Ben Stein

I’m trying to maintain my sanity. It’s not easy. About 35 years ago, I had a teacher of economic history named Robert Lekachman. He smoked and he was a leftist and maybe depressed, but he was an amazingly smart man and incredibly effective at teaching. One of the many things he taught me in a little sunny room at Barnard (I was at Columbia but took a few classes at Barnard to meet girls, little dreaming I would someday be a major-league sex symbol, with girls chasing me all around Beverly Hills, but that’s another story) was about the British Empire.

It never made economic sense for the Brits to have Kenya and India and Singapore. It would have been more efficient for the little country to just concentrate its efforts on making itself richer and more pleasant. But something deep in the human soul craves expansion, largeness, a global reach. Look at King Leopold and the Belgians.

Or look at me. Today, Friday, I went off to the doctor to try to find out why my heart is beating so fast and with so damned many beats per minute, a few too many it seems to me.

I think it has to do with lingering frantic screaming grief inside me about my father’s death. With me holding his hand on one side and my sister on the other, reading him the Psalms and telling him he was about to go see my mom. Or maybe it has to do with my obsessive interest in the stock market, which has been volatile lately, to put it mildly—although I am bound to say I love it.

Or, maybe it has to do with the fact that I own six dwellings and am planning to buy more. It’s not easy to be a man of property. Ask the Forsytes. Or maybe just one of the Forsytes.

Or maybe with the observed truth that the single hardest part of my day is making my son do his homework, which he generally absolutely refuses to do unless bribed.

Well, I went off to my doctor, celebrity doctor to the stars or else why would I be there? His echocardiogram woman, a lovely middle-aged blonde named Sue, attached the equipment and started to read the machine. She then told me she had a house in Brentwood Park (to be fair, I asked her where she lived), one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the world. She told me she got it because she had made so many smart buys in stock and real estate. She even had Qualcomm at a big profit. What a great thing to tell me. The Nasdaq’s down about 400 points this week, and she’s bragging about gains in tech? What a way to give an exam.

Of the heart!

Anyway, she said I was in wonderful shape, so all is forgiven. I guess it really is my son’s refusal to even read his homework assignments that’s the problem. I probably shouldn’t have given him that million dollars for his 12th birthday.


Then, off across town to a meeting of my loyal producers to discuss my talk show and who the guests will be. The meeting was great. I sat on a huge couch, signing hundreds of photos of me taken when I was a lot thinner, reviewed possible guests for my talk show, decided which ones were big enough and which were not, and had everyone laughing at my jokes.

This is one of the great parts of being the star. Everyone laughs at your jokes as if you were a customer at a geisha house.

Then to a stereo store to look at receivers. I personally love everything Denon makes, but I also like KEF speakers and anything in the ES line that Sony makes. Stereo equipment is my obsession, and I need some good works so I can play Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, over and over again. I want the room to rock when Dr. Evil’s spaceship takes off—just like in my pal Phil DeMuth’s house.

Then off to the set of The Man Show, starring my friend Jimmy Kimmel. I did a tiny guest spot, seated next to a young woman with blue toenails. Jimmy did a hilarious spot about being in a men’s room talking to people at the urinals. He is the most naturally funny man in the world.

Then, back home to have a lovely dinner with wife and son. The son kept telling me how fat I was in Spanish. I’m not really that fat, but he’s very thin. “How does it feel to be the best-looking boy in your school?” I asked him.

“That is something you’ll never know,” he said grimly.

Then, to bed to read my mother’s diaries and wish she were here to talk to her about them, and to wonder if that stock-market whiz read my exam right or if I’m dying. There’s too much happening. The Empire of Ben Stein is just too big and you haven’t even seen a small part of it yet.