Orfeh (singer, recording artist, actor)
Income $60,000 (1999)
Health Insurance covered by Actors Equity
Rent just under $2000/mo.
“What I make in a week on Broadway, I used to make in 23 minutes in a club in New Jersey,” says Orfeh, who plays Annette in Saturday Night Fever and sings, “If I can’t have you, I don’t want nobody, baby.” “The standard chorus contract on Broadway is $1180 a week, eight shows a week. Being that I’m a principal in the show, I make slightly more. Though either way, it’s not nearly as lucrative as the music business. If you have a hit single, you can get thousands for a live club gig.
“In the early ’90s, I had a top-40 single, “Everyotherday,” with my band, Or-n-More. It was spun on radio stations 70 times a week. When you had a hit dance single back then, you did track dates. You did all the clubs in Jersey, Pennsylvania, Queens. The whole point of going to the club was to see the performers. You sang live, no band. The stage was the size of a bathroom. The money was great. If you’re a hit and you tour, you’re going to make a lot of money. If you write songs, you can make a lot on publishing. If you have a hit, that can mean millions.”
She says she is still paying off debts from the time of “Everyotherday.” “We had this business manager who was supposed to put aside money to pay taxes. We were spending money like crazy. We didn’t know. We got stuck with huge, huge, enormous tax debts, which screwed us up completely. I’m still paying them off. And you never give anyone the authority to sign checks for you. It’s a lesson I learned the hard way.”
Orfeh, who says she has had only one name since sixth grade and is “in my twenties,” is speaking from her cool white Murray Hill apartment. There is a large oil portrait of her over her bed, a wall of photos of Orfeh including one with a Bee Gee, and a fluffy stuffed rabbit from her fans.
“I grew up on the East Side of New York, nice apartment. My mother is in real estate. My parents divorced when I was in the third grade. None of my father’s income had anything to do with me. We weren’t poor, but by no means wealthy. I was an only child. I went to public schools my whole life, the High School of Performing Arts. I didn’t go to college. I was a club kid. I got a record deal straight out of high school. My first work was singing jingles as a kid.
“I’ve never worried about not having money. I believe in my ability to always make money. I think that comes from knowing I can work really hard. I’m a workaholic.”
The cost of being a Broadway star is high. Hair, manicures, makeup can run $500 a month. “A private publicist will cost a couple of thousand a month—some are more,” she says.
Being a glamorous star, doesn’t she get to go to glamorous restaurants? “I do eight shows a week! I eat Power Bars, McDonald’s. I don’t go out a lot. I don’t drink or smoke. I can’t. It’s not good for your voice.”
Does she sit home and watch TV? She has a large one. “No, that TV was a gift from an ex-boyfriend. That was the least he could do after I let him stay here rent-free for a year. He got it so he could watch sports.”
Does she get gifts from her admirers? “Hah! I certainly don’t get as many gifts as my friends do. With my boyfriends, I seem to be the gift giver. I guess I don’t seem needy. Some women just have that knack. That’s why I have to work extra hard, because I’m not one of those women who a man looks at and says, ‘Let me take you around the world and take care of you.’ Though I don’t think I would feel very comfortable having a man take care of me. My autonomy is very important to me. I once heard someone say, ‘If you take their money, you gotta take their shit.’ “