SCMP Thursday, May 17, 2001

FANCY SPENDING the night with Jennifer Lopez or Ri


FANCY SPENDING the night with Jennifer Lopez or Ricky Martin? You can - for a price. Well, an evening anyway. Most of the world's top stars can be bought to perform at business bashes, birthday parties and weddings with Hong Kong a common destination.
Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia (CLSA) - which has brought out The Corrs for tonight's gala performance at its Emerging Markets Investors Forum - last year flew in Tom Jones and handed out black G-strings for fiscal fun-seekers to fling at him in time-honoured tradition. The year before, the Pointer Sisters topped the bill. And when Richard Li Tzar-kai wanted to celebrate the millennium in style, he reputedly spent $20 million flying in Whitney Houston to headline a private charity bash which also saw her husband Bobby Brown, All-4-One, Sister Sledge and Canto-pop star Eason Chan. Li even personally booked half of the 90 tables, which cost up to $100,000 for groups of 12 people.
Such gigs were once shunned by performers as akin to the knackers' yard, but the rallying cry for most nowadays is "show me the money". Private parties can be more profitable than a sell-out concert. Mariah Carey, Shania Twain and Celine Dion will cost you US$1 million (HK$7.8 million), according to a recent New York Post survey. Lopez demands US$750,000 an hour. Martin, the Rolling Stones and Metallica charge at least US$1.5 million a gig, while the Eagles want US$2.5 million.
There are some, however, who can't be bought. Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Neil Young still see the private circuit as a sellout.
Insiders say showman Neil Diamond was the CLSA's first choice this year, but was charging too much. But CLSA's global marketing director Angelique Marcil rejects this, saying he was considered for a separate bash on Monday night before plans were changed. She says acts are chosen because they transcend cultures and generations, The Corrs being ideal because they "appeal to family values", and have fans ranging from the 12-year-old daughter of one delegate to the Standard Chartered Bank executive director, Mervyn Davies.
So what are proletariat punters missing? Not much, according to Trish, a 33-year-old banker who hurled a G-string at Jones last year.
"It was nothing like a real concert," she says. "The 900 people barely filled the massive room and while you could get close up, it felt empty without an excited crowd. Investment bankers are not known for their manic outbursts or dancing prowess, so there were a lot of crossed arms and staring.
"It was fun, but a little stiff. A bit like Tom himself, really."