Masters of Modesty Which singer insured her gams for $1 billion? Whose name can be read
from outer space? Which vast vanity publishing project leaves all others in the
dust? A roundup of those who lacked all modesty--and knew how to prove it in
enterprising ways. Plus: Six who make our honorable mention list of great
moments in egomania history.
The Prince Who Liked His Name So Much He Carved It Into an Island In July, Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan Al Nahyan,
a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family, tattooed the earth with his first name. Visible from space, HAMAD
is now gouged into Al Futaisi, an island he owns in the United Arab Emirates. Hamad opted for letters that were over half a mile tall. Ensuring his name would exist in perpetuity, he designed the carving as a system
of waterways filled by the tide.
The Prince Who Loved Himself So Much He Decided to Have No Name In 1992, Prince caused an uproar by releasing an album with only a weird symbol—a combination of both the male and female signs—adorning the cover. One year later, the singer declared that he would now be
known by that symbol alone. He explained the “glyph”
as “an unpronounceable symbol whose meaning has
not been identified.” Then two years later he confessed,
“I don’t need a name as such, really.”
The Billionaire With the Biggest Superyacht Wins In a memorable moment of excess, Microsoft’s Paul Allen launched his 303-foot superyacht Tatoosh in 2000, only to be upstaged by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich’s 370-foot Le Grand Bleu. Allen’s 414-foot Octopus sailed onto the scene in 2003. Catching wind of the work at Allen’s shipyard, Oracle’s Larry Ellison upped his 392.5-foot plan for Rising Sun. In 2004, it launched at 454 feet. But in 2010, Abramovich’s 557-foot Eclipse made good on its name.
The Dictator Who Was Also the Best-Selling Author Ever It takes a certain kind of blowhard to print more than 1 billion copies of his own quotations and distribute them to every citizen in China. Communist ruler Mao Zedong was such a blowhard. With his picture on the cover and his political theories throughout, the ruler’s “Little Red Book” put all previous vanity publishing projects to shame. The second edition begins, “Comrade Mao Zedong is the greatest Marxist-Leninist of our era.” You don’t say.
She Had Legs—and She Knew How to Insure Them In 2006, after winning Gillette’s “Legs of a Goddess Award” and viewing a 16-foot replica of them at Radio City Music Hall, Mariah Carey approached Lloyd’s of London to insure her stems. In response to the report that Carey valued her legs at $1 billion, her publicist noted, “That sum reflects her popularity.” This isn’t surprising from
a singer who required seven hospital rooms for her and
her entourage while giving birth in April.
The Sperminator In a case of life imitating a cheap Lifetime drama, infertility specialist Dr. Cecil Jacobson—aka The Sperminator—was sentenced to five years in prison, in 1992, for inseminating patients with his own sperm. (He was accused of fathering as many as 75 children.) A Saturday Night Live sketch imagined an alternative punishment: “caring for the 75 unwanted children and starring with them in a popular situation comedy.”
Someone Once Paid $1 Million to Hear Rod Stewart Sing In 2000, Blackstone Group co-founder Stephen A. Schwarzman paid $37 million for a 34-room apartment. When it came time to host his 60th birthday party, seven years later, he hired an event designer to recreate his digs in Manhattan’s Park Avenue Armory—replete with copies of his personal art collection and a ginormous portrait of himself. Even weirder, he commissioned
Rod Stewart, to the tune of $1 million, to perform.
Honorable Mentions Part 1 From Left to Right
Narcissus gets the
hots for himself so badly that he dies; campaigning lothario
John Edwards gets a $1,250 haircut and screen legend Elizabeth Taylor is late to her own funeral.
Honorable Mentions Part 2 From Left to Right
Prince Jefri Bolkiah, brother of the Sultan of Brunei, commissions life-size statues of himself and his fiancée having sex; Allegedly shy artist
Andy Warhol finds a hobby painting self-portraits and Sally Field wins Oscar and screams, “You like me, you like me,” to dubious Hollywood audience.