Thanks to the advent of financial television, we are probably all familiar with the sight of the bell being rung to start and end the day's trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Many of the people who ring the bell are business executives whose companies trade on the exchange. However, there have also been many famous people from outside the world of business that have rung the bell.
Many famous athletes have rung the NYSE bell. In a city with millions of New York Yankee fans, one of the most popular bell ringers was legendary Yankee hall of famer Joe DiMaggio. As popular in Canada as DiMaggio was in New York, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky visited the NYSE and rang the bell to launch the IPO of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, one of North America's largest banks.
Following the conclusion of this year's Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, it is likely that several athletes will be invited to ring the bell. Past Olympic champions given that honor include snowboarder Shaun White and swimmer Michael Phelps. And of course, America loves football and the Super Bowl, so it is not surprising that members of the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints recently visited the NYSE to ring the bell. (People often compare stocks to gambling, but how close are they really? Find out in Going All-In: Comparing Investing And Gambling.)
Wall Street traders like hanging out with celebrities as much as anyone else does, so it is no surprise that a number of famous entertainers have visited the NYSE. Musicians, such as Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, members of the KISS, and the rapper Snoop Dogg have all rung the NYSE bell. In addition to Wall Street, New York is also famous for theater, so musical theater stars like Liza Minnelli and the cast of the hit musical "Jersey Boys" have also had the honor of ringing the bell. Hollywood has also been well represented, with the cast of the film G.I. Joe, actress Sarah Jessica Parker of Sex in the City and American Idol host Ryan Seacrest. (Do the characters in classic films reflect what it's like to work on Wall Street? Find out in Financial Careers According To Hollywood.)
Many politicians have also rung the bell. On a tour of the U.S. to promote economic cooperation, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited the capital of capitalism in order to partake. Other famous politicians who have had the honor of ringing the bell include Nelson Mandela and Rudy Giuliani. (This instrument of foreign policy and economic pressure is preferred over military action but can still pack a punch. Read more in The Power Of Economic Sanctions.)
Some of the most important NYSE bell ringers have been famous not for who they are, but rather for what they have done. These heroes include members of the New York police and fire departments following the events of 9/11, members of the United States Armed Forces serving overseas, and participants in various charity organizations - and the reception they receive is often significantly more vocal than that accorded to even the most famous celebrities. One of the most recent heroes to visit the NYSE was Pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who managed to save the lives of all his passengers during a remarkable crash landing in the Hudson River.
There have also been several famous non-people that have rung the bell, including Mickey Mouse, the Pink Panther, Mr. Potato-Head, the Aflac Duck and (perhaps most ominously) Darth Vader. This serves as a reminder that, while ringing the bell is meant as an honor, it is also a TV event, and meant to be fun and entertaining. In the 21st century, the financial markets aren't only about investing - they're also about entertainment.