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THE GOODS

The Swag Must Go On

January 20, 2008|Emili Vesilind | Times Staff Writer

THE writers strike may have given the Golden Globes the ultimate smack-down, but the time-honored practice of showering celebrities with gratis merchandise continues, broadcasting the message that even if none of this season's shows goes on, there will still be spray tan, ozone facials and diet lozenges for everybody.

Gifting suites (a.k.a "swag suites") -- sprawling labyrinths for which vendors pay handsomely to get their product in front of celebrities -- swirl around every awards show, ostensibly to honor the season's nominees. But the quality of the suites has noticeably devolved in recent years. Today you're more likely to see Natasha Henstridge being pitched by a popcorn company than Nicole Kidman trying on Cartier. (It almost goes without saying that big stars don't have to show up anywhere to get free stuff.)

Almost all the gifting events went on as if there were no canceled shows (or even a writers strike, for that matter), and though organizers said the star wattage was lower than usual, a laundry list of celebs showed up. Surprisingly -- or perhaps not -- few were connected to the Globes.

There was Judd Nelson loaded down with shopping bags, and "Hustle & Flow" actress Taryn Manning chatting up hair guru Ted Gibson at the Silver Spoon suites at Voda Spa in West Hollywood. Meanwhile, Michael Madsen, Joan Collins and Teri Hatcher stopped by the Secret Room event at the Metro Couture boutique in Brentwood.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, January 20, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Celebrity swag: An article in today's Image section says HBO and marketing and public relations firm Mediaplacement organized the Luxury Lounge gift suite coinciding with the 14th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 27. HBO did not participate.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, January 27, 2008 Home Edition Image Part P Page 2 Features Desk 1 inches; 38 words Type of Material: Correction
Celebrity swag: An article in the Jan. 20 Image section said HBO and marketing and public relations firm Mediaplacement organized the Luxury Lounge gift suite coinciding with tonight's 14th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. HBO did not participate.

Lorena Bendinskas, co-owner of the Silver Spoon, an aptly named marketing company that sets up gifting suites under the same name, said that canceling the event would have been disrespectful to the Globe's nominees -- and presumably anyone else accustomed to such largesse.

"It's unfair to people who worked so hard all year," Bendinskas said. "We're trying to keep morale up. We've also invited writers and producers this season."

But not everyone thought it made sense to set up a gifting suite to celebrate a phantom show. Proving that gifting is a somewhat timeless phenom, Britt Johnson, president of marketing and public relations firm Mediaplacement, which organizes the Luxury Lounge gifting suite with HBO, rescheduled his event to coincide with the Screen Actors Guild awards next weekend, the only confirmed red carpet shindig this season.

"We understood that the talent was not going to fly in [from New York]," said Johnson of his firm's decision to pass on the Globes. "So if the talent was not going to be there, there was no point in doing it."

Luckily, spray tan has a healthy shelf life.

--

emili.vesilind@latimes.com

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