How Much Is That Celebrity in the Window?

Stars' popularity can be measured by the rise and fall of their appearance fees.

ByABC News
December 6, 2007, 11:54 AM

Dec. 7, 2007 — -- Who's making a guest appearance at your private New Year's Eve party this year? Elton John, Robin Williams or will you settle for Tara Reid?

That all depends on your wallet and the value of your guest's star stock. In the thriving rent-a-celebrity business, the price tag for having a celeb drop by is a telling barometer of who's hot and who's not.

This week, the going rate for Tara Reid, the chaste blonde from the teen cult-classic "American Pie," fell precipitously on the private party circuit. Her asking price dropped from $35,000 to appear at a "Hooker's Ball" with shirtless cowboys to $3,500 for some private parties, according to Australian tabloids.

"The people who used to be in demand are the good deals today," says Dan Barrett, entertainment producer for Millionaires Concierge, which calls itself the "yellow pages of the rich and famous."

Reid is in good (or bad) company. Demand for Jessica Simpson and former husband Nick Lachey has gone the route of their three-year marriage -- down the tubes.

In an US Weekly survey of celebrity bookings in 2006, Simpson could command up to $400,000 for a private performance, and her ex went for $100,000. Today, the actress's price has fallen to $75,000, only a little more than Lachey's $60,000 a gig, according to Star Link Productions, which books celebrities for fundraisers and private parties.

Similarly, R&B and pop artist Usher, who once earned $1 million for a private appearance, can now get only $175,000, booking agencies say.

An increasing number of celebrities are relying on the private party circuit to enrich their paychecks. But as some, like Reid, see their star stock plunge, others are soaring in the lucrative and growing celebrity-for-rent business.

The hottest names garner the biggest price tags.

Mariah Carey earns a cool $3 million for a private appearance, up from $1 million in 2006, and Pamela Anderson's price has ballooned from $75,000 to $250,000.

Opulent affairs with rock heroes are common in hedge-fund central, New York City, and in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the stock-option windfalls of the dot-com era are still being spent.

Some of the top names in entertainment -- Elton John, the Rolling Stones and Christine Aguilera -- have also appeared at company-sponsored events. But as corporate indulgences have been reined in, the wealthiest executives are more likely to call in celebs for their own private parties.

In 2005, then Point Blank Solutions Inc.'s CEO David Brooks threw a lavish $10 million bat mitzvah for his 13-year-old daughter, Liza. He was later charged with fraud for allegedly bank rolling performances by Aerosmith, 50 Cent, Tom Petty, Kenny G and the Eagles on the company dollar.

Brooks reportedly sent the company jet to fly in Aerosmith to Rockfeller Center's Rainbow Room and paid the group $2 million so that his nephew could play drums with the band, according to published reports.

Other celebrities such as the Beastie Boys, David Lee Roth and even Kiss' Gene Simmons have done the bar mitzvah circuit.

Last New Year's Eve, British pop star George Michael earned $3 million an hour singing for a Russian mining and lumber magnate. The gig was 75 minutes, and he was home in London by lunchtime, according to press reports.

Typically, a celebrity who charges $300,000 for a public performance can bill a private client $400,000, often demanding a jet and accommodations for his entourage -- plus lighting, food and instrument rental costs, according to booking agencies.

There are still some bargains, according to Star Link's executive producer Katrina Berg Sussmeier. "Michael Buble has asked for $10,000 forever," she said. "I tell my clients, please book him now. His price will soon soar to $400,000 or more."

Celeb appearances can be pricey, but that hasn't stopped the average McMansion owner from calling Sussmeier. Television shows like "My Fabulous Sweet 16" have convinced some that they can indeed hire a big name for a teen party.

Though the hoi polloi sometimes overreach a bit.

"Stop calling me with crap you cannot afford," Sussmeier said. "I had one call from a woman who said if Madonna comes to my party, I'll pay half the airfare. But why would she want to come to your damn party in Ohio in your living room?"

Many celebrities won't even consider a party unless MTV is there, according to Sussmeier. Others, like Robert De Niro and Woody Allen, "just won't do it," she said.

Millionaires Concierge, which books stars for product placement, luxury services and publicity events, recently arranged for crooner Chris Issak to sing at the 40th birthday party of a top executive's wife in Mexico. For a 30-minute appearance, the bill topped $150,000.