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OPINION COLUMN: TED KRUCKEL

Red Carpet Crimes and Misdemeanors

A non-comprehensive look at the celebrity-for-hire market.

The absolute best commentary on le monde noir of celebrity appearances and endorsements was an episode a few seasons back on The Sopranos, when Christopher kept getting dissed at a celebrity gifting suite while he was in Beverly Hills pitching his Godfather knockoff. So incensed that he wasn't granted access to the free electronic gizmos and leather goods, he belted Betty Bacall (that's Lauren, please, if you don't know her personally) in the kisser and made off with her haul bag. Since no amount of embarrassing media coverage has dimmed the shameless behavior of greedy celebrities and the sycophants who surround them, I thought it was time to create this little primer. Hope this helps.

How do I decide which celebrity is best for my event?
Good news! It apparently makes no difference at all who you get, which saves lots of tedious brainstorming. My favorite pairing: Tara Reid, at the height of her falling-down-drunk/baring-breasts period, promoting a Colin Cowie J.C. Penney line. Seems to me the proverbial bull in the china shop would have been safer.

How can I be sure the celebrity will come on time?
Ha! Thanks to Paris Hilton, the average arrival window is now about five hours.

Does it matter how long the celebrity stays?
While the publicity folks at Esquire profess complete satisfaction with Uma Thurman's appearance at the magazine's Esquire Apartment event a few years back, I heard some grumbling from inside the magazine that their agreement only got them 15 minutes of her time, for a $10,000 charitable donation. I'll make the math easy for you: Her contracted rate was $667 minute (if you round up).

Rumor has it Joe Simpson is now offering to sell event planners a cardboard cutout of his daughter Jessica to be posed at events. As of yet, there are no takers, despite his offer to throw in a live Ashlee Simpson for free.

Do we have to pay if the celebrity passes out?
The precedent-setter here is Britney Spears, who apparently passed out at Pure Nightclub in Las Vegas for a reported $300,000 fee. Later she vomited in New York for free.

Is there such a thing as bad publicity?
Well, this is a tricky question. The answer is no for the non-faint of heart. For those of you old-fashioned types, however, a suggested list of celebs to avoid: Courtney Love (though sober, she still assaults), Lil' Kim (nothing little about her foul mouth and loose mammaries-you can get a taste of her blue commentary on the new show Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll), and somebody aptly named Andy Dick, who apparently indiscriminately fondles guests of both sexes before locking himself in the bathroom.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the most annoying red carpet diva of them all?
I can't help but think of Diana Ross when the words diva and annoying are linked. Her achievements (burp!) in this category are endless, but my favorite was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute gala chaired by Anna Wintour and Nicole Kidman. Diva Diana had been hired to warble a few golden oldies, essentially making her event staff, but that didn't stop her from joining the receiving line uninvited. I watched as Anna and Nicole shifted positions, horrified and, yes, annoyed, but Miss Ross, whose stamina for humiliation was proven by her taped DUI sobriety test, repeatedly shifted with them. Finally, Anna and Nicole decided that the whole episode was a wash and the receiving line was abandoned. But no worry, Diana stayed on to greet the masses. What a trooper.

But I would be remiss in my responsibility to not also recall the period when Usher (remember him?) was big, big, big. He became known for his repeated red carpet hissy fits, demanding that the red carpet be cleared before doing his turn and sashay, at one event forcing Dustin Hoffman to be literally ushered in the back door. As if this weren't annoying enough, Usher would often fl ash his breasts (it was so girly), Mardi Gras-style. But be honest, aren't you hoping he makes a comeback?

How much does it cost to get a celebrity to wear my designs on the Oscars red carpet?
A necklace will run you about $100,000, I hear, while a nominee donning a frock now can cost a quarter mill. (No one will cop to these fees, of course, but insiders always seem to be whispering the names Valentino and Armani.) Other celebs can be gotten cheaper. My eyebrows were raised a few years back when I watched Susan Sarandon attending the big night on the arm of her son, who appeared about seven years of age and, when prodded by his mother, dutifully disclosed which designer had outfi tted him. Upon hearing this news, I couldn't help imagining never-one-to-pass-up-a-buck Catherine Zeta-Jones, then pregnant, trying to get a sponsor for her unborn child. Later she was photographed, still in nature's way, smoking, though no magazine at the time had the nerve to run the shot, knowing her litigiousness. You've come a long way, baby.

What if the celebrity insults the sponsor?
This happens more often than you might imagine. Upon winning a Tony award, Mercedes Ruehl quipped something to the effect of, “With all due respect to the House of Chanel, this dress is killing me.” I remember sitting, dumbfounded, as Sandra Bernhard, on stage at a fashion event, drew gasps (and chuckles) by referring to Ralph Lauren as Mr. Lifschitz (his given name). What's less well known are the repercussions of these sponsor bitch-slaps-although come to think of it, when was the last time you heard news of Mercedes Ruehl or Sandra Bernhard?


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