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.
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