June 07, 2006

Text from an e-mail interview

The follwing is the text of an e-mail interview I did a few months ago. I'm not sure whether the reporter got the article published, but as I re-read it, I thought it might be interesting to post it here.

Special Events: Dealing with Celebrities


1. Why do celebrities bring visibility and attract more media attention to public relations campaigns and special events than most other public relations strategies?

I can’t comment on this one, but many celebrities have hired me, and several have been guests at my clients’ events.

2. Why is it important to understand the mindset of a celebrity? What motivates a celebrity to say “yes” (beyond money)?

The “mindset of a celebrity” as it applies to my business:

I serve more than food, I cater to egos, too. The people who expect to receive special treatment, get it. They’re used to having people fawning all over them and doing their bidding. The ones who are more humble, and down to earth, the ones who don’t expect special treatment, however, are just a joy to work for. It’s almost as they’re trying to be accommodating to me, apologizing for the fact that my staff or I might be nervous. It’s actually cute to see celebrities get nervous before their events. One guy kept going out and buying things: one time he’d come back with flowers, another time, a few bottles of wine, then he went out again for sparkling water. I think he’d have kept it up until the guests arrived. Another celebrity spent too much time re-doing her flower arrangements, then her assistant showed up with several dozen candles and she moved on to rearranging them compulsively until the doorbell rang.

3. How do you successfully contact, negotiate, and work with celebrities? Does it require critical research and specialized rules of protocol and etiquette?

  • Negotiation:
the trickiest part of negotiation is that you can’t just ask your client a question and get an answer. Sometimes the question has to go through assistants and planners, so you have to be extremely patient, and you have to be very attentive to following up and getting the answers.
  • Research:
I made sure to have a vegan entrée available when I became aware that Richard Gere was to be a guest at a dinner that a client hosted. The client never mentioned Mr. Gere’s attendance to me, but gratefully, her assistant was a bit star-struck and told me that he was on the guest list. He’s known for being a practicing Buddhist, and even though the client didn’t ask for a vegan alternative meal, I had everything ready to go just in case. He didn’t end up attending, but I was ready. I always want my clients to come off looking good, so anything I can do to prevent a faux pas or remedy one, I will do in a heartbeat.
  • Research:
I might not suggest serving a dessert of Bananas Flambé, for example, to the certain super-svelte someone who has had an intimate (and infamous) on-screen moment doing something with a banana... I served a flourless chocolate cake instead, she ate the whole thing!

4. How do you budget for celebrity participation?

doesn’t apply to my part of the industry, my clients make those arrangements.

5. Celebrities can be very demanding and difficult to work with. How do you best deal with this? Please give some examples.

  • Difficult:
I worked for a celebrity who is allergic to peanut and sesame products... but no mention of this allergy came up at ANY point over my menu negotiations. He kept sending servers back to the kitchen asking for ingredient lists for each thing I prepared, and I couldn’t figure out why. I thought he was just being picky and annoying. Somehow, neither his wife, nor their personal assistant, nor the party coordinator ever thought it might be important to mention that there was an allergy issue.

  • Frustrating:
I catered a fundraiser luncheon for another woman who kept walking through her kitchen to gaze longingly into her fridge. Each time she’d walk away, saying, “There’s nothing I can eat” in the most forlorn voice. The poor thing was starving. She was wearing this long yellow sheath dress that hung so closely on every curve, if she ate a grape it might have showed. The rest of the staff and I were making food for her 50 guests all afternoon, so there was food everywhere! She kept complimenting that everything looked beautiful, but I couldn’t get her to eat a thing.

  • Demanding:
One of my clients stipulated on his contract that he wanted dinner served at 7:00pm. One of his guests, an even bigger celebrity, didn’t show up on time, so he asked me to push back the service time 30 minutes. I pulled the filet mignon and the Salmon en CroĆ»te out of the oven so it wouldn’t overcook, then put it back in to warm up for a few minutes before I was to serve it. Just as I was ready to bring them into the dining room, he sent one of my servers back into the kitchen to delay service another 30 minutes. When the guest finally showed up, it was 8:45, and this scenario had played out several times. Somehow, I managed to serve the filet medium-rare and kept the fish moist, but I was nervous everything would be overdone. Later, when the final bill was presented, he complained that the total didn’t match the estimate. Duh, the costs for labor were higher because the party ran so late!

...it's a filler post, yeah, but I'm taking this week off!

Last thing I ate or drank:

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1 comment:

  1. Wow, that was so interesting. I love to hear your stories. I can imagine that woman who would allow herself to eat anything. That's why she's skinny and I'm not. I see those skinny celebrities and I say to myself they must NOT eat anything....and now I know!


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