On the one hand: Mariano Rivera.
On the other hand: Gary Busey, Stormy Daniels, the Amazing Kreskin, Dee Snider, Tori Spelling, Rod Blagojevich, David Hasselhoff, Sean Spicer, Andy Dick, Loretta Swit, Lou Ferrigno … well, you get the idea.
They, and some 30,000 other “celebrities” (their word), are part of the talent pool at Cameo, a personalized video-message service that launched last year and has caught fire. According to the business Web site Marker, Cameo users have paid for more than half a million short, customized videos uploaded to order by the famous, quasi-famous, and bordering on obscure, then texted or e-mailed to friends and relatives on the occasion of their graduation, anniversary, birthday, remission, divorce, whatever.
The range of personalities supplying the clips is wide, with such categories as Pro Wrestlers, Gamers, Comedians, Drag Queens, Reality TV, and Models, although—to use a sports example—they do tend to be more, say, .284-career-hitter Johnny Damon than Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw. (Though both Damon and Bradshaw are available, for $100 and $500, respectively.) The talent set their own price, presumably with some thought given to what the market will bear, and pocket most of the fee. Gilbert Gottfried, who charges $150 per appearance, is rumored to be the current top earner, pulling in, on a good day, $4,500 for 30 minutes of work. So don’t laugh.
The talent set their own price, presumably with some thought given to what the market will bear.
Or do. The clips, some of which can be seen online, are weirdly fascinating in their cheesy, low-tech banality. Sometimes they’re even intentionally funny. Susie Essman ($325) slips charmingly into her foulmouthed Curb Your Enthusiasm character while sending Mother’s Day wishes. (“And [from] your grandkids Quinn and Graham—what the fuck kind of Jewish name is Quinn, and Graham?… I know you’re getting them for a whole month, after this MOTHERFUCKING quarantine … ”) And John Cleese ($300) has a shtick that goes something like this: “Hello! You probably don’t know who I am, but I used to be a famous English comedian called John Cleese.... Sadly, a couple of years ago I died, so I’m sending you this message because there are still alimony payments to be paid, so I have to keep working … ”
As for the great Mo, are we to conclude that Mariano Rivera ($500) is worth 10 Peter Noones (of 60s British pop stars Herman’s Hermits; $50)? Yes, in the Cameo universe. Then again, Rivera’s virtuosity on the mound might not mean a thing to someone who still gets teary over “I’m Henry VIII, I Am”—or, better yet, over a 50th-anniversary greeting from the man who once sang it. No, you can’t really put a value on that.
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for Air Mail