UM, THAT thing you heard on the news the other day about Tom Jones insuring his chest hair for $7 million? It's false; codswallop; bunk; never happened.
I contacted Lloyd's of London and they said no such policy was issued. A note from Tom Jones' management on the singer's official website confirmed it: "No such insurance policy exists or has ever been considered."
The story is based, in fact, on years-old scuttlebutt about a policy drafted for an anonymous male celebrity who never actually purchased the coverage.
Follow the chest hair
Here's the story in a nutshell, via the Miami Herald:
It's not unusual for women to throw their underwear onstage when Welsh singer Tom Jones is up there. What is odd, however, is that the 67-year-old singer approached famous insurance house Lloyd's of London to insure his chest hair -- for $7 million! Though Lloyd's was skeptical at first, the London Daily Mirror reports that they OK'd the sum and have indeed insured Jones' "famously rugged chest hair," a source says.
Bypassing sundry repetitions on AOL, Fox News, and elsewhere, let's turn straight to the London tabloid cited as the origin of the report, the Daily Mirror:
With tough tour schedules and big money at stake, It's Not Unusual for stars to insure their bodies.Uh-huh. And whom does the Mirror credit as its source? One "body hair mole" -- name and credentials withheld -- whose expert testimony is quoted as follows: "Like a vintage wine, Tom just gets better with age. Even at the grand old age of 67, the ladies love his hip-thrusting moves and catching a sneaky peak of his famously rugged chest hair."
So it should come as no surprise to learn that Sir Tom Jones, 67, whose mop of luxurious curly brown hair has made him a hit with the ladies, has had his chest hair insured -- for the princely sum of £3.5million!
Top insurance house Lloyd's of London was approached about the deal and, after initial concerns that it might prove too much of a risk, went ahead.
Yes, that's the sum total of it. They could just as well have quoted my mother.
Lloyd's of London
The New York Daily News, at least, made a half-hearted attempt to give the story a solid footing:
On its Web site, Lloyd's of London boasted that the storied firm issued coverage of a celebrity's chest hair in 2006.
"Admittedly, this is one of the most obscure requests I've had -- but I still came up with a wording that addressed the need," underwriter John Thomas said at the time.
I, too, scoured the Lloyd's of London website, where there is indeed an article originally published in October 2006 quoting underwriter Jonathan Thomas as saying he once drafted a policy to cover an anonymous celebrity's chest hair.
But the story wasn't new, even in 2006.
Googling further, I discovered several stories referring to Mr. Thomas and his most unusual insurance policy dating back as far as 2004 -- including one in which the celebrity chest hair supposedly being underwritten belonged to "an unnamed male model."
From speculation to urban legend
Needless to say, the publicity folks at Lloyd's have gotten extraordinary mileage out of this legendary policy, which, though drafted, was never actually purchased, they admit. So, how did Tom Jones' name become associated with it? I suspect it was the result of a misreading (or misrepresentation?) of a few sentences uttered by Jonathan Thomas in one of those puff pieces published in 2004. I quote from an article distributed by Agence France-Presse in which it is stipulated that the draft was "speculative," and that Thomas was never told the name of person for whom it was written:
"It could be that someone had a particular advertising contract that was associated with their chest," said Thomas, whose company is part of the Lloyd's insurance market.Clearly, the policy itself wasn't the only thing speculative on Thomas' part. So was his mention of Tom Jones as an example of a celebrity "famously woolly" enough to actually benefit from such protection.
"If you're going on stage and you're Tom Jones then, yes, you can wear a chest wig," he said, referring to the famously woolly Welsh singer.
"But nobody in their right minds wants anybody to know that Tom Jones wears a chest wig -- if there was an advertising campaign going alongside that, the advertisers would have to pull the campaign."
That, my friends, is how urban legends begin.
One more thing...
Nearly all of the articles cited above bring up another much-discussed celebrity insurance policy, the one Jennifer Lopez supposedly took out on her famous derriere. Real, or myth?
"Myth," decreed Jonathan Thomas in a 2005 interview with Risk & Insurance. Thank God someone in a position to know finally got to the bottom of it.
Sources and further reading:
Response to Reports of Tom Insuring His Chest Hair
Tom Jones website
Hearthrob Sir Tom Jones Insures His Chest Hair for £3.5 Million
Daily Mirror, 5 February 2008
Report: Tom Jones Has Chest Hair Insured
NY Daily News, 5 February 2008
Tom Jones Finds Himself in a Hairy Situation
Miami Herald, 6 February 2008
Famously Providing Insurance
Lloyd's of London, 4 October 2006
I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Life Insurance!
The Guardian, 13 September 2006
Insuring the Flesh
Risk & Insurance, 15 April 2005
Lloyd's 'Chest Hair' Policy Makes News
Insurance Journal, 17 June 2004
Chest Hair Insurance: Excludes Loss Through Terrorism
Agence France-Presse, 17 June 2004