Celebrities rent homes just like the rest of us, right? Well, kind of.
The only difference is that they will either spend in a single week what many people would budget for an entire year or manage to live a life of leased luxury without spending a single cent.
Malibu, Calif., is the neighborhood of choice for many stars seeking to get away from their hectic Hollywood lifestyle of spas and manicures. The Polaroid Beach House, located on the so-called Billionaire Beach section of the Malibu coast, is one preferred location. It offers exclusivity and the opportunity to truly indulge, all for a price available to only the rich and famous -- nothing.
"A smart celeb should never have to pay a penny," said Jay Marose who worked alongside Fingerprint Communications, the company behind the Polaroid House. "Given the right amount of time and the right party planner, they can even turn a profit."
If a celebrity is planning a party or a weekend away then their publicist will put the feelers out by contacting one of two groups of people. They either select from a handful of connected realtors in the city or, as strange as this may sound, a catering company who has good relations with the upper echelons of the Los Angeles social scene.
After the location is set, the next task is to find people to sponsor (read: pay for) the event.
With paparazzi magnets like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, this isn't difficult. In fact, sponsors often become the center of attention.
"When Lindsay walked in [to the Polaroid House] the Alterna haircare consultant said, 'Introduce me, introduce me,'" Marose said. "I told him, 'Relax, she'll come to you,' and sure enough she soon asked me who he was. Before you know it they had begun negotiations for her own shampoo."
Following quick on the heels of Matthew McConaughey's bash two days prior, Lindsay Lohan and Hillary Duff made sure that this year's July Fourth celebration at the Polaroid Beach House was sprinkled with an appropriate level of stardust.
"We are not a gifting suite and see ourselves as a boutique hotel," said Laura Duran, who works for Fingerprint Communications, who remain behind this summer's events at the house.
Gifting suites are places like the Silver Spoon private events home, located a few houses down from the Polaroid House, where the emphasis is on pushing products onto guests rather than letting them choose in a relaxed environment, explained Marose. Jessica Simpson reportedly had to flee her birthday celebrations there recently due to paparazzi intrusion, and Marose said that few people stay there long.
"Silver Spoon is a beautiful house but the atmosphere is more like a retail store and all the celebrities would pay them a visit there but then come over to our house and stay," said Marose. "In fact, Lindsay [Lohan] felt so at home we joked she was the houseguest we couldn't get rid of."
As he sipped iced tea in his blue flip flops, green checked trousers and a white Lacoste polo, Marose cut a relaxed figure. Speaking at length about how Nicole Richie's visit to the Beach House spawned a revival in one sponsor's sunscreen range, a girl walked by with a SuicideGirls tattoo that caught his attention. Always on the lookout for talent, Marose leapt to his feet, introduced himself and handed her his business card. The girl, who was heading to an audition, was blissfully unaware she was speaking to one of the most prominent publicists in America. Marose returned to his seat and gave a wry smile.
"The celebrity circle is very tight-knit," said the 41-year-old Marose. "I worked with my dear friend Lisa (Left Eye) Lopes on a party celebrating Suge Knight's release from jail. We didn't have long to plan so there were no sponsors. The catering alone cost $15,000."
He added, "The house we rented was Fred Durst's Beverly Hills mansion and he gave it to us for the night for just $5,000, which was a third less than usual, as a favor."
It's not just the party scene where extravagant rental agreements are the norm for society's well-to-do. High-priced, short-term leasing has become a niche in Los Angeles, according to Kristie Mele, general manager of Villa Malibu, a new townhouse resort by the beach.
"Our clients want resort amenities brought to them somewhere with a home feel and they feel they are getting value for money," said Mele, whose resort charges $18,000 for a one-month stay. "The trend in this type of leasing has definitely become more marked in the last couple of years."
That is not to say it did not exist before then, however. In 2001, Paul McCartney paid Courtney Love $100,000 a month to rent her home situated in the flats of Beverly Hills.
"I remember her saying to me, 'I can't believe what a good deal this is,'" said Sotheby's realtor Jeff Hobgood. "Certainly that's a high price, even in today's market, but you have to credit Courtney's eye for business."
Hobgood said that for celebrities looking to vacation, $5,000 per week is considered low with prices often running to $10,000 or even $20,000 per week. Just as when they are looking for a place to party, they will have their representatives go through brokers who have the necessary contacts.
Driving his 2007 BMW M5 toward the penthouse featured as belonging to Johnny Drama in the HBO show "Entourage," Hobgood pointed out the homes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Colin Farrell, Courtney Cox and countless others with alacrity.
Located on the 12th floor of Franklin Towers, the "Entourage" penthouse has a $50,000 sound system, a 110-inch home cinema and views to the north of the Hollywood Hills and to the west of Century City. The real-life owner, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that he had no plans to rent out his place to private entities but said that he would likely be spending some of his summer in Malibu.
"These people don't necessarily worry about how much their vacation costs and if it's less hassle for them to lease than it is for them to buy then that's what they'll do," Hobgood said.
Hassle-free getaways are something the high-rollers can find on the East Coast too. The Hamptons region of Long Island attracts the likes of Steven Spielberg, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jerry Seinfeld.
The visiting celebrities either rent from within the network of celebrities who own in the area or can have their representatives pay a visit to Vacation Rental By Owner, a site with a list of palatial homes. Prices start at a few thousand for a one week stay but much higher prices can be found. For instance, one four-bedroom property is available for $15,000 per week but the owners are kind enough to give one week for free if you book for a full month.
"The area around here offers a quiet little getaway, it's very secluded," said Lindsy Talmage, who is guest relations coordinator at East Hampton Point, a luxurious resort visited by Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves among others. "It's like a home away from home but with a classy, relaxed atmosphere."
So, young Hollywood unwinds by the Californian coast amid swaths of luxury goods while the older heads seemingly find their downtime best served by turning inland or heading east.
The eclectic mix of what constitutes relaxation for the stars aside, one thing is for sure. It's no fun getting in late on where the action is at.
While the Polaroid House for now still has its allure, celebrity status for properties is much like it is for its human counterparts; finite and vulnerable to overexposure.
"Everyone wants a place that no one's been to before," said Marose. "There's a big, white house on Sunset Blvd. which has thrown so many parties that no one really, really cool would be caught dead there."
"While in New York, it's being on the list that matters; in L.A., it's knowing where to even find the party."
With that Marose stood up to leave for an interview with Vanity Fair. Whether the aspiring actress who spent such little time talking with the publicity powerhouse will call the number on his business card remains to be seen. As with a week away in the Hamptons, one could do a lot worse.