2011. She said she did it to protect herself and others who appeared in her Las Vegas production, ‘Peepshow’.
Madison appeared topless during segments of the Vegas show, which, according to her, made the insurance policy necessary.
Superstar footballer Cristiano Ronaldo’s legs. They were reportedly insured for £90 million (Sh78.3 billion) by Real Madrid in 2009. The fear was that teams would target the 24-year-old World Player of the Year for rough treatment on the pitch and so the Sun reports that Real have moved swiftly to protect their investment should Ronaldo pick up a long-term injury.
Baseball player Joba Chamberlain: The Yankee pitcher took out an insurance that would pay him $5 million (Sh4.4 billion) if anything keeps him from being able to pitch. His most valuable asset is his arm.
And for the young Kenyans who are fans of Rihanna (and Mariah Carey), we can report that both of them insured their legs for Sh87m each.
Can you think of any other local personalities who, given the chance, could insure their unique body part? Then comment at the end of this article or using the hashtag #bodyparts on our Twitter page @dailynation and/or Facebook.com/dailynation
This article relied heavily on information and uses citations from: TIME magazine, Huffingtonpost.com, Bankrate.com, Vogue, Marie Claire magazine, BBC, Lloyds, PEOPLE magazine