A whole lot of people want Keely Gordon's job.
Last year the New Yorker drew a plum assignment: escorting Justin Timberlake to the Grammy Awards. "He signed autographs and let me go first [down the red carpet] — very sweet, and that's not usually the case," Gordon said of her night at the office.
Welcome to the world of celebrity escorts, who walk the red carpet but generally go unnoticed by everyone except the stars themselves. Part babysitter, part press wrangler, part eye candy, celebrity escorts do more than walk, smile and wave.
"I like to call myself a 'celebrity guardian' whose job is to make the celebrity look good at the event — to make sure they're on time, in the right place, dealing with the press and just physically looking good," explained 28-year-old Christopher Laslo. Like Gordon, Laslo has also basked in the limelight beside A-list stars such as 'NSYNC, Destiny's Child, Queen Latifah, Tom Hanks and Rosie O'Donnell. Laslo could be spotted at the Grammy Awards earlier this month.
"The celebs want to be surrounded by attractive people during the walk," Laslo said, hinting at his own youthful attractiveness. But it's more than that. "Escorts don't get the respect they deserve. You're essentially a 'stage manager' for a particular celebrity for the entire event. It's a difficult, challenging and important job."
Laslo got his start in 1998 when a colleague asked him to work the VH1 Fashion Awards. He was subsequently called back for more events. He estimates there are about 40 celebrity escorts on each coast, most of whom are not otherwise part of the entertainment industry.
Not so for Laslo, who makes valuable connections rubbing elbows with the likes of Hanks and Steven Spielberg. He's had small roles in TV commercials and on "General Hospital" and aspires to do more acting in addition to his escort work. He said the toughest part of escorting is dealing with lots of people — limo drivers, press, assistants, stage managers and significant others.
One of Laslo's career highlights was working with Queen Latifah at VH1's 2003 Divas in Vegas show. "She was assigned to me, but I was a bit reluctant at first. She's a rap artist, and I thought we might not get along. But she was very nice and one of my best experiences. Everyone was very positive, including the assistant and guards," Laslo recalled.
Laslo also welcomed the opportunity to work with all five guys from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" at last year's MTV Video Music Awards. He found them fun to work with and very natural. "They're new to the business, so they're grateful for all the attention. They gave people autographs and were extremely nice and cool," Laslo said.
With awards season underway, the future looks bright for escorts like Laslo and Gordon. Both will have to stay on their best behavior, though. Gordon notes that a good escort must "act normal" and not pester the talent. "If you act too crazy and don't keep calm, you'll quickly be replaced," she explained.