appearance353

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.

THROW ME OFF THE AMP BUILDING

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.