A couple of days ago, when I was writing about Mary Lou Retton’s recent health crisis and her daughter’s subsequent crowdfunding campaign, I went on YouTube to jog my memory. I found a large collection of ads she did in the 80s and 90s. Watching some of them was quite a time warp for me, although I still remembered them well. Below are just a few ads from back in the day…
But I also remember Mary Lou pitching Energizer batteries… and she did so a few times.
She also did a lot of ads for Revco, which was a drug store chain that was eventually sold to CVS. I remember her saying “And another thing…” in a lot of those ads, but I can’t seem to find those particular commercials on YouTube. However, there are plenty of other Revco ads she did back in the day. Behold…
Obviously, Mary Lou Retton has historically been pretty good at pitching things. She has a big smile that is always convincing. Her eyes twinkle, and she has no problem hamming it up for the camera. It’s interesting to me that Mary Lou did so many ads for Revco, a place where people used their health insurance benefits, but she doesn’t have health insurance herself. As of today, just a few days after her second eldest daughter, McKenna Kelley, posted a crowdfund plea for donations to fund Mary Lou’s current hospital care, the fund is up to $414,195. That is an astonishing amount of money, although sadly, it’s probably still not going to be nearly enough to pay off her medical debts if she really doesn’t have any insurance.
I remembered that Mary Lou Retton has also done public and motivational speaking. I also remembered seeing her profile listed on a site that pitched her services. Last night, I decided to see if the profile was still available on the Washington Speakers Bureau Web site. It was, and still is… Feast your eyes.
Notice that her fee ranges between $25K and $40K. Granted, we don’t know how often she’s been asked to speak recently, nor do we know if the people who would book her would be expected to pay for her airfare, ground transportation, and hotel. However, I would expect that if she was less in demand recently, that asking amount would be less than it is now. Mary Lou is also listed on a site called Celebrity Speakers Bureau, and interested parties are advised to call for her fee. On Sports Speakers 360, she asks for $20,001-$30,000 to speak.
The Washington Speakers Bureau site is very interesting browsing, by the way. There’s a huge range of speakers available– everyone from George W. Bush to Elizabeth Smart. And it does look like, based on this site, Mary Lou’s fees are quite a bit lower than some others. I see some of the most powerful and influential people require calls to the WSB for information on fees, while lesser known people have their fees readily listed.
I don’t begrudge Mary Lou Retton for charging whatever she can for her public speaking talents. She worked very hard in the gym for years, and she was the first American woman to win all around gold at the Summer Olympics. She is a legitimately successful person and should earn money accordingly for everything she’s accomplished. It still doesn’t explain why her daughter has to ask the public to fund Mary Lou’s medical costs when it looks like she could have purchased health insurance for herself. And her family is not being forthcoming about why Mary Lou lacks health insurance.
I guess what I really find sad about this situation is that there are so many people who aren’t famous, and don’t get paid five figures to give speeches, who also need help paying their medical bills. I mean, it’s great for Mary Lou Retton that she’s well known and loved by many, but I can’t help but think about much less fortunate people who can’t raise money to pay for their necessary healthcare. And living in Europe for the past nine years reminds me that there are so many developed nations in the world where this kind of thing isn’t necessary, because healthcare is so much more affordable and people are expected or even required to be insured. Most people also don’t have access to the U.S. Olympic Committee, who are reportedly reaching out to Mary Lou’s family to help with her expenses.
Mary Lou Retton is still motivating people to spend money, even though she’s in the hospital. It used to be she’d get them to spend by lending her likeness and perkiness to commercials. Then she’d get them to spend in order to hear her speak about her accomplishments and how to be a winner. And now they’re spending to help pay for what will almost surely be astronomical hospital bills, to say nothing about the doctors and pharmacists who will also need to be paid. While people are certainly free to spend their money as they choose, it does seem to me that the least Mary Lou’s family could do is be more transparent about why she needs the money, especially if she’s reportedly worth millions and can command such high fees for motivational speaking engagements. And especially when she is aligned with a political party that is all about personal responsibility and not looking for handouts (unless, of course, we’re talking about corporations).
I continue to wish Mary Lou Retton well in her recovery. I hope her situation highlights how badly the United States needs extreme healthcare reform and a complete revamping of our system. In the meantime, we still have videos like the one below for a good reminder as to why Mary Lou used to pitch Energizer batteries…