Never let it be said that celebrities have it rough. Sure, there's the constant buzz of paparazzi, the intense analysis of their personal lives, and the difficulty and expense of maintaining a proper entourage. But there's a tremendous upside to all that annoyance: Celebrities get free stuff ... a whole lot of it.
The performers and presenters at this year's MTV Video Music Awards will be getting so much free stuff that the "gift basket" is actually a box — loaded with promotional goodies from companies like Apple, Paul Frank and Versace, for whom there isn't much better publicity than having a celebrity sport their wares. And this year's basket is stocked with so much jewelry, clothing and high-tech electronics that it's too heavy to be carried around at the show. So it's being delivered to every celebrity's home.
Let's check the booty. The basket includes 23 different bath and body products, four pieces of jewelry, three bottles of perfume and cologne, two pairs of sunglasses and one full-scale, milk-chocolate replica of a Moonman trophy. Throw in free stays at hotels and resorts, a few handbags and accessories and various gift certificates, and you're looking at one valuable basket. The final tally? A combined retail value of more than $16,000.
The whole gift-basket racket sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right? To artists like Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez and Jay-Z, accepting an overstuffed gift basket has probably become passé — they've received them at awards shows all over the planet. But for four of this year's VMA performers, it's a new experience. So we asked them what they were expecting in their baskets, and then compared their requests to what they'll actually be getting. As you'll see, some artists had really big ideas, others just had really big appetites ...
Yellowcard's Ben Harper
"We'd like some plane tickets to anywhere in the world. A lot of the guys [in the band] are 'Star Wars' freaks, so a couple of lightsabers would be cool. We like Cristal, even though we're a punk band. An endless bottle of Cristal would be nice. Oh, and some YC bling! If all the guys in Yellowcard had medallions we could wear, we'd roll up to 50 Cent and be like 'What up, 50?' We'd have our own little G-Unit. That would be extravagant. The 'YC' would spin like a tire. It'd be sick."
While this year's gift basket is severely lacking in posse pendants, Ben and the boys can satisfy their jones for bling by outfitting their wrists with a $450 Swiss Legend watch and a custom-made charm bracelet from All That's Charming, complete with interchangeable diamond guitar charms ($350). And if they felt up to it, the band could wear two charm bracelets at the same time: The aforementioned J. Lo is throwing in a bracelet of her own, to promote her new fragrance, which launches in 2005.
"I don't know what I'm going to get in the VMA basket. But I really wanted a Mercedes-Benz G-Class [SUV], so I bought one yesterday. Maybe one will be in there. That would be the most ridiculous thing I could think of."
Just how big does Ashlee think the VMA gift basket is? There's no luxury SUV being given away this year, but hopefully she'll be satisfied cruising around on another set of wheels: a $200 skateboard from Zoo York. And she can pilot her board while wearing her complimentary pair of Lady Lanell's Swarovski Crystal sandals ($150).
Ying Yang Twins
"The best thing we ever got in a gift basket was when we did 'The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn,' " the Twins said in an impromptu joint statement delivered by their manager."We got two bottles of special Bacardi liquor. That was real cool, so we want some more of that. And if we could have anything we wanted in a gift basket? OK, we'd want Sour Skittles, some Doritos, some strawberry cream cookies, Sour Punch Straws and some Cheetos. And more Doritos. Yeah, that's all to take care of the munchies. And we want some gift certificates to Foot Locker, too."
Kaine and D-Roc will no doubt appreciate the inclusion of the Wonka Gold Card, which guarantees them free Wonka candy (Nerds, Sweetarts, Laffy Taffy) whenever they want. Or they can wrap their grills around the milk-chocolate Moonman statuette. Made by the Miami outlet of Krön Chocolatier, the replica stands 12 inches high and weighs four pounds, enough chocolate to give even the hungriest Twins pause. It remains to be seen how all that candy fits in with the "South Beach Diet," but the Twins can look through their free copies of the book to find out.
The Polyphonic Spree's Tim DeLaughter
"I expect a washer and dryer for our robes, along with someone to help us wash them on a daily basis. And we want to spread the gospel, so we'd like a megaphone too. I have to think about what 24 people would like, so it's difficult. I'd like a full episode of 'H.R. Pufnstuf' dedicated to the Polyphonic Spree. And some toys for my kids. Drumsticks for my [4-year-old] son Oscar, I know he'd like that. And [5-year-old daughter] Stella would like a microphone so she can sing. Stella, what else would you like to have in the gift bag from MTV?"
Stella DeLaughter (in background): "A bass. And, um, can I get anything else? Some flowers. And candy. And some gum too. And a butterfly that won't fly away."
Sorry Stella, no butterflies. But you'll love the board games (worth approximately $150) from Mattel. And for Tim and the 23 other members of the Polyphonic Spree, how about an iPod mini, complete with a custom-made Kate Spade carrying case? And they can plug their 'Pods into Altec Lansing's inMotion portable stereo. On a similarly high-tech tip, they'll also be taking home a digital camera from Hewlett-Packard and a Virgin mobile phone.
Sadly, there is no robe-laundering service included in this year's VMA basket.
Catch all the sizzlin', star-packed VMA action direct from Miami on August 28. MTV News' preshow kicks things off at 6:00 p.m. ET/PT, followed by the big show at 8 p.m.