Thursday, August 01, 2013

Celebrity Love for Sale. (That’s entertainment.)

I have no idea who Jeremy Piven is, but if I decide to have a party for myself anytime soon, it looks like I can get him to come for $50,000. If I decide that’s a bit on the steep side – especially given that I have no idea whatsoever who Jeremy Piven is – I can get Dennis Rodman to show up for a mere $20,000, letting me pocket that significant difference. But Dennis Rodman, while the devil I know, is, unfortunately, the devil I do know. And he may be a tad too flamboyant for my tastes (and that tastes of my friends and family – most of them anyway). The hair, the outfits, and that crazy episode in which he spent time hanging with his homey, Kim Jong-Un…Do you suppose that Brilliant Comrade lil Kim paid Dennis $20K to come over and enjoy the good times, good times in North Korea? And if so, couldn’t he afford Jeremy Piven? Or Usher, you shops himself up for a cool $250,000?

I got this pricelist when I was bottom-feeding for Pink Slip topics, and found myself over at the NY Post.  (Okay, I’m a bit embarrassed, but I have to say it is, in many ways, more interesting than the Wall Street Journal. Plus it’s all free!)

Increasingly, all kinds of celebrities are available for hire — at every event imaginable.

While it was reported this week that Jennifer Lopez has earned $9 million performing for tyrants around the world over the past two years, a growing number of celebs are making big bucks entertaining regular fans at private soirees.

It’s not all tyrant performing, by any means. And J Lo’s busy – what with the kids, and ads, and perfume, and concerts – what does Jenny from the Block know from tyrants?

One of the big celeb booking agents for private parties is Headline Booking, whose owner, Matt Altman, claims that “every star has a price.”

Bob Dylan’s is $500,000+. So’s Journey’s.

There is, of course, an awful lot of difference between $500,000+ and $500,000+. I’m guessing that old Bobby is the latter and Journey the former, but who knows? Maybe there are people who’d rather hear Don’t Stop Believing than Rainy Day Women #12 and 35.

On the other hand, a date with Linda Rondstadt will only set you back $20-$100K.

Jethro Tull’s available, but his fee isn’t. (Now that would be the group for a special event for my brother Tom. Aqualung!)

Neil Young commands $500,000+, but David Crosby is a bargain at $100-$250K, as is Stephen Stills. I guess Graham Nash is playing hard to get, as I didn’t see him on Headline Booking’s roster. (I know that being in the great-unwashed crowd is different than a personal croon-fest, but didn’t we use to get all three of these guys – plus Graham Nash -  together for a ticket that might have cost ten bucks?)

Looking through the list, I got to wondering just how many people get up in the morning and decide that they want Meatloaf for their private par-tay, and are willing to fork over $250-$500K to get him there?

And truly, I’d pay the Steve Miller Band their hefty fee ($250-$500K) to not play Abracadabra and Space Cowboy. I’d do the same for America to keep them from playing Horse With No Name, the hands-down worst song ever. But they weren’t on the Headline Booking list. They are available through Booking Entertainment roster, however, where the first face that appeared when I clicked on the site was Ted Nugent.

Ted Nugent! I’d double down on Ted Nugent’s price ($100-$250K) if he’d just STFU for a couple of weeks. (All of the acts are available for fundraisers. Other than the NRA, what group would use The Nuge for a fundraiser?)

Some of the entertainers might be fun: Bette Midler ($500K+) and Bernadette Peters ($20-$100K).

And some might be just plain embarrassing: Frank Sinatra, Jr. ($20-$100K). Talk about a stranger in the night… And Jackie Mason ($20-$100K) – oy!

Once in a generation, a performer emerges who is so extraordinary, so brilliant, that he or she become the standard to whom all others are compared. Jackie Mason is such a performer, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest stand-up comics of all time.


I’ve been to a few celeb-for-corporate-hire events. When I was at Genuity, they had Michael McDonald (the Doobie Brother) perform at a function at a function at the awards trip to Hawaii that I was awarded with. He was very entertaining, but at $250-$500K, is it any wonder that Genuity went bankrupt?  Genuity also had Carlos Santana appear at some big-splash we did at a trade show. At $500K+ is it any wonder that Genuity went bankrupt?

We also wrote a big celeb-a-check to Jack Welch to sit on stage and get interviewed by Charlie Rose (I believe his fee was one-quarter of what we paid Jack, who through in a cart-load of his eponymous puffography) for a bunch of clients at a golf tournament we were sponsoring. At least Jack had something to do with business.

Let’s see…I heard Chicago play at a trade show once. (Microsoft  hired them.) And I can’t remember whether I was actually there in person at the sales kick-off at IDC where they had Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello) show up, or just heard so much about it, I feel like I was there. The company’s sales VP did a mean Father Guido imitation, and while he was doing it, they brought the real Father Guido out. Most amusing.

But my experience with entertainers for hire has been strictly corporate events:

In the past five years, the niche entertainment business of booking celebrities for private parties has grown, as elite New Yorkers compete to throw bigger, better, splashier events for their children and other loved ones.

Usually stars don’t brag about their freelance work, preferring to keep any moonlighting hush-hush. (Source: Back to the NY Post.)

Funny that, but there is undeniably something sell out and tawdry about entertaining at a corporate or private event that’s completely absence from a concert venue, isn’t there? Is it just that it’s hard to imagine Bob Dylan singing Masters of War to a group of Lockheed-Martin execs and their customers?

But it’s not all Bob Dylan for a hefty fee. One of the Long Island Princesses – an exceedingly execrable “reality” show – will appear at your event for $500. (Thanks, I’ll hold out for Frank Sinatra, Jr.)


In any case, I was pleased to learn that Bruce Springsteen does not perform for corporate or private events. Phew!

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