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Making an appearance


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Future's bright: Kim Kardashian

Future's bright: Kim Kardashian

If you pay a celebrity to turn up to your party, does this not defeat the purpose? If your party is that cool, a celebrity should want to attend and not have to be rewarded.

If Lady Gaga, Leonard Cohen or Johnny Depp had a birthday bash, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have to slip a cheque to the likes of Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton to make an appearance - both would give several feet of intestine to be invited.

Likewise, if Ferrari, Dom Perignon, Apple or Harley Davidson had a product launch, I doubt they'd need to coax fossils such as Joan Collins or Liza Minnelli to shuffle along, because these are brands with which even relevant famous people want to be associated - for free!

I mention this because the spring racing carnival approaches and our robust currency seems primed to lure an absolute menagerie of awfulness to the corporate marquees of Flemington and Randwick in the form of "appearance fees".

However, there will be no Jay-Z, J-Lo nor even Justin Bieber on hand; we'll apparently settle for Kim Kardashian.

I may have read too many trashy magazines lately because the presence of any member of the Kardashian family at occasions other than a murder trial or major sporting event seems to be a flashing red light that you're walking into an absolute abattoir of the soul.

I hear the Kardashian name and think of energy drinks, monotonous electronic dance music, synthetic fabric and black leather couches: Kim strikes me as the kind of person you'd find at a day club talking to a steroid user with a penchant for mesh singlets.

Bizarrely, however, some of our country's largest brands are happy to vie with each other, and pay handsomely, for the patronage of the likes of Kim, her sister Khloe and probably even Krusty the Klown, if he was a real person.

I understand the reasoning because I receive the press releases: Australian Brand A flies out American Celeb Z and this equals publicity - both gushing and sneering (that'd be me).

However, as we've seen for more than three decades with the Logie Awards, you can't import class, nor can you buy gravitas.

The reality of celebrity is that anyone who is of huge value - who might add credibility or prestige to a brand or event - such as Brad, Bono, Beyonce or even a Beckham - aren't in the rent-a-crowd business.

The media understand this because the big stars, the super giants, won't talk to us 51 weeks out of the year unless they have something to sell like an album or a film or have a starving nation to feed.

In response to this, the media - particularly us peeps in the provinces - create celebs who will talk to us for 52 weeks out of the year - which is why people such as Lara Bingle, Rachael Finch and the Kardashians even exist.

And I guess - because their heads of PR read too many magazines - Aussie brands begin to believe it.

David Jones is apparently leading the race to secure Kardashian's presence at its Flemington marquee because it's soon to stock her handbag range; a development that surely does little to raise the prestige of the DJs brand.

It strikes me that the most potent endorsements are the most natural - where someone famous (and credible) uses, wears, eats or drives your product because they dig it.

In the late 1860s a French wine named Vin Mariani, which also contained cocaine, so impressed Pope Leo XXIII, he appeared in a poster promoting the drop.

Closer to home - designer Camilla Franks was delivered hundreds of thousands of dollars of free international publicity when Oprah Winfrey walked into her store at the Hamilton Island resort Qualia, bought one of her caftans, and wore it during her visit.

The problem, I guess, is this is all so haphazard, and marketing types need to justify their salaries, so they spend three months negotiating with Meat Loaf, Kelly Clarkson or a Kardashian.

This suggests to me the whole "appearance fee" rort has no longer got anything to do with quality or prestige - just lots of publicity, be it good or bad.

In that case, can I suggest someone get Martin Bryant out on day release and fly him to the mainland: that'd get us talking.


Well, you can't throw me off, but I will be abseiling down the AMP Building at Sydney's Circular Quay as part of the 2011 Urban Descent to raise money for the Sir David Martin Foundation to help youth in crisis.

SERIOUSLY - I never ask you people for anything - well, aside from buying my book - and this is a great cause. I would welcome any contribution, great or small, that you could make and it's sooo easy to do. Go here.

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here.

53 comments so far

  • If you care if your party is cool - then it's not.

    Celebrities - people who are famous, or at least noticed, for nothing - are not cool. They are the antithesis of cool.

    Date and time
    October 17, 2011, 7:20PM
    • I think that these things happen because the sad people who inhabit the corporate departments that write the cheques for the 'rent a crowd' people look at events, which proper famous people attend of their own free will, with envy.

      And they want to feel special. They deserve it, right? So they pay some person whose photo has been in some girl magazine so that maybe, for a day, they matter.

      As for me, I'm a little cynical. I find it hard to care about this or that famous person, what they have to say (or sell) and whatever it is that brings them to our town.

      hired goon
      heartbreak city
      Date and time
      October 17, 2011, 7:52PM
      • Credibility cannot be bought. Then again there is a theory that everyone has a price. Maybe that is why I am not famous. I won't sell my soul in order to be in the public eye.

        I am not sure if I would recognise anyone mentioned in this post if I bumped into them on wobbly shoes. WHo are they and what have they done for the world? Are they special in any way?

        No one gets paid to come to my parties. They are always fun and often silly. I like that. People need to want to be there otherwise it is painful for all concerned. I like it that way.

        I am looking forward to the next one.

        The Sanctuary
        Date and time
        October 17, 2011, 8:22PM
        • Sam, you're in the very trade you're querying. It's not a party invition; its delivering an "audience" / crowds to the marketeers. Now, even if we don't give "two hoots" about Lady Gaga, Leonard Cohen or Johnny Depp, and i had to google Kim Kardashian. Plenty do! And in the crude parlance on mainstream media that guarantee audience share. I'm sure the celebs earn their crust. But i'm more impressed when someone pulls off some low cost spin and gardens up a crowd, often via YTube. And weirder is where you juxdapose a brand with the Copiapo mine accident, Black Saturday, Bali Bombing or fall of Tripoli. I'd prefer celebs any day. But Sam, I come to a party if Paul Gross, Alison Whyte or you were there. We all have our fascination.

          Date and time
          October 17, 2011, 9:31PM
          • Kim Kardashian - how low can the Spring Racing Carnival possibly go? I don't know that we will ever get rid of the appearance fees, but surely if someone is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars they can do better than this...

            Perth for the week
            Date and time
            October 17, 2011, 9:42PM
            • I expect that the comings and preferably rapid goings of these 15 minute wonders will occupy the pages of the newspapers and magazines I only gaze at while waiting in line at the supermarket.
              They seem to be the only reason for some magazines.
              The depth of a paper is inversely proportional to the size of its social pages. The fact that the DT has 4 plus pages is a sad reflection of its attempts to woo readers with the attention span of a gnat.
              The appearances of these ladies is to attract the right types to their various tents at the races. It says more of the wannabees that run these companies who see their prestige, not in doing a great job but in attaining all the perks, property and being seen with these 15 minute wonders.
              Still I read the DT most days at my mothers. I come home to read the SMH and read the Saturday back page.
              Now where is my top hat?

              The Old Guy
              Date and time
              October 17, 2011, 10:42PM
              • It's a sad reflection of our society, I agree.
                Just wait for the Australian B-graders and commercial radio host types who will give their first borns to get into the same tent as, and fawn over, the likes of that kardashian chick.
                Why is she even famous again? Sure she has a nice rack, but is that it??

                Date and time
                October 17, 2011, 11:20PM
                • Joan Collins a fossil? For shame! She may be in her winter years but she's still got style. And if you were to read her occasional 'diary' in 'the Spectator' you'll find the lady can pen an entertaining piece to boot.

                  Date and time
                  October 18, 2011, 6:08AM
                  • The best thing they can to with Kardashian when she's at Flemington is stick a saddle on her and race her in the 5th

                    Date and time
                    October 18, 2011, 7:52AM
                    • Scoby sums it up nicely. Wonder if she's a mud runner.

                      Sunday too far away
                      Date and time
                      October 18, 2011, 7:58AM

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