Celebrities for Hire: Cashing In or Selling Out?

12/12/2005 12:54 PM PST
Want Paris Hilton to make an appearance at your party? It'll cost $10,000 a minute. Want Bill Clinton to give a speech? That'll be at least $100,000. And what would it cost to get Aerosmith to play a private concert? How about $2 mil?

Celebrities for hire isn't a new phenomenon, but more stars than ever are finding that it's an incredibly lucrative way to make a fortune by just showing up somewhere.

According to a recent Radar magazine article, Halle Berry's personal appearance fees range from $100,000 to $500,000 per event. Denise Richards charges $200,000 for an appearance, though we're not exactly sure what she does. Sean 'Diddy' Combs will host a party for a cool $100,000. Compared to those fees, Jennifer Lopez is a bargain: $75,000. But if Lopez has to sing for her supper, the rate soars to $1 mil. Baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez charges at least $100,000 to be at a corporate event, or $10,000 a plate at private functions. We're guessing it's not cheaper by the plate.

Sources tell TMZ that earlier this month, Jessica Simpson performed at a Cincinnati corporate event for $850,000. Talk-show host Dr. Phil commands an appearance fee of $200,000 and upwards, according to sources.

The demand for celebrities for hire, especially at private parties, could grow because the people who throw these parties are getting media attention themselves. Reality shows such as MTV's 'My Super Sweet 16' and Bravo's 'Party/Party' showcase the extravagant soirees thrown by non-celebrities who have the money to indulge in over-the-top events. In one 'Sweet 16' episode, the party throwers tried to get Beyonce to perform at their event, but when they discovered that her fee is $500,000, they had to settle for alternative-rock band Unwritten Law instead.

New York businessman David H. Brooks, chairman of a defense-contractor company, made headlines last month when he spent an estimated $10 million on his daughter Elizabeth's bat mitzvah party. The bash -- which was dubbed by the media as Mitzvahpalooza -- featured an all-star lineup of performances from 50 Cent, Stevie Nicks, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Nelly, Kenny G, Tom Petty, Ciara and the Eagles' Don Henley and Joe Walsh. According to the New York Daily News, 50 Cent's fee was $500,000, while Kenny G charged $250,000.

But companies are more likely than individuals to shell out the big bucks for celebrity appearances, says Brooks International president/founder Maureen Brooks (no relation to David H.), who has been in the business of getting celebrities to do paid public appearances for over 20 years. Companies that want to hire celebrities for events contact her Denver-based company. She says the terms of the deals are almost always kept confidential.

Brooks International has worked with numerous A-list celebrities, including Andre Agassi, Jane Fonda and Dick Cheney. "There are some celebrities who never disappoint. I call them my home-run hitters: people like Jay Leno, Wayne Brady, Jeff Foxworthy, Dave Barry and Joe Montana."

Maureen Brooks adds that musicians are often the easiest to get but they are by far the most demanding. "It's because musicians are so used to being on the road and getting backstage perks."

The biggest perk requested by celebs -- you guessed it, a private jet.

Famous politicians are also difficult to deal with because they usually need more security than the average celebrity. Maureen Brooks says, "The Dalai Lama had more security than anyone we've ever worked with, and it was so ironic because all he talks about is peace. But he was one of the best we've ever worked with because he's so fun and child-like."

But some celebrities can't be bought. Insiders say Oprah Winfrey is virtually impossible to get, as she turns down all requests to do paid appearances. Other hard-to-get celebrities are Robert Redford and Michael Jordan.

Of the celebrities who will show for a fee, John Stewart and Lance Armstrong are among those most in-demand right now, says Maureen Brooks.

And which celebrities are tops on people's party wish lists? According to a recent poll conducted by Bravo and Star magazine, Winfrey is the most-wanted. She received 43 percent of the vote, followed by Martha Stewart with 26 percent. In the same poll, Tony Bennett reigned as the artist that people most want to perform at their holiday party. He received 39 percent of the vote, followed by Madonna at 26 percent.

The poll also named George Clooney and Cameron Diaz as the top male and female celebs that people most want to see jump out of a birthday cake. As for weddings, Jennifer Garner was named the most-wanted celebrity bridesmaid. Jamie Foxx, Orlando Bloom and Russell Crowe were tied as the top choice for best man.

Winfrey and other stars may be holdouts, but most celebrities have no qualms about putting themselves up for sale... if the price is right.