If there were an insurance hall of fame, Cuthbert Heath would be in it.
Well, it turns out there is, and Heath—the pioneering 19th-century underwriter, who (somewhat) famously took Lloyd’s beyond its primary products, boat and fire insurance—is a laureate. And for good reason: He essentially invented risk insurance, and took on publicity-attracting gambits like insuring a monkey that was a key player in a vaudeville act. (According to Lloyd’s, Heath paid up in full after the chimp’s death and had it chimp stuffed. It was then kept in his office as an example of the company’s commitment to its customers.)
At Lloyd’s of London, Cuthbert’s creative (and PR-friendly) approach lives on. For your amusement (and dinner-party ice breakers repertoire), here are the ten craziest things the storied British company has agreed to insure.
1. Betty Grable’s legs
The insurance policy that inspired the phrase “million dollar legs,” though technically that’s incorrect: 20th Century Fox executives insured the star’s stems for $1 million per leg. She became something of an archetype: Other stars to insure their legs include Tina Turner, David Beckham and, yep, Michael Flatley—aka the Lord of the Dance.
2. Merv Hughes’ mustache
What, you don’t know who Merv Hughes is? Clearly, you don’t follow Australian cricket. Either way, all you really need to know is that, while playing for the country’s national team from 1985 to 1994, Hughes took out a $360,000 insurance policy on his walrus-worthy soup catcher. The reason? His ‘stache, not to mention his outsized physique and stellar play, was critical to his larger-than-life persona. It turns out facial hair is something of a trademark for the company, too. Per Lloyd’s, 40 members of a Derbyshire Whiskers Club insured their beards against fire and theft, leaving one to ponder just who would steal a beard.
3. “Who’s on First”
Abbott and Costello insured their legendary comedy routine in case, for whatever reason, the duo had to split. The policy was valued at $250,000 over five years. They never had to use it, though Bud and Lou did eventually part ways when the IRS came after them for back taxes.
4. Keith Richards’ hands
While some have joked that only cockroaches and the Rolling Stones’ seemingly indestructible guitarist could survive a nuclear war, clearly Keef has concerns that his guitar playing abilities might someday fail him. Hence his $1.6 million policy on them. (Some reports say only his middle finger is insured. Which makes sense, since he probably needs it to express himself through his musicianship. And in, um, other ways.)
5. Bruce Springsteen’s voice
How much is the voice of a generation worth? Roughly $6 million, according to a policy the Boss took out. Rumor has it other singers, including Rod Stewart and Bob Dylan, followed his lead and insured their vocal cords, too. No word on what happens if Paul Simon’s throat will only let loose the songs of silence.
6. Gene Simmons’ tongue
Speaking of singers: the KISS frontman insured his trademark tongue for more than $1 million back in the ‘70s. Which seems pretty gross until you consider…
7. Tom Jones’s chest hair
Sorry, Tom, but it is unusual to take out a $5 million policy on your manly follicles, which the Welsh singer did back in the ‘70s. (It was a crazy time for insurance.) Of course, Jones wasn’t the only singer thinking about his chest: Dolly Parton took out a $4 million policy on hers.
You’d think it would be hard to get a policy on something literally shot into orbit and left unprotected in space for a prolonged period of time. And yet Lloyd’s was the first to insure satellites, starting with Intelstat 1 in the 1970s. Lloyd’s value the policies at $100 million each, and they mean business. In 1984, the company put up financing for a space shuttle and a crew of five astronauts to reclaim two rogue satellites.
The company was the first to sell car insurance, though back in 1904 they described an automobile as a “ship navigating on land” (for insurance purposes, presumably). The company continues to be a leader in the realm of personal transportation: It’s the exclusive insurer for Virgin Galactic, if and when Sir Richard Branson’s human spaceflight venture blasts off.
10. Santa’s beard
What, you thought this list couldn’t feature any more hair? (And we’re not even including the lock of hair off Abraham Lincoln’s head a collector had insured back in the 1990s, but only because he got his policy at a rival insurer.) Yes, Brady White—dubbed the “Santa to the Stars,” and known for his regular appearances in holiday ads for several luxury brands—took out a policy on his beard back in 1992. He says the policy is “not terribly expensive,” which seems like a healthy way of looking at it to us.
Honorary mention: An array of taste buds and noses in the food and wine worlds; the bulbous schnoz of comedian Jimmy Durante; Cutty Sark’s policy for the Loch Ness monster, taken out as a publicity stunt in the 1970s.
And in case you’re wondering if there’s anything Lloyd’s of London will not insure, the answer is yes. When he was planning and filming 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick sought a policy in case a real-life alien invasion came before the movie was released. Lloyd’s declined.
Louis Wilson is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a wide array of publications, both online and in print. He often writes about travel, sports, popular culture, men’s fashion and grooming, and more. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he has developed an unbridled passion for breakfast tacos, with his wife and two children. Opinions expressed by the author are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of Haven Life.