January 02, 2012
New Horizons in Absurd Celebrity Contracts
Last week, National Public Radio's Morning Edition had a report about contracts that pay celebrities six figures to show up at events. The ever-eye-catching Kim Kardashian (pictured at left) provides the lead, with news of a $600,000 contract that paid Ms. Kardashian to "host a party" (whatever that means) at a Las Vegas hotel and then pop in to the club for "special appearances" in 2012.
As Kim Masters,interviewed by NPR's Linda Wertheimer notes, that is a lot of money for someone who is "famous only for being famous." The deal works out very well for the club, which charges outrageous prices to those who want to attend its parties and have the pleasure of meeting Ms. Kardashian. It works out well for the latter as well, who has notorious difficulties finding a party date.
And though we lame academics might find it hard to imagine someone who will relish the memories of having attended a party hosted by the Kim Kardashian more than $225 spent on Las Vegas's more wholesome entertainments, we likely have to concede that all invovled did the appropriate hedonistic calculus and concluded that they were getting value for their money.
But not all celebrity contracts work out so well, NPR reminds us. Hilary Swank (pictured at right) recently made the faux pas of accepting payment to attend a birthday party for the Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov. As the international Business Times reports, Ms. Swank has expressed embarrassment at having accepted the invitation, which apparently involved six-figure compensation. Although human rightsorganizations warned her not to attend the event,
Ms. Swank claims that she did not receive the warnings, and she plans to donate the proceeds to charity. Here, the motivations are a bit more mysterious. Ms. Swank was not the only celebrity to attend Mr. Kadyrov's party. Clearly, he benefits from basking in such reflected glory (such as only the likes ofJean-Claude Van Damme can provide). And it seems arguable that Mr. Van Damme does not have a lot of other opportunities on his plate right now. But one would think that a two-time Oscar winning actor in her prime would have better things to do with her time.
Moreover, those of us who object to paying celebrities for their existence are for the most part free to opt out. The people of Chechnya are likely paying the bills for the human baubles with which their dictator chooses to surround himself.
In his "Santaland Diaries" from 1992, David Sedaris's account of two seasons working as a Macy's elf, he admits that he got bored after being a Window Elf for a while. The Window Elf's job is to say, "Step on the Magic Star and you can see Santa!" After saying that a few hundred times, Sedaris improvised a bit: "Step on the Magic Star and you can see Cher!" People got excited. They left the Santa line to have a look, and then they got mad when they saw only Santa. Sedaris wonders what they really expected: "Is Cher so hard up for money that she would agree to stand behind a two-way mirror at Macy's?" Well, maybe by now she would be. I'm pretty certain Kim Kardashian would do it if Macy's agreed to throw in some swag.
The scene falls 3:45 in on the YouTube link above.
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