Anyone who's brushed up against a major star has some tale of excess to tell: There is the suave actor who, starting a new TV series, required that the water feeding into his trailer be blessed by a shaman. There is the famous movie couple who demanded a separate private jet from Los Angeles to Europe just for their luggage, at a cost of $40,000. There's the pop singer whose dressing-room requirements while making a video for charity included $50 French candles and enough food to sustain a family of tsunami victims for a month. There's the TV bad girl who insisted the network erect a billboard for her show on a street where she knew an ex would drive past it. There's the actress who demanded Harry Winston jewelry to help her get into the role of a wealthy woman (because, you know, it was a stretch), then hid in her trailer when she was asked to give it back.
It's no major news flash that stars are a coddled breed that's been their job description since the dawn of time. Celebrities are our royalty, as the cliché goes, and on some level we expect to see them act like it: showing off their McPalaces on Cribs, pulling up at premieres in Humvees, flauting ever blingier bling. Over the past decade, though, the entertainment industry has seen a dramatic spike in the level of pampering. In a culture forever pushing its obsession with affluence and status (remember when game shows gave out toasters and car wax instead of million-dollar checks?), keeping up with the Zeta-Joneses is becoming quite the financial challenge. And as the cost of the celebrity lifestyle rises, stars from the A list on down are passing as much of the expense as they can to those who hire them, demanding ''perk packages'' that can run into the millions of dollars. Movie studios, TV networks, and record labels, caught between the need to keep their top earners happy and the need to keep budgets down, are struggling to hold the line.
How much does it ultimately cost to maintain these lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-gluttonous fantasies? And, when the price of all the private jets, personal stylists, masseuses, and champagne is tallied up, who's getting stuck with the bill?