The recent bat mitzvah of wealthy young New Yorker Elizabeth Brooks was no mere coming-of-age ceremony. It was a star-studded concert event, as members of Aerosmith, 50 Cent, Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, and Ciara took turns serenading a gaggle of 13-year-old girls.
When photos and eyewitness accounts of the show started circulating online, a larger question arose: Just how common are these offbeat gigs, from weddings to business functions to charity bashes? ”Celebrities do like doing these little parties,” says Tom Cestaro of Celebrities Plus Inc., an entertainment marketing agency. A big reason, of course, is cash. ”Depending on the size of the [act], it could be $25,000 to half a million dollars or more.” Name acts are now the norm at home shows, health and beauty expos, and other things you’d hear advertised on AM radio. (The North American International Auto Show even coaxed Rev Run and Coolio to make appearances this year!)
But what’s the cost to celebrities’ reps? Publicists and agents almost universally refuse to discuss the matter of private appearances on the record, which lends them an air of illicit mystery. According to Cestaro, however, ”Even though they are getting paid for it, it sort of humanizes [these stars]. Like, they’re not on the red carpet, they’re not at an awards show, they’re at a banquet hall in Syosset, Long Island.”
New York publicist Lizzie Grubman (she has repped Ja Rule and Jay-Z, among others) sees plenty of upside. ”These artists’ fan base is kids. What’s compromising about that? With all due respect, if I was 50 Cent, I would be proud to perform.” Full disclosure: At Grubman’s first wedding, in 1995, the band was the Village People.