Celebrity Gifts: Are you gifted?

Celebrity Gifts: Are you gifted?
If you thought being gifted meant you were special in some way, think again. In the world of celebrities being gifted means that you have been given free goodies. The practice has been going on since the 70s and began innocently enough as a way to say thank you to those celebrities who gave up free time to present awards and the like. Now of course its become so lucrative that many companies have set up advertising divisions devoted solely to celebrity placements. Its a win win situation for all involved. Companies get the kudos that comes when anA lister is snapped wearing, eating or using one of their products and the celebs get oodles of freestuff.

Recently however, the goodie bag has not been quite so good, not since last year when the US tax man (the IRS) declared that gifts were in fact compensation and therefore subject to taxes. To give you some idea of what this means, the 2006 Golden Globes goodie bag was valued at around $20,000. This year, they got nothing except a heartfelt thank you. President of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association Philip Berk (HFPA created the Globes) confirmed last month that the HFPA would not be gifting any celebrity.

The HFPA were supporting the decision of the Academy Awards who announced last August that they would no longer provide their famously decadent goodie bags (arguably the most prestigious and expensive around with a street value of around $100,000 - $150,000).

But do the fabulously wealthy really care about having to pay some extra tax? Femail.com.au attended a pre Golden Globes weekend and the Sundance Film Festival (the swag fest to beat all swag fests) to see what, other implications the IRS crackdown was having.

The Beverley Hills Hotel in Los Angels was abuzz with activity the weekend before the Golden Globes awards. Film crews and technical staff were running around the place in droves preparing for the big night, celebrities were coming and going all weekend to rehearse for their two minutes of screen time and dedicated fans queued up in the hope of getting a glimpse of their favourite star. It was a circus, but in amongst the mayhem there were two gift lounges that were guaranteed to put a smile back on a celebritys face.

One was run by Nathalie Dubois of DPA (Dubois Pelin and Associates), a relative newcomer to the gifting business, but a woman who in a very short space of time has become known for the innovative (and exotic) products she assembles for her lounges. As Dubois has discovered, freebie or no freebie, 'celebrities want new and exciting stuff.' Indeed, and with that in mind, her lounge promised a tour around the globe, and for the stars that dropped by thats preciselywhat they got. There were trips to Kenya at the swish Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa (valued at a cool $25,000) as well as an India Radisson Plaza Resort & Spa Kumarakom package worth $15,000. Actor Terence Howard (Hustle & Flow) reportedly walked away with one of these babies, as did Alfie Woodard and Dennis Hopper.

The European part of the lounge offered a range of luxurious temptations such as Parisian jewellery (Oh Dis Le Moi), Annah Roxxahs ornate crochet shawls (a hit with Paris Hilton the owner told me) and Meltin Pot jeans (Teri Hatcher fell in love with these). There was more jewellery from Germany company Niessing, who were gifting diamond necklaces and very unique looking rings. Courtney Cox couldnt make up her mind on a gorgeous 18 carat Painted Bow necklace which came in gold and silver (retails for $6,000) so the company promised to send her a catalogue, post Golden Globes so she could choose at her own leisure.

Her husband, David Arquette was quite taken with the Pacific gifts on offer, namely the Tikki Villagepackage on Tahiti where stars could get married or renew their vows (worth $5,000) in a very exoticceremony. Pearl Resorts and Le Tahaa private island and Spa were inviting celebs for 6 night stays and they will launch their new skincare line Manea Spa. There were also jewelled bags from Bea Valdes from the Philippines (David Arquette wasnt so interested in these) and also from Tahiti, Creation Poema by Orama, a unique custom made spiritual ethnic jewellery line featuring stunning Tahitian pearls (prices ranged from $350 - $700) which were both gifted to Drew Barrymore and Jennifer Hudson of Dreamgirls fame.

There were lots of other goodies being gifted, such as Belgian chocolates from Madame Chocolat, Millies cheesecakes (a hit with Sharon Stone), extreme lashes, a detox/spa package at Bwell Clinic, (which Jennifer Love Hewitt snapped up), Oscar de la Renta sunglasses (Puff Diddy scored a pair of these), perfume, diet books, clothes (including the exclusive Maggie Coulombe whose clients include Paris Hiton, Nicole Ritchie and Terri Hatcher), and so on and so on.

On average each celeb spent around ten minutes in the gift lounge and if they accepted one of everything on offer they would have been $87,000 worth of gifts better off.

But wait, theres more. Downstairs was the official Golden Globes gift suite run by Backstage Creations. Many of the same celebs made sure they visited both, (celeb or no celeb, human beings love free stuff). Take Terrence Howard for example, he scored another exotic tip, this time on the Queen Mary 2. Courtney Cox was taken with the Diamond Living Matrix Spa and swore, it was the best thing Ive seen. Patricia Arquette was one of the few celebs to turn down a trip to Bora Bora. She was a guest of the retreat in 2006 and said she couldnt accept another trip thatwould be too greedy. There were also cashmere accessories, Fendi eyewear and Blackberrys for all the stars. While we werent given the exact value of these items, you can be sure they totalled more than the DPA lounge.

A week later, many of the same celebs made their way to Sundance in Park City, which has become known as much for its film festival as for its swag. With the number of companies setting up shop on Main Street, it didnt seem like the IRS clamp down had impacted on the freebie business. Celebs were in abundance and could be seen wandering in and out of a variety of lounges - some even had to buy extra wheelie suitcases to cart the stuff around.

Kari Feinstein however, who has run a lounge at Sundance for the past seven years was adamant that gifting was down this year and she blamed the tax man. Companies, she said, now have to notify the IRS of any giveaways with a value of more than $600, and celebrities must be told the fair market value of the gifts they receive. But as the organiser of another lounge told me, 'the stars we gift, are lucky enough to earn enough to not be worried about having to pay a few extra dollars in tax'.

Besides, as the IRS clampdown continues, companies will simply find more innovative ways around the problem. Take Luxestar for example, a company who have taken gifting to a whole new level. Select Sundance celebs were given a computerized card (the value depends on the level of fame) which they can use to shop online over the course of a year. Its more discreet to be sure, although I was told that the general public can track what they purchase online which if Im not mistaken defeats the purpose. As for the Oscars, well while the Academy is not gifting anyone this year thats not to say that entrepreneurial types will idly sit by and miss out on this lucrative night of nights. There are literally dozens of companies who will be gifting the Oscar celebrities this year. Distinctive Assets for example, will be giving to those who miss out on a golden statute on Monday night. The consolation prize will arrive the next day and will reportedly include everything from luxurious holidays, nifty electronic devices and pampering spa packages. If you are smarting from missing on out on an Oscar, this goodie bag, valued at $71,000, will no doubt help to ease thepain.


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