Saturday, February 26, 2011

Goody bags are so over: Now Oscar stars grab a whole suite of freebies! On the eve of the ceremony, 'gifting suites' come of age

By Katie Nicholl and Siobhan Mcfadyen

Gifted: Socialite Lady Victoria Hervey, left, and actress Julia Verdin admire jewels at the Kari Feinstein lounge

For years the lavish goody bags dished out to Hollywood’s biggest stars ensured that, win or lose, they never left the Oscars empty-handed.

At their most extravagant, the official freebies contained safari holidays and diamonds worth more than £60,000.

But then came a clampdown by tax authorities and the recession, which made socially aware stars uncomfortable accepting luxurious gifts in the glare of global publicity. Even the organisers of some after-parties banned goody bags as ‘inappropriate’.

The celebrities need not have worried, however – thanks to the more discreet and PR-friendly concept of ‘gifting suites’.

This year, Oscar nominees who don’t win a coveted gold statuette at tonight’s ceremony will have their pain eased tomorrow morning by taking delivery of a ‘losers’ gift’.

Arriving far away from the prying eyes of the Oscars audience, it includes a trip to the Maldives, a stay in a luxury hotel, designer clothes and jewellery worth £46,000.

The main innovation, however, has come with gifting suites – or ‘lounges’ – invitation-only opportunities for Tinseltown’s biggest names to cherry pick from luxury brands.

The suites, hosted at top hotels, are run separately to the Academy Awards and have no link to the official ceremony.

In the mix: Actress Jennifer Love Hewitt clearly loves her Baby Bullet blender gift

Last week, suites at hotels including the prestigious W and The London were taken over. And among celebrities visiting to stock up were British actress Helena Bonham Carter – nominated for Best Supporting Actress for The King’s Speech – and Desperate Housewives star Teri Hatcher.

Specialist firm GBK hosted a two-day event at the W where gifts included a £3,600 Caribbean trip and a seven-night holiday at the Zamani Retreat Kempinski in Zanzibar, worth £18,000, given to Oscar-winning actor Adrien Brody.

Celebrities, who were escorted around the GBK suite, were also ‘gifted’ diamonds worth upwards of £12,000, £155 Felicity handbags, a £2,700 infrared sauna and a £370 state-of-the-art Kefty Home Gym.

‘It’s great fun but it can be a little overwhelming,’ said actress Malin Akerman, star of Couples Retreat. ‘I tend to give a lot of mine to friends.’

Ice ice baby: Designer watches at the Kari Feinstein Academy Awards Style Lounge last week

Goodies: Baskets of gifts at the Kari Feinstein lounge at Montage Beverly Hills

Gavin Keilly, the man behind the GBK ‘Golden Oscar Lounge’, says the suites are a way round giving already wealthy celebrities freebies.

He said: ‘I came up with the gifting suite idea after I gave Ozzy Osbourne a watch and he got photographed with it. I realised the huge power of celebrities and brands.’Black Swan star Natalie
Portman, tipped to scoop the Best Actress Oscar, was offered a £12,000 diamond ring created for her by jewellery company Diamonds By Donna.

Owner Donna Root, who had paid for a table at the GBK lounge, said: ‘If Natalie shows up, she will be gifted this. It’s an expensive ring but it’s absolutely worth the cost for us if Natalie wears it.’

Meanwhile, at the Four Seasons Hotel, stars had beauty treatments and access to tens of thousands of pounds worth of products, including designer handbags and state-of-the-art computers, thanks to TV shopping channel QVC.

Miss Bonham Carter, 44, was offered a private tour of the suite, choosing a £400 Dell tablet computer, a sound system and a £195 pot of Perricone Neuropeptide face cream.

‘Helena was incredibly impressed by what was on offer,’ said a source.

But the gifts are not entirely without cost. The US Internal Revenue Service – which five years ago insisted stars had to pay tax on goody bags – said those taking freebies worth more than £370 should report it as income.

‘In general, the person has received taxable income equal to the fair market
value of the bag,’ it said.


No comments:

Post a Comment