Celebrities are paid big bucks to add buzz to Las Vegas nightclubs

Published: Saturday, September 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 31, 2007 at 11:14 p.m.

LAS VEGAS - Three years ago, as Paris Hilton was about to turn 24, the celebutante got a sense of her worth to the nightclub industry in Las Vegas.

She had celebrated her last three birthdays at Light, the Bellagio hotel-casino nightclub run by the Light Group. But for her 24th, another company swooped in with an offer that trumped the standard private jet to and from L.A., a free stay at a luxury suite, a sumptuous dinner and, of course, free booze.

The hotel heiress would get a big paycheck - Light was told $200,000 - just to party, but it had to be at PURE, a rival nightclub at Caesars Palace run by the PURE Management Group.

Her people let the Light Group know that their former deal was off.

Celebrities often make appearances and walk the red carpet as part of the deal for coming to a nightclub. In return for generating media coverage, they receive all sorts of free goodies, if not cash. For nightclub operators, it has become the standard way of getting their establishments known.

Besides buzz, it generates more patrons, more people willing to pay a $30 cover charge, $15 for a cocktail and $500 for a bottle of name-brand vodka or champagne.

"If you quantify that in terms of the amount of press they got off it, the press they got off it was priceless," a former Light executive, who did not want to be identified, said.

This weekend, PURE is looking to re-create its formula with the opening of LAX and Noir nightclubs at the Luxor hotel-casino, with a grand-opening party Friday night hosted by Britney Spears. The company would not say how much it is paying her or whether Spears would perform.

It's the start of a raucous couple of weeks that include Labor Day weekend and the MTV Video Music Awards - events that will attract plenty of partiers and paparazzi.

PURE managing partner Steve Davidovici said rumors of celebrity payments are exaggerated, and pointed to reports the group paid $250,000 to Spears to host PURE's New Year's Eve countdown. The actual appearance fee, which works out to about $83,000, was money well spent, he said.

PURE nightclub alone will generate about $53 million in revenue this year, he said.

Industry observers say such celebrity-spotting is worth the price of admission.

"It's fun to be famous and rich. That's why people pay to get in and watch," said Lori Levine, the president of Flying Television, a talent-booking firm in New York.

"If you go to a club to see one of the It' girls, you take a photo on your phone and you'll have a story to tell," she said.

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