They're young, rich and seem to have the world at their feet. So what do the latest generation of rock stars spend their money on? Fountains, fancy stoves and security systems, if the hit show MTV Cribs is anything to go by.
The show, which goes into its fifth season next month, has generated a loyal following among MTV's audience of teens and 20-somethings. A Cribs appearance by rock legend Ozzy Osbourne has led to a new show, The Osbournes, which is MTV's most successful new series in the cable network's 21-year history.
"We seem to have struck a chord, culturally," says Cribs executive producer David Sirulnick.
Like its predecessor from the 1980s, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Cribs offers a voyeuristic glimpse at the fabulous, over-the-top mansions that stars use to celebrate their success.
"I think everybody wants to see what other people have," says Sirulnick. "I think it's a real fantasy element of, you know, 'If I had that much money, if I was that successful, would I do stuff like that?' "
But unlike the glitzy Lifestyles, the MTV show has a down-home feel, with the aim of giving fans an intimate, personal look at their idols. Fans learn, for instance, that rapper Redman does not make his bed, and that actress Jaime Pressly's favorite cereal is Froot Loops.
The show tries to show that celebrities, despite their eight-car garages and custom-built swimming pools, are "just people like everybody else," says Sirulnick. Cribs always makes a point of going into the stars' kitchens and looking in their refrigerators. "There is sort of a common denominator element about that," he says.
Cribs appeals to Americans' fascination with the famous and wealthy, says Leonard Steinhorn, a media professor at American University. "But we also want to see how they lead their daily lives. Are they different from us? Are they the same as we are? This stuff helps us figure that out."
‘Welcome to My Crib’
From the outset, the producers wanted Cribs to feel as much as possible like a personal tour of a star's home. They decided not to have the show presented by a host, so it would seem more intimate — "as if they were a friend of yours," says Sirulnick.
Each visit starts with the star opening his front door and saying, "Hi, I'm ______. Welcome to my crib." The stars — mostly rock and hip-hop artists, with the occasional actor or sports star — talk straight into the camera, as if they're addressing the viewer directly.
Using a steadicam to give a fluid feel ("like you the viewer were in fact walking through a room," says Sirulnick), the Cribs camera then follows the star around his home. The camera takes frequent close-ups of objects, often repeating them, to re-create the experience of being somewhere and looking around.
Rather than focusing on the material possessions alone, the Cribs producers ask stars to talk about their possessions, why they chose a certain object and what it means to them. Rapper Missy Elliott, for instance, told the show she treasures her autographed photograph of Oprah Winfrey because the talk show host was a role model for her.
Some of the stars have the kind of outrageous furnishings one might expect from a rock star: Tommy Lee, former Motley Crue drummer and ex-husband of Pamela Anderson, has a disco in his basement and sex swing in his bedroom, while the hip-hop duo Outkast has a "boom boom room" complete with a stripper's pole.
But many of the stars have homes that would not look out of place in an upscale suburb. "They're sort of getting the chance to live out, not just their dreams, but kind of get to put into practice the idea that 'I've made it. I have done something with my life,' " says Sirulnick.
Also, he adds, it can be nice to come home to a quiet, comfortable home after months on the road during tours.
After nearly two years on the air, Cribs has developed some of its own clichés and in-jokes. The camera always goes into the bedroom, for instance, and the stars, especially the men, often point to the bed and say, "This is where the magic happens."
Most of the stars profiled on the show have glittering kitchens with professional cooking equipment, but rarely seem to use them. The refrigerators typically have nothing but a bottle or two of Cristal, the $150-a-bottle champagne that has become a status symbol in the hip-hop world. (Sirulnick suspects that many of the stars buy the Cristal specially for their Cribs appearance.)
Another frequent line is about the Bentley. In the very first episode of Cribs, hip-hop artist and producer Jermaine Dupree showed off his Bentley, saying the luxury car was the true sign of a "big dog" who had really made it. Sirulnick estimates that a dozen other celebrities have bought Bentleys and shown them off on Cribs, saying, "Well, Jermaine, I'm a big dog too: I got my Bentley."
The stars know all this because they watch the show, too. "Some of the most dedicated viewers of Cribs are other celebrities," says Sirulnick. "They seem to can't get enough. They want to see what everybody else has."