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Freebie Fest

Sundance is a hot spot for snagging pricey swag -- The independent film festival is beocming a goody bag central for covetous celebs

Just call it Swagdance: At the 2005 Sundance Film Festival (Jan. 20-30 in Park City, Utah), stars making the fashion/beauty-suite rounds practically needed Sherpas to carry all the free items they scooped up at the ski mecca-turned-indie fest-turned-excuse for celebrities to do even more consuming. ''I've been here three hours and I've already got $3,000 worth of stuff,'' quipped The O.C.'s Benjamin McKenzie (in town to promote Junebug) at the William Morris Agency Lodge. ''That's the spirit of independent film.''

Joking aside, corporations are spending big bucks to get their products onto the well-kept bodies of the celebrities stopping by the more than 10 glitzy, fully stocked mini-malls. ''When you see celebrities walking around with your products it makes the product aspirational for consumers,'' says David Pinsky of Motorola, who's held a freebie lodge at Sundance for the past five years. ''The investment is substantial but it meets our objectives.'' James Jeans (at the Shutterfly/Panasonic Hospitality Suite), Ben Sherman (at the Blender Sessions Lounge), Levi's, 7 for All Mankind, and Fred Segal (at the Village at the Lift) were just some of the fashionable companies who rented prime real estate. WMA's ''lodge'' — a $7 million mansion equipped with such amenities as an elevator and an in-house chef — offered Kenneth Cole, Lucky Brand Jeans, and Sprint products. Heck, they even delivered: Sean Astin requested that the AG jeans he selected at Volkswagen Lounge be sent to his hotel room, booked under the name ''Robert Frost.''

The most buzzed-about place was the Hewlett-Packard Digital Lounge, where digital cameras, printers, and iPods were given to Naomi Watts, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Adrien Brody, and Pierce Brosnan. Less extravagant but just as welcome: the deep-conditioning treatments enjoyed by Joan Allen and Keri Russell at the Matrix Biolage Lounge, or Mercedes-Benz chauffeuring the likes of Patricia Clarkson and Lisa Kudrow around the festival. And perhaps the most bizarre matchup: John Leguizamo at Cosabella's lingerie suite. ''I got a lot of panties,'' he said. ''I go through them pretty fast.''

Given all the frenzied swagging, it was refreshing to encounter a bit of restraint. Keanu Reeves (while shilling for Thumbsucker) refused all goodies. ''His publicist said, 'It's just not his thing, but thank you,''' explained an HP rep. Wow. A celebrity who actually acknowledges that he can pay for all this stuff himself? Now, that's the independent spirit.

Originally posted Feb 07, 2005 Published in issue #806 Feb 11, 2005 Order article reprints
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