MTV's Video Music Awards (airing Thursday, Aug. 28, 6:30-11 p.m.) may be as different from the Oscars as Christina Aguilera's ''Dirrty'' video is from ''Chicago,'' but there's at least one similarity between the two: The presenters and performers at both ceremonies get loads of free stuff.
This year, MTV hired Backstage Creations to work its magic on a ''gift retreat room'' where performers and presenters such as Aguilera, Beyoncé, 50 Cent, Britney Spears, Missy Elliott, the Olsen twins, ''Queer Eye'''s Fab 5, and the Neptunes' Pharrell Williams are invited to choose from more than $20,000 worth of apparel, accessories, and other luxe swag. Karen Wood, owner of Backstage Creations, says, ''It's a personal experience for them. They come down and shop for themselves; it's customized to their needs.''
Some of the loot a star can take home in a Gibson guitar case (which will serve as this year's tote) includes:
A six-day trip to a Pearl Resort in Tahiti ($5,000)
Round-trip helicopter ride from NYC to the Hamptons from Blue Star Jets ($1,900-$3,000)
Reed Evins custom-made shoes ($1,200)
PhatNoise Car Audio System ($1,000)
Four hours' limo transport from Empire International Ltd. ($600)
Fendi eyewear ($400)
Tommy Hilfiger leather jacket ($395)
Delphi XM SKYFi Satellite Radio ($350)
Calvin Klein watch ($300)
iRiver MP3 player ($179.99)
Havaianas sandals ($150)
But why all the freebies? It's a win-win all around. Artists get cool stuff without opening their wallets, companies get free advertising when stars use or wear their products, and, says Wood, ''It's a way for MTV to say thanks for being on the show.'' What, nobody sends thank-you cards anymore?