We’ll Always Have Paris

by Tom Johnson
Ville Voice Correspondent

One of the dirty little not-so-secrets of Derby Week is that a lot of the celebrities who come to town are getting paid to do so. We may imagine the ‘Ville to be the center of the world this week, and to those in the thoroughbred business it certainly is, but for celebrities Derby is as much about cash cows as it is fast horses.

The celebrity guest that has everyone talking this year is Paris Hilton, who will make appearances at both the Barnstable-Brown Party and the official Barnstable-Brown after party. The after party will be held at the just-opened Sports and Social Club in 4th Street Live. The Sports and Social Club is, of course, a collaboration between the Cordish Company, developer of 4th Street Live, and Mayor Jerry Abramson, who forked over almost $950,000 in taxpayer money to get the club remodeled and open in time for Derby.

Keep in mind that Paris Hilton isn’t worth as much as everyone assumes. Daddy’s billions are destined for a charitable foundation, and various estimates put Paris’s trust fund at between $20 million and $50 million. Assuming reasonable investment scenarios, and remembering that the last year hasn’t been kind to those living on investment income, her fortune throws off between $1-million and $4-million a year.

A lifestyle of private jets and top hotels can burn through that fast. If you think of Paris Hilton as a  business, and I guarantee that even if Paris doesn’t think of herself as a business, she has lots of people around her who do, she has to find ways to reduce costs and increase revenue, while preserving the Paris Hilton brand. It’s that last part that’s tricky. If you’re going to keep being Paris Hilton, you can’t secure your financial future by endorsing a K-Mart clothing line or marrying an elderly rich guy.

So Paris does what lots of celebrities do: she rents herself out for appearances at hi-glam media events. It’s a brilliant solution. She cuts costs by spending a few days living on someone else’s credit card, increases revenue by pocketing a big appearance fee, and reinforces her brand by showing up where the action is, at the wildest party (insert city name here) has ever seen.

Celebrity appearance fees are based on a complicated calculation that balances the publicity the celebrity will generate and the downside of failing to generate that publicity. If you’re opening a $10 million nightclub and your whole investment depends on not fizzling opening night, it’s worth a lot to have paparazzi-attracting celebrities strutting in through the front door.

Read the Rest After the Jump…

How much is the potential for worldwide publicity worth? It wasn’t too many years ago that Hilton asked $50,000 for a one-hour walk-through. During the bubble years her rates, like everyone else’s, skyrocketed. (Kevin Federline asked and apparently received $20,000 per appearance, a sure sign of what Alan Greenspan called a frothy market.) Hilton has denied reports that she received a half-million dollars for a night of drinking and dancing at the opening of a Las Vegas nightclub. Various gossip columnists have reported her appearance fee at between $37,500 and $150,000. Since the crash, those who follow this kind of thing say appearance fees have plummeted.

What Paris will get for dropping by Derby will likely never be publicly acknowledged. Donít expect journalists to look into it, because there’s nothing that brings out the booster in local media like Derby. Admitting that we pay people to come to our party would be unseemly and would diminish the glamor of reporting live from inside the velvet rope. For the same reason, none of those either writing or cashing the checks are going to talk about it, either. Why risk blowing an illusion that serves everyone so well?

A far more interesting question than how much, it seems to us, is who? Who’s writing the check that will bring Paris to the ‘Ville? Is it the Barnstable-Brown Foundation, which knows a thing or two about leveraging fame to attract ticket-buyers and enable a significant contribution to charity? Is it the Cordish Company, which just got $950,000 in taxpayer money to remodel a nightclub into which most of Louisville’s taxpayers will never set foot? Or is it some combination of the two?

Thatís the real question, and it likely won’t be answered any time soon.

Tom Johnson is a Louisville writer who will appear anywhere, anytime for a two-drink minimum. He operates the blog LouisvilleJuice.com.

9 thoughts on “We’ll Always Have Paris

  1. That’s why it has been my personal opinion for a long time that the whole Derby thing is a big charade for the world to see about Louisville so we can get our week of fame or two weeks of fame if you count Thunder. The most funny thing about it is that we continue to neglect our schools, our roadways, our civilian infrastructure and our job market. We are more worried about fake appearances and charades than actual results. While the Derby is a nice event and brings tourists and money to this city, it shouldn’t be our only thing to promote this area.

    We need more things to do than watching a few people who come here on someone elses dime. As far as the whole celebrity thing goes, I’ve always felt they put their pants on just like anyone else so why hold them on some pedestal. I just don’t feel the need to extol the virtues of these people like the local newspaper does. I guess we will all be subjected to several days of the paparazzi running around seeing who all these people are at the parties and all of that. When in fact, the average Louisvillian foots the bill for the festivities including police patrols, police overtime, garbage collection, and everything else. Not that I am against all of that but it seems the whole Derby thing is the only thing this city has going for it other than sports and basketball.

    I find it even more interesting that Jerry isn’t going to get all of the storm debris cleaned up this year. In fact, didn’t he make another lame promise and have a million more lame excuses why it wasn’t done. Especially three months after the storm. For those who fuss about us not paying for those expenses, the city said it was going to do a job. Now the way I was raised up, if you said you were going to do something, you did it. But I guess that doesn’t apply to our increasingly incompetent and inactive mayor and his staff.

  2. From what I can find out, the city doesn’t pay for the Derby. Corporate sponsors foot the bill.
    The schools, the roadways and the infrastructure are paid via taxes that are collected from the millions of dollars that are generated by the Derby. Police, garbage collections etc are also paid with tax monies generated by the Derby. I doubt the average Louisvillian foots the bill for the festivities including police patrols, police overtime, garbage collection, and everything else. They only pay when they participate in a revenue generating Derby event.
    Sorry, I think the Derby does us more good than harm.
    Anybody can whine….come up with a better plan.

  3. The real issues that are being addressed are hardly whining. The real issue is why does the city get its two weeks of glory when we should have been improving things all year around.

    What private enterprises do with their own money is their own business as long as they adhere to our laws in theses United States including the Commonwealth Of Kentucky and Louisville Metro.

    The average Louisvillian pays for all of this because of the local taxes one pays through occupational tax, property taxes, and other municipal taxes. While I do not wish to see the Derby to be eliminated or shut down, I have to wonder where are the priorities in this city that a two week celebration is bragged about for all time while we have other pressing issues such as road and infrastructure repairs, job creation and retention, government transparency, education, efficient government, etc.

    The city and its taxpayers do pay for the expenses that are created during the Derby. While I am sure it is a largely successful time for the city, we cannot ignore the issues that affect the local taxpayer.

    While it does give our fair city some national attention on the news and in the national media, we should really be putting our name out there as a great place to do business with a well trained workforce and quality educational opportunities. That we can progress as a Metro beyond being known as somewhere to eat, drink, and be merry.

    Jerry Abramson has let the people of this area down time and time again. His reach is much more than just Louisville Metro when you consider that many people come to our city to work, play, and support their families and outlying communities. For example, other counties in this area often have 15 to 40 percent of their workforce working in Jefferson County and directly across the river. A healthy Louisville, Kentucky spills over into a healthy Southern Indiana, Bullitt Co, Oldham, Shelby etc.

    Giving Cordish group 950,000 for a bar on 4th street is hardly productive use of capital especially with that company having a propensity to have issues. We’ve had various opportunities to support local businesses and then let other business come in as well but we seem to favor the select few instead of letting all productive and reasonable business to flow in. It won’t happen overnight and it probably will not happen until we have an uptick in the national economy. Furthermore, Jerry is not the answer as many of us are seeing and more are learning of the malfeasance and incompetence of his administration day by day.

    Kudos to those of you out there that despite our differences see the issues he has created with his 20 year reign. The first question is where is all of this money going considering that we are one of the highest taxed metros in the USA. When you consider business taxes, corporate taxes, and personal taxes we rank very high in taxation. What is the benefit of this? Wasted priorities and lost revenue and opportunities.

    We should have been working on our local infrastructure all over this community for many years including improving schools, enforcing standards, and making people accountable through various means. That doesn’t entail a police state nor would one be needed but a general cleanup of the seedy side of the government complex would be nice.

    To listen to Jerry there is always someone else to blame rather than taking the heat and finding ways to fix what problems we do have.

    On the positive, we do sit at a critical place in America where several key highways intersect. That helps in logistics and transport of materials and goods. We do have an increasing health care sector. Yet we can’t base everything on healthcare and UPS type jobs. When we finally get someone as mayor who realizes that, then we will see a lot of progress. Our northern neighbors especially Indianapolis in the 2001 to 2003 recession actually gained jobs. The question is why do we remain stagnant when we have a vibrant local area with a diverse culture, great restaurant scene, and a decent variety of things to do. We just need to start thinking bigger and get out of the rut that keeps people like King Jerry and his accomplices in power. We as a people deserve better and we should expect better and from what I am seeing here and other places, a lot of folks are waking up.

  4. Geez…where to start.

    “The real issue is why does the city get its two weeks of glory when we should have been improving things all year around. ”

    So you think the national media would pay the same attention to say….a new school? Or a new, improved roadway? The Derby gives us the opportunity to show the world our city.
    What other venue could we have that would generate the millions that the Derby Brings in?

    “While it does give our fair city some national attention on the news and in the national media, we should really be putting our name out there as a great place to do business with a well trained workforce and quality educational opportunities.”

    Don’t you think the city and businesses DO put our name out there during Derby Week? After all it’s a great place to showcase the city. That’s why businesses bring in out of town business guests. The city brings in potential business guests to try to intice them to relocate or invest in our city.

    We have been thinking bigger. The reason for 4th Street Live is to give people something to do once they are here. We could be just like any hicktown with a dead downtown that rolls up it’s sidewalks at 8 pm. Instead we are trying to make downtown a place where convention goers and tourists visit. Conventions are a BIG business here.
    To blame the Mayor for the ice storm of the century is crazy. Hey the city could have said
    it’s not our trees….they are on your property you get rid of it. If anyone is that impatient to get their stuff out, the city has made available several dumping sites for you to take the stuff to for free. I’d blame LG&E for not doing their job of keeping limbs clear of power lines like they used to do. They used to employ crews that did that exclusively. Now they just use contractors to do it when needed.

    As far as the schools, local infrastructure, roadways etc, this government is faced with the same problems that countless other cities are faced with. Over the last twelve years or so, the Federal government has cut, reduced or eliminated subsidies that went to state and local governments. That left cities scrambling to try to make up that loss to take care such things as schools, infrastructures etc. Every major and minor city in America is struggling right now because of it. We are no different and we compete with every other city for any kinds of revenue. I could go on and on…..

    We’ve got a great city. I personally know many people who have been relocated here for business and who choose to stay here when they retire. Why? Because it has everything a big city has except “big”. I have lived in other cities and you guys don’t realize how good you’ve got it. Is it perfect? No. But is any city perfect?
    I just get tired of people complaining. Anybody can sit back and complain. Real solutions for bonafide problems is what we need. You got a plan, Stan?

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