In the wired world, where everyone has access to a camera, a screen or both, it is easier than ever to find fleeting fame. A hit TV show will do the trick: The cast of Desperate Housewives, largely unknown less than a year ago, is all but overexposed today. Nowadays you can be famous just for being famous — see Paris Hilton — or for having a run of good luck, as Ken Jennings did during his six-month winning stint on Jeopardy!
Yet some stars earn their status by good old-fashioned accomplishment. Tiger Woods has won 60 tournaments in ten years. George Lucas' lifework, his “Star Wars” franchise, has generated billions of dollars in ticket and merchandise sales over three decades. Though “Revenge of the Sith” is his last chapter, profits will flow to him for years to come.
And Oprah Winfrey, who perennially ranks near the top of our Celebrity 100 list, takes the No. 1 spot this year for the first time. After 21 years, her daytime chat-fest still rules the airwaves, minting new celebs — and hundreds of millions of dollars in profits.
The doyenne of daytime television reigns supreme. O’s global empire spans books, magazines and movies in addition to the eponymous talk show that started it all. Syndication remains her bread and butter (if the newly slim star still ate carbs, that is). The nine figures she takes home for her own show are topped with a healthy portion of revenue from Harpo’s Dr. Phil spinoff.
Tiger has seen two huge streaks end in the past year. The first was his 264 straight weeks as the world’s highest-ranked player stopped by Vijay Singh in September. In May his PGA Tour record of consecutive cuts made that started in 1998 ended at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship. The last year hasn’t been all bad. He won his fourth Masters title, got married and earned another $80 million from endorsements and appearance fees.
Offering bulk discounts on DVDs to churches is far from standard Hollywood marketing procedure, but it worked for Gibson. After an underwhelming theatrical rerelease of his “Passion of the Christ”, he got doubly rich off video and DVD sales, landing him right behind Oprah and Lucas in pay this year. Only a few movies are in the works, but Gibson can afford to scale back.
Fans lined up days in advance to see “Revenge of the Sith” in theaters, but they also flocked to DVDs to revisit the first trilogy. Lucas earned nine figures on sales of the Episodes 4-6 box set alone last year. On the big screen the latest chapter in the director’s “Star Wars” saga will be his last. Or is it? An as-yet-untitled TV series featuring the likes of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi has been announced. And Lucas fans have something else to look forward to: the Spielberg-directed fourth installment of “Indiana Jones”, which Lucas created, may be out next year.
The 7-footer found happiness trading coasts and teams, moving from Los Angeles’ Lakers to Miami’s Heat. Shaq’s 23 points a game was his second-lowest average since entering the league in 1992, but he led the Heat to the league’s second-best record. Shaq’s reality show titled “Shaquille” launched in May and appears on ESPN . His $28 million salary is the NBA’s highest.
© 2012 Forbes.com