Can you book a Hollywood or sports star for just about anything anywhere if the price is right? Yes! And as the endorsement appearance business booms, the sky’s the limit. You might even snag Lady Gaga to perform at your birthday bash for a cool $5 million.
“Demand for UFC fighters headquartered in Las Vegas has just exploded,” says America’s top booker Mike Esterman, who lands more VIP names for clubs on the Strip than anybody else. He is the mastermind of the celebrity black book who sends stars, models, singers, actors and artists across the country every week to make appearances and endorsements.
“It just keeps on growing,” Mike told me. “Reality TV shows like ‘Jersey Shore’ have really expanded the audience base -- the notorious reality TV kids are affordable and attainable, so it’s booming. It’s no longer just nightclubs. It’s many areas -- bar mitzvahs to weddings to private parties at people’s homes these days. I’ve tried to make it easy for people who aren’t rich or elite. Pretty much there is an affordable celebrity for almost anybody for any occasion.
“There’s bragging rights for people who can afford to get a star to attend their son’s 21st or a bar mitzvah. I’ve got music artists from a group performing a bar mitzvah next month. Kim Kardashian and the family get requests for all kinds of stuff. I would say that within reason and being all above board, a star will do anything if the right amount of money is offered. They are very open to all offers and types of requests.”
Mike confirmed for me that some multimillionaires in the oil-rich Middle East and China have shelled out “over a few million dollars” to secure stars. “The sky’s the limit. Some think it crazy. Some think it perfect -- when you’ve got money to burn, you can book anybody when the price is right,” he added.
The biggest increase recently has been with UFC fighters, retired and active. Said Mike: “I do bookings for Tito Ortiz appearances, and he also did ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’ We even have referee Joe Cortez doing red carpets and private, high-end, fight-night parties with such people as Sugar Ray Leonard and Evander Holyfield.
“I started this as a niche business 13 years ago, personal appearances for stars because their big agencies never handled that. Some of the big Hollywood agencies are now trying to make up that money, but I get agents who give me their entire roster of stars looking for extra money to make personal appearances.”
Fox News this week reported that the “Pay to Party” business is expanding and that stars have even less work to do for the greenbacks. Hollie McKay reported that Paris Hilton, Paula Abdul and our “Peepshow” at Planet Hollywood star Holly Madison all partied in Miami for Music Week appearances, while Kendra Wilkinson-Baskett was at the official season opening of Wet Republic at MGM Grand last Saturday.
“They don’t float around the pool for free,” Hollie wrote. “Or even for what they were paid to do this time a year ago. The cost of hiring a celebrity to attend or host an event has risen over the past two years. They are demanding more money to do less work.”
She cited $600,000 for Kim Kardashian’s yearlong appearances for Tao Group here and Britney Spears’ $350,000 for her New Year’s Eve appearance at Pure in Caesars Palace in 2006, while Paris and sister Nicky Hilton earned a combined $500,000 from Las Vegas nightclub appearances. (Incidentally, Pure celebrates its 7th anniversary tonight.)
The Fox411 PopTarts report revealed that C-list celebs could get $15,000 just for posing for a couple of red-carpet photos. Meantime, “Gossip Girl” actress Blake Lively was reportedly paid $50,000 just to walk down a carpet for 10 minutes. Contracts spelling out 10 minutes on the carpet or 1-hour from home and back have become standard to get an appearance.
Now major brands are backing the business: Light vodka Voli was behind Fergie’s big payday appearance in New York last week and is again when she celebrates her birthday Friday at 1 OAK in the Mirage.
Mike, who represents “Extra” host Mario Lopez for his many personal appearances, said: “Mario brings out fans in droves, and his star power fills venues -- and he’s always generous and gracious with his time.
“The newest phenomenon with this business is how stars have become DJs, as well, to spin for nightclubs. With hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake in admission and sales, nightclubs need to guarantee celebrity appearances to keep them hot and in the media. That’s my job … we make certain everybody gets the bang for the buck.”
Check back to Vegas DeLuxe on Wednesday for our interview with “Jersey Shore” star Pauly D, who has landed a residency DJ gig at the Hard Rock Hotel this summer in addition to his own reality TV series debuting Thursday on MTV.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.
Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.