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Are You Being Paid $600,000 To Party?

Dec 29, 2011
Originally published on December 30, 2011 7:07 am

Headlines claiming that celebrity-whose-famous-for-being-famous Kim Kardashian will be paid $600,000 to host a New Year's Eve party at the Tao nightclub in Las Vegas' Venetian hotel and casino and then return to the Tao a few more times in 2012 to make "special appearances," certainly catch your eye.

But as Kim Masters, who covers the business of celebrity business for The Hollywood Reporter and hosts The Business at KCRW, reminds NPR's Linda Wertheimer, while that may be a lot of money to pay someone who is "famous only for being famous," celebrities have been cashing in on their fame practically forever.

And now, "it happens a lot," she says during a conversation due to air on Friday's Morning Edition. It may be "$100,000 for just showing up" and then, "if you're a singer and you're asked to perform ... open your mouth to sing and you're looking at a seven-figure payment."

Of course, that doesn't mean a club such as the Tao won't be getting back some if not all of its money. Casinos are, after all, very good at that.

Let's run through some of the numbers.

Last year (when Kardashian was reportedly paid $500,000 to show up on New Year's Eve and then a few more times during the year, including on her birthday), tickets to attend her party cost $200 each.

We're assuming last year's deal with Kardashian went well for the Tao, since she's been signed up again.

This year's ticket price for her New Year's Eve party: $225. For that you get an open bar from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., "heavily passed hors d'oeuvres" and a champagne toast at midnight. And then you have the privilege of "access to LAVO Nightclub after midnight" (where you'll be able to spend more).

According to the Las Vegas Sun, the nightclub's capacity is nearly 1,400 people. Let's assume about 1,000 are paying. That's $225,000 in ticket sales. Add on the other money many will spend on food and drinks and gambling during the night and day and next day, and Kardashian's paycheck begins to make sense.

And remember, she's reportedly obligated to come back a few more times during 2012 — bringing in more revenue.

Also: There's the image the Tao wants to project of having the hottest parties with the hottest celebrities. That brings in business too.

Oh and about that question in the headline. Anyone out there being paid to party into the New Year?

We'll add the as-broadcast conversation from Morning Edition to the top of this post after it airs.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

A certain headline caught our attention this week. Reality TV star Kim Kardashian will reportedly earn $600,000 for appearing at a Las Vegas club this New Year's Eve. Her attendance at other events is likely included in that sizeable fee, according to the entertainment site Radar Online. In case you've been sheltered from the pop culture storm, Kim Kardashian turned her wedding earlier this year into a televised event called "Kim's Fairytale Wedding." She also filed for divorce less than three months later. Kim Masters has covered the business of celebrity appearances for The Hollywood Reporter, and she joins us from NPR West.

Good morning, Kim.

KIM MASTERS, BYLINE: Good morning, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: So these celebrity appearances and the fees that go along with them sound shocking to the average person. But I gather paying people to show up is something that happens in Hollywood.

MASTERS: Certainly. It happens a lot. There are celebrities who get paid to go to an event like just a club in Vegas, which would be something right up Kim Kardashian's alley. There are celebrities who get paid sometimes seven figures to go to private parties.

To give but one example, and there are many, the former head of NBC, Jeff Zucker, had wanted Kanye West but settled from Drake for his son's bar mitzvah. There are people who get paid just to show up when a store opens and walk around, walk the red carpet, have their picture taken.

There are all kinds of ways to make money in Hollywood, and a lot of celebrities say yes, especially if their careers are not necessarily going full throttle.

WERTHEIMER: So the figure reported in Kim Kardashian's case is $600,000. That seems like an awful lot of money. Is that a sort of regular amount?

MASTERS: It's an awful lot of money considering that Kim Kardashian is only famous for being famous. But there is a range for these things. Like, most people, if they're just appearing and turning up, would get a low six-figure payment, maybe $100,000 - maybe a little more, depending on who they are.

But if you're a singer and you're asked to perform, I am told if you open your mouth to sing, you're looking at a seven-figure payment.

WERTHEIMER: You reported earlier this year on some celebrity appearances that kind of went sour.

MASTERS: Well, those were of a different nature, certainly. A group of celebrities included Hilary Swank, Seal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, went to what turned out to be a birthday party for the military leader of Chechnya. This became a big to-do, particularly for Hilary Swank.

You know, people might not be surprised to see Kim Kardashian turn up in Vegas, but when you have a double Oscar-winner like Hilary Swank, who is considered more towards the A-list of stardom, showing up at an event like this, that creates a problem, and especially since she was warned in advance by a human rights foundation that this was an ill-advised move, and her manager had responded that she was not going to go.

But we live in the era of YouTube now, so it's not like she could discreetly slip into Chechnya and wish this guy a happy birthday. You know, she said initially that she didn't know who he was and she didn't know it was a birthday party. And it turned into an ongoing debacle. She was fired by her public relations agency, which is an unusual thing. It just has been extremely damaging for her.

WERTHEIMER: So there can be repercussions?

MASTERS: Absolutely. I mean, this has happened before. In the past, the Gadhafi family was bringing in all sorts of celebrities, and stars like Mariah Carey, Beyonce, 50 Cent, all had problems when they performed and had to give the money to charity, apologize and try to put it behind them as promptly as possible. So these can be very toxic things, especially for stars with a certain type of image.

WERTHEIMER: But then, maybe not so much for Kim Kardashian.

MASTERS: Linda, I don't even think Kim Kardashian could get away with going to a Chechnyan dictator's birthday party. But there is a group now that's trying to help stars vet these appearances. Apparently, their Google doesn't work as well as other people's. And they're going to help advise them in advance if they have questions. You know, is it OK to go to Georgia, or how about Uzbekistan? It will just help people sort through these many requests.

WERTHEIMER: Kim Masters hosts THE BUSINESS on member station KCRW.

Kim, thank you.

MASTERS: Thank you, Linda. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.