Be careful what you wish for. The life of an A-list celebrity is, surely, one of untold riches. Of fast cars, beautiful mansions and, most of all, masses of cold, hard cash. Sure, there are some downsides: lies in the newspapers about your love life and being snapped by the paparazzi in your dressing gown, but still - a small price to pay, surely? Actually, the price celebrities pay to keep themselves in the manner to which they've become accustomed isn't small at all. It is massive - and increasingly they're struggling to keep the debt collector from the door.
Nowhere has this been more evident than in the case of "poor" Nicolas Cage. The Oscar-winning actor's affairs have come to light after he filed a lawsuit against his former business manager for a staggering US$20 million (Dh74m). Cage said Samuel Levin had "lined his pockets with several million dollars in business management fees while sending [Cage] down the path to financial ruin". Levin has filed a counter-complaint demanding payment for work on Cage's tax returns - and he couldn't resist detailing his former paymaster's lifestyle. It is a brilliant quote: "Levin advised Coppola [Cage's real name] against buying a Gulfstream jet, against buying and owning a flotilla of yachts, against buying and owning a squadron of Rolls-Royces, against buying millions of dollars in jewellery and art." And presumably, the two castles and 15 mansions he also owns.
So Cage might be in the exclusive Oscar-winner's club, but he could soon be in a slightly more undesirable grouping: the cabal of bankrupt celebrities. And perhaps it runs in the family. Certainly he should have heeded the warning signs from his uncle, Francis Ford Coppola. The Godfather director had to file a $12m bond to protect his home and estate in 1990 after his lawyers applied for his bankruptcy. That wasn't the first time Coppola had been on the verge of financial ruin, but it was at least understandable: the cashflow problems came from films that had bombed rather than a lavish lifestyle.
But for completely ridiculous celebrity spending, look no further than Mike Tyson. You might have thought a boxer who earned an estimated $400m at the peak of his powers would have stashed at least some of it away. It might be something to do with those repeated blows to the head, but he spent $1.6m on a watch, somehow got through more than $200,000 on mobile phones and pagers (happily, this was before the advent of the iPhone, or he might have been in serious trouble) and, hilariously, owned a white Siberian tiger, which cost a fortune just to feed.
Michael Jackson was another who had his head turned by riches. If celebrities want something, they often have it, but surely building your own, private amusement park is going just a bit far? Neverland might have been world-famous, but it also took Jackson into millions of dollars in arrears that he never quite recovered from. Think your rent is bad? It cost the King of Pop $200,000 a month to live in his own home. Admittedly it was populated by a family of expensive Sony robot dogs.
You can feel sorry for Jackson now he's left us, of course. But you have to laugh at Kim Basinger's folly. A Neverland-style fun-park wasn't enough for the Oscar-winning Bond girl. She had to go and buy an entire town. Braselton, Georgia, was, in effect, Basingerville from 1989 to 1993, and there were big plans for a film festival and movie studios. Until Basinger ran out of cash, pulled out of the film Boxing Helena (for which we don't blame her) and ended up filing for bankruptcy.
So why do these narcissistic celebrities get themselves into such financial problems? Because, in effect, no one dares tell them "no". Combine that with a lavish, deliberately ostentatious lifestyle designed to show off how important and successful they are, even when they have done nothing of any note in years - and it's no surprise they spend what they've got. And what they haven't. Still, there is hope. In 1833, Abraham Lincoln went bankrupt. And, in 1922, none other than Walt Disney ran out of cash. They didn't have the flotillas of yachts that Cage has. But they did start again, knuckle down- and history has been kind to them. So if Cage suddenly starts appearing in every blockbuster of 2010 and beyond, you can guess what's happened. Either that, or he really, honestly, needs another Rolls-Royce.