If the Birdman of Alcatraz had had Paris Hilton's connections, he would have been a billionaire. Robert Stroud languished for 54 years in prison, and all he got out of it was some birdseed. And a nice portrayal by Burt Lancaster in the movie.
Paris, on the other hand, is going to snag a cool million for an interview on NBC's Today Show upon her release, according to the New York Post. Let's say NBC doesn't come to its senses or realize they're on ethical thin ice, and they really make the payoff.
That's not a bad haul for less than a month in jail. Let's do some quick figuring. Because of time off for good behavior, Paris probably will wind up serving about 25 days of her 45-day sentence.
That works out to about $40,000 for each day in jail, which would have bought the Birdman enough seed to fill up Alcatraz Island, with enough left over to top off the Oakland Coliseum.
What if they had Paris knocking out license plates? Let's say she could make 10 of them a day, with breaks for lattes. That works out to $4,000 a plate, which is quite okay because it's not the taxpayers ponying up for them, just NBC.
Let's deduct time for sleeping. It's not really fair, because Paris nearly beat the jail time when she claimed she couldn't sleep. But let's do it anyway. We'll have her working an eight-hour shift, making the plates. That would be 400 hours. Divide the million by that, and we come up with $25,000 an hour.
This is nearly three times the $8,888 that Roger Clemens is expected to make for every pitch he throws this season. Clemens is making about $4.5 million per month for his one-year, $18.5 million contract as a New York Yankee hurler. But he doesn't have to spend a single night in jail unless he starts acting like Pacman Jones.
Paris has been getting fan mail by the cart, and she says she is trying dutifully to read 5,000 letters. Well, good for her. That's a fine way to show that she is taking personal responsibility for her conduct and being a better role model. If she gets to all of them in between making the plates, that would work out to $200 per letter.
There's no getting around that jail is not a fun place to be, and Paris has had to consume prison food, day in, day out. It's not exactly Wolfgang Puck fare, but you can't beat the price. At three squares a day, Paris is getting $13,333 for every meal she eats. And jail does give Paris a respite from the ever-vigilant media.
When this jailbird flies, she'll be going back to a gilded cage. It's a good time for a reminder from the Good Book that all that glitters is not gold, and that even celebrities could use a few prayers.
Robert Knight is director of the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter.