Sam Simon is a name you have probably seen on your television set hundreds, if not thousands of times, but you might not be able to pick his face out of a lineup. Between 1979 and 1993, Sam Simon was one of the most influential television writers/producers in the world. He left indelible marks on two of the most classic sitcoms of all time; Cheers and Taxi. Later in his career, Simon also helped produce and direct hits like The Drew Carey Show, Friends, House of Cards and Anger Management. Oh, he also co-developed and executive produced on a little show called The Simpsons. Impressively, Sam only worked on The Simpsons over four seasons, yet he still earns tens of millions of dollars every year off residuals, to this day. Perhaps even more impressively, after essentially retiring at the age of 38, Simon dedicated his life to philanthropy with a special focus on animal related causes. Sadly, in late 2012 Sam was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer and given 3-6 months to live. It’s been six months and Sam is still going strong, actively fighting for animals and proceeding to give his entire fortune away to charity. This is his incredible and inspirational life story…
Sam Simon grew up in Beverly Hills, California on a street where his neighbors where Groucho Marx and Elvis Presley. He was recruited to play football at Stanford but quit the team after his first practice. Instead of playing football, Simon became the cartoonist for the Stanford student newspaper. While still an undergrad, he was hired by both the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner newspapers as a sports cartoonist. This early passion for cartoons landed him hist first job after college at a Los Angeles based animation studio called Filmation. At Filmation, Simon worked as a storyboard artist on the cartoon “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids”. At some point in 1981, a friend encouraged Sam to submit an unsolicited “spec” script to the creator of the hit show “Taxi”. Incredibly, the producers loved his script so much that they not only turned it into a full episode, but they also hired Sam as a full time writer. He was just 26 years old. By 1983, when he was 30 years old, Simon had risen to the level of showrunner (the most important day-to-day manager on a show). He was the youngest network television showrunner of all time until a 26 year old Josh Schwartz ran “The O.C.” in 2003. After Taxi ended, Sam was worked as a staff writer on the first three seasons of another little sitcom called “Cheers”.
Origins of The Simpsons
Taxi was created executive produced by the prolific writer/director/producer James L. Brooks. In 1987, while serving as executive producer on The Tracey Ullman Show, Brooks had an idea. He wanted to feature short animations when coming in and out of commercials. For one of the cartoons, Brooks reached out to animator Matt Groening, whose “Life in Hell” series was syndicated in newspapers around the country. The first obvious concept was to simply create an animated version of the Life in Hell strips. But after learning that he would be forced to rescind his life’s work’s publishing rights, Groening decided to pitch a brand new series at the very last minute. The short series Groening pitched revolved around a dysfunctional family called “The Simpsons”. Tracey Ullman cast-members Dan Castellaneta and Julie Kavner even volunteered to provide voices for cartoon parents Homer and Marge Simpson.
After running as short animated bumpers for two years on The Tracey Ullman Show, audiences were demanding to see more of The Simpson family. James L. Brooks paired Matt Groening with his old friend Sam Simon and set them out to develop The Simpsons into a full time half hour show. On December 17, 1989, The Simpsons premiered on Fox. Twenty four seasons later and The Simpsons has produced 528 episodes and is considered one of the greatest television shows of all time. Tracey Ullman, whose show was cancelled in 1990, tried unsuccessfully to sue for a piece of The Simpsons after it became a worldwide phenomenon.
Sam Simon was the creative driving force of the early days of The Simpsons. He served as creative supervisor and hired the entire first writing staff. Simon also helped design the fictional world of Springfield and created the characters of Mr. Burns, Chief Wiggum, Bleeding Gums Murphy and Dr. Hibbert, to name a few. Simon never believed the show would last, so his goal for the first season was simply to create 13 episodes that his friends would find funny. With that mindset, he gave the writing staff the freedom to do whatever they wanted on those early episodes. That attitude is arguably the reason the show was such a huge hit among both old and young audiences. Unfortunately, Matt Groening was insulted by that attitude and interpreted it as Simon being uncommitted to the show. As the show became a sensation, Simon resented Groening’s new-found fame and glory, which he thought should have been his own. Tensions reached a boiling point in 1993, when after four seasons of contention and bitterness, Simon offered to leave the show.
When Sam offered to leave the show, he didn’t exactly walk away empty handed. He shrewdly negotiated a deal that would allow him to retain his backend points on the show’s syndication and home video sales as well as his executive producer credit. Keep in mind that in 1993, home video was basically a non-existent market, so Sam would have been forgiven had he relinquished that seemingly worthless deal point. Fast forward twenty years and we all know that The Simpsons is one of the most popular and successful syndication, DVD and VHS properties in the history of Hollywood. As of May 2013, The Simpsons has sold over 25 million DVDs, generating over a billion dollars in revenue. Syndication of The Simpsons has brought in another billion dollars, with another billionanticipated in the future. The Simpsons generated $5.5 billion worth of advertising revenue for the Fox Broadcasting Company alone.
To this day, twenty years after leaving the show, Sam Simon is still credited on every episode of The Simpsons as executive producer. So how does that impact Mr. Simon’s bank account? When you combine back end syndication, home video/DVD sales and his executive producer credit, Sam earns an estimated $20-30 million every year off The Simpsons. That’s $20-30 million per year off a show he hasn’t worked on since 1993. In total, Sam Simon has earned hundreds of millions of dollars off The Simpsons royalties. And ironically, he admitted in a recent interview with Marc Maron that he hasn’t even watched the show in years.
Retirement And Philanthropy
After retiring in 1993 at the ripe old age of 38, no one would have blamed Sam if he spent the next twenty years banging Playboy Playmates and partying all over the world. Actually, he did end up banging and marrying a Playmate named Jami Ferrell, but their union lasted a scant three weeks. His other marriage was to the lovely actress Jennifer Tilly from 1984-1991. Sam and Jennifer are still close friends. Sam is currently engaged to a chef named Jenna Stewart.
Sam did actually end up traveling the all over the world, but it wasn’t just to party. Over the last 20 years, Sam has become one of the most altruistic and generous supporters of many philanthropic causes, especially ones relating to animals. He has donated so much money to PETA that they named their world headquarters after him. He has donated so much money to the anti-whaling organization Sea Shepherds, that they named their flagship boat the “SS Sam Simon”:
Through his personal charity, The Sam Simon Foundation, he feeds over 200 hungry families in Los Angeles, two vegan meals a day, every single day, 365 days a year! The foundation also runs a six acre luxury dog rescue in Malibu. As if all that wasn’t enough, after being diagnosed with terminal colon cancer late in 2012, Simon heroically has spent the last six months donating his entire net worth to charity. When asked about what will happen to his fortune after his passing on a recent Marc Maron podcast, Simon, who has no children, explained:
“I’ve given most of it away… I wont be rich until we get [my next] quarterly installment from The Simpsons!”
At another point in the podcast, Sam encourages everyone to do their part to help the environment and animals. Even if that just means doing a “meatless Monday”, every little bit helps. We truly admire Sam for all of his accomplishments and wish him the absolute best with his fight against cancer. We’ll be pulling for you to make a full recovery, because obviously the world is a much better place with you in it!
Thuan Le (who is not the woman in the photo above because we couldn’t find a picture of her and had to make do with a stock photo) is a hardworking single mother who immigrated from Vietnam. Thuan supports four sons all by herself in the Southern California city of Mission Viejo. Every week, Thuan visits her local CVS pharmacy to make a very specific purchase. Without fail, every week she buys $4 worth of Powerball tickets and a $1 SuperLotto Plus ticket. In case you are horrendously bad at math, that’s $5 worth of tickets. Most of the time she just uses a five dollar bill to make her purchase, but on this occasion she only had singles. So she proceeded to feed her cash into the lottery machine and make her selections, four Powerballs plus one Super Lotto Plus.
There was just one problem. After she made her standard selections, Thuan noticed that she had inadvertently put six dollar bills into the machine leaving her with a $1 credit. Now, at this point she very easily could have pressed a refund button to retrieve her errant dollar, but instead she chose a different direction. On a whim, Thuan decided to break from her weekly $5 routine and purchase one more Super Lotto Plus ticket. Instead of picking her numbers as she normally would, Thuan allowed the computer to pick her numbers.
The numbers the machine ended up picking were 5, 33, 25, 46 and 32 with a Mega number of 26. That decision to let her accidental $1 balance ride, would turn out to be one of the luckiest accidents of all time. Up until that point, the Super Lotto Plus hadn’t had a jackpot in month. As fate would have it, when Thuan returned to the store to check her numbers the next day, she was absolutely shocked to discover that the accidental ticket was worth $14 million! She was so shocked in fact, that she ran out of the store screaming which terrified everyone around. Thuan’s own children didn’t believe her when she told them they were now multi-millionaires. When she claimed her prize, Thuan told the lottery officials that she plans to use the money to quit her job, buy a house, pay off all of her debt, set up college trust funds for her kids and take a first class vacation back home to Vietnam where her parents still live. The CVS store that sold the ticket will get $70,000. And it all happened completely by accident. Thuan’s odds of picking all six numbers plus the Mega were 1 in 42 million. So next time you buy a lottery ticket, maybe do yourself a favor and buy one extra!
In the world of most expensive diamonds, one variety which is sought after by collectors, are the blue diamonds. Some of these have managed to break records during their sale, including the likes of Bulgari $2.9 million blue diamond ring, the Bvlgari vivid blue diamond, and De Beers Millenium Collection diamond. One other such precious blue diamond, happened to the1965 Bulgari circa ring, which was expected to sell at around $2.3 million at a Bonham’s auction. The diamond has finally been sold, but for a many times the expected price to finally bring in £6.2 million ($9.49 million) at Bonham’s Fine Jewelry sale in London. The price tag also puts the 5.30 blue diamond ring to be the most expensive diamond on a per carat basis. The buyer is known to be Graff Diamonds, one of the world’s best known collector houses of the precious stone.
Yesterday was April 15 and hopefully as you read this right now you have filed your taxes and are looking forward to a big fat refund! Or at the very least, I hope you didn’t end up owing anything extra to the I.R.S. this year. One person who definitely knows what it feels like to owe a little bit of money to Uncle Sam is Nicolas Cage. Nick is unfortunately one of dozens of high profile celebrities who happen to be way better at acting or throwing a ball than they are at taking care of their personal finances. After years of extravagant over-spending, not only did Nicolas find himself owing the IRS $13 million, but he also managed to blow through a $100 million fortune.
I have to admit, Nicolas Cage is probably my favorite actor of all time. The Rock, Lord of War, Con Air, National Treasure, Raising Arizona, Leaving Las Vegas, Face/Off, Snake Eyes… I celebrate the man’s entire catalog. I realize that some of Nick’s movies can be perceived as slightly cheesy or even flat out bad, but you have to admit his movies are rarely dull. At the peak of his career, Nick was one of the highest paid celebrities in the world who pulled down as much as $40 million per year. Between 1996 and 2011 Nick earned more than $150 million from acting alone. He earned $16 million for Snake Eyes, $20 million for Gone in Sixty Seconds, $20 million for Windtalkers, $20 million for National Treasure… just to name a few.
Not surprisingly, as his income went up so did his spending habits. Actually, to be fair, as his income increased Nick’s spending habits SKYROCKETED. Between 2000 and 2007 Nick went on a spending spree that would make the Sultan of Brunei blush. During that time Cage made the following purchases:15 Personal Homes: Cage’s property portfolio included an $8 million castle in England that he plunged millions more into remodeling. He never spent a single night in the castle. He also bought a second castle in Bavaria, two multi-million dollar mansions in New Orleans, a $17.5 million palace in Bel Air, a $10 million Malibu beach house, a 24,000 square foot home in Rhode Island, a mansion in Las Vegas and a getaway property on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.
A Private Island: Apparently having a house on Paradise Island didn’t fill Nick’s penchant for the Bahamas because in 2006 he spent $7 million on a 40 acre private island 85 miles south of Nassau.
Four Luxury Yachts: Cage at one time owned four luxury yachts including one called Sarita that had 12 master bedrooms that was valued at $20 million.
A Fleet of Exotic Cars: At its peak, Nick Cage’s garage contained dozens of high end luxury vehicles including nine Rolls Royces. He owned an extremely rare $500 thousand Lamborghini and a $1 million Ferrari Enzo, one of only 349 produced. Cage also owned 30 motorcycles.
A $30 Million Gulfstream Private Jet
Other: Nearly 50 expensive works of art, dozens of jewels, a 67 million year old dinosaur skull, two extremely rare albino King Cobras.
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