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Arts and Entertainment

The Weird And Lavish Swag The Stars Get From The Award Show Gift Suites

The broom of the stars! (Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah/LAist)
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It's time for the annual round-up of the strange, unique and actually cool things we found in awards show gifting suites. Every year, surrounding the annual awards shows, companies pay a lot of money to give their products away to celebrities. This often occurs in the form of either a gift bag or a gifting suite, where vendors set up booths and celebrities and/or their assistants wander around collecting free products and posing for photos. Some companies pay thousands to be there, but perhaps it's worth it to be able to say that Beyonce has your night cream.

Last year, I poked around a couple gifting suites and found out about a love shot that injects your own plasma rich platelets into your genitals, a mist that dispels negative energy when you spray it on your face, a machine that can read your aura color, and bowls made out of molds of a pregnant belly. This year, we decided to go again and see what we could see.

We started two weekends ago with the Grammy gifting suites. That Saturday, a reporter friend of mine and I visited three in a row.

We began with Distinctive Assets' Official Backstage GRAMMY Gift Lounge, located downtown near L.A. Live where the awards took place. The gift bag given to celebs amounted to about $20,000 worth of stuff, including fitness getaways, furniture and expensive chocolates. Distinctive Assets is also being sued by the Academy, but we'll get to that later. These bags were available to all Grammy nominees, presenters and performers, though they did allow media to poke around the suite.

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As soon as we entered, we found several people clustered around a station fromTOOLS by Gina. Gina Rivera is the Gina in question, and she has a line of hair styling tools—blow dryers, straighteners, etc.—that use infrared technology to steam the hair. There was lots of primping going on here. We soon, however, were ushered away from the hair stations and into the rest of the room.


A bleu cheese chocolate! (Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah/LAist)

We met Chef Phillip Ashley, a Memphis genius who creates chocolates. These are beyond a Hershey bar. Each piece of chocolate is beautiful, and Ashley had some unique flavors: French Bleu Cheese, Beer Hops and Coffee Grinds, Sweet Potato and BBQ, for example. The chocolates are relatively costly. I looked online to see that I can order a 12-piece box for $40. I'd like to tell you they were delicious, but tasting was only for the Gagas among us. For the celebrities, he created a pricy 23K gold salted caramel praline pecan chocolate.


The Sweet Escape and a sparkling Shiraz cocktail (Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah/LAist)

I did get to try a cocktail from Marsha Meyer, the Natural Mixologist. She makes organic, vegan, gluten-free cocktails, which is good because the last thing I want when I'm willfully poisoning my body is more poison in my body! I sampled the Sweet Escape, which consisted of The Vault vodka, dolce cilento meloncello, and a lime elixir made with lemon grass, ginger and bee pollen. No lies here, it was pretty good. If you happen to be someone like Adele or Sam Smith, you received a gift certificate to have her set up at an event of your choosing. Next, we met some folks at Fit Club TV. Celebrities were being gifted a fitness retreat, which is exactly what it sounds like: going away for a week or so to get shredded. They also had a line of fitness wear, including a pair of workout pants we were told would lift the buttocks. Squats also do that, I hear, so two birds with one stone, really.

We next viewed a video in virtual reality through a NOON VR headset, which is a relatively affordable consumer headset that I would say is comparable to Samsung VR. We also fiddled around with a video game controller from Scruf Gaming. This was actually pretty cool. Unlike an ordinary controller, Scruf controllers are highly customizable, with paddle buttons on the underside of the controller. We're told that a lot of pro gamers—that is, people who make a living being good at games—use these.

Finally, we checked out the truth x Vans booth where truth, the group that releases commercials to get you to stop smoking, had partnered with Vans to create a custom shoe. The shoe pattern features a bunch of cartoon cats as truth's latest message is that second-hand smoke also hurts our furry friends. Unfortunately, this was before the dawn of Damn Daniel.

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We then decided to head out to the next event. This one was The Colgate Optic White Beauty Bar, and it had an open bar. Here, a number of celebrities, many of whom were apparently dancers for pop stars, were getting massages, manicures, hair styling and makeup. Though we didn't recognize anyone in particular, we were told that Left Shark was in attendance—not that we could tell without the costume.

While many of the gifts were beauty-based—teeth whitening gel, nail polish, lip gloss—I did see a gift certificate for cryotherapy. So, I'll probably be writing about that assuming it doesn't kill me. I tend to imagine it like Han Solo being frozen in carbonite, but apparently it works by exposing the patient to very cold air for two to four minutes in order to soothe sore muscles. You also have to wear gloves and socks to prevent frostbite.

After a few mimosas, we decided to head to the last of our three Grammy events. This one was located at the W Hotel in Hollywood and put on by Red Carpet Events L.A.


Seems restrictive. (Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah/LAist)

The strangest thing here was the Infra-Slim Body Contouring System using Infrared Pressure Therapy. This Colorado-based company specializes in the body wrap craze, but using a series wraps that go around your entire body except your head, hands and feet. People sort of looked like they were wrapped in oven mitts. This contraption purportedly slims your body by heating fat cells and causing them to expand and expel toxins. So, you know, one of those sort of things. As tempting as it was to try, people were stuck in their oven-mitt prison for 30 minutes at a time, so I decided to opt out. I next found a book called A Psychic's Guide to Attraction and Keeping True Love by Deborah Graham. Graham is apparently a psychic matchmaker, who has a show on—what else?—The Learning Channel. According to Graham's website, "Deborah Graham is a born psychic, having her earliest premonitions at the age of six."


This costs over $3,000 (Photo by Juliet Bennet Rylah/LAist)

Next, we met a Woodland Hills-based company called Adore that sells a 24K Gold facial mask that looks like something the killer in an '80s slasher flick would wear. It could be yours for a mere $3,300! According to their website: "Pure 24K gold calms and equalizes electrical energy of skin in the most delicate areas of your face, absorbing down to your skin's keratin level to help halt Elastin breakdown." I later looked up the retail value of their Essence Facial Collagen mask, which they were offering samples of, and learned that it's only a mere $700! That's only just a little more than my half of the rent.


Not for camping (Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah/LAist)

There was also a tent where you could apparently enter pasty and emerge with a glowing tan. I also encountered a line of bags made from cork called Rok, which were actually pretty impressive. This weekend, we decided to hit up an Oscars suite for two reasons: we wanted to see what weird stuff people gift movie stars, and the Academy is suing Distinctive Assets over their $200,000 Everybody's A Winner gift bag—yes, that's $180,000 more than the Grammy bags. This is a bag that each Academy Award nominee for the acting and directing categories receives.

The Academy field a suit against Distinctive Assets' founder Lash Fary, claiming that "Distinctive Assets' continued use of the Academy’s trademarks not only infringes the Academy's trademarks, but it is also likely to dilute the distinctiveness of the Academy’s famous trademarks and tarnish their goodwill," according to Variety.

According to the complaint:

Press about the 2016 gift bags has focused on both the less-than-wholesome nature of some of the products contained in the bags, which purportedly include a $250 marijuana vaporizer, a $1,900 "vampire breast lift," skin treatments by Park Avenue plastic surgeons valued at more than $5,500, a $250 sex toy, and $275 Swiss-made toilet paper, and the unseemliness of giving such high value gifts, including trips costing tens of thousands of dollars, to an elite group of celebrities.

This $250 vaporizer is apparently the Haze Dual V3 Vaporizer, according to a release from Distinctive Assets, which is suitable for marijuana and e-liquid. Let's be real: Leo loves vaping, and I bet he liked this!

Nominees also received a life-time supply of Pu-erh Tea Nourishing Cream and Pu-erh Tea Cleansing Bars, which is apparently a $31,200 value, and an all-inclusive trip to Israel worth $55,000. It also contains the Nuelle Fiera Arouser for Her, which is a sex toy that a woman uses before intercourse to get in the mood in what the company calls Before-Play™, which they have apparently trademarked. I'm not sure how this could be considered less-than-wholesome considering the Weeknd was up for Best Original Song for a song from 50 Shades of Grey. The Vampire Breast Lift uses "blood-derived growth factors to revive rounder cleavage without implants."

We hoped to find some equally eccentric items at the Celebrity Connected 2016 Luxury Gifting Suite Honoring The Academy Awards®! in Hollywood. We were immediately given a glass of bubbly and a teenage escort who was tasked with carrying our bags for us. (We eventually started taking them back as they got heavier.)

Here we met some relatively useful companies, such as protein-rich Skinny Pasta, makeup company Urban Minerals, J. Lee's Gourmet BBQ sauce, jewelry line Pink Karma, and a company called Zagg that specializes in phone chargers and accessories. There were quite a few skincare companies. BeBella, for instance, was offering collagen pills that you take to supposedly brighten and improve your skin and an "essence stick" that you smear on your skin over makeup to freshen up your look.

We also encountered LANG, a company that's really gotten into the whole adult coloring book fad. They offer planners, coloring books and other paper products ripe for doodling. Can't you just see Mark Ruffalo passing the time by filling in a cutesy planner in with bright colors?

My favorite company was probably Sad Truth Supply, a pin company. Mostly because these Tobias Funke pins are sweet.

Blue River Extracts was also present. They do pure cannabis terpenes. Terpenes, they explained, are found in essential oils. They were giving away small vials of the extract, which you could vape or add to food. However, there is no THC in it, so—disappointingly—you will not get high. If you happen to simply enjoy the smell of marijuana, they also sell a very nice candle that smells like you've just packed a bowl. "I'm sorry, Officer, that's just my candle!" Come to think of it, won't it be great when marijuana is finally legal and gifting suites can just send a pound of weed to whomever they please?


Better than a real Oscar, probably (Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah/LAist)

I also enjoyed the Crazy Lady Candy Company, who came all the way from Massachusetts to present us with this chocolate Oscar. This is probably more valuable than the real thing, especially if you got a marijuana vape in your $200,000 gift bag. The Original Garden Broom, as seen at the top of this page, is the broom of the stars, apparently. It's for cleaning, but I feel like you could use it in some witch cosplay too. Plus, their tagline is sweeping is believing. We're not sure how many celebrities sweep their own homes, but sometimes you just want to sweep the front walk while yelling at noisy children, I suppose.

You ever try to knit a beanie but you just can't keep yourself organized? Don't say Darn It, say YarnIt! That's not their tagline, but if you're listening, you may use it. You're welcome. Anyhow, the YarnIt takes a ball of yarn and places it in a plastic ball. You can then very neatly craft your scarves and beanies. Can't you just imagine Mark Ruffalo passing the time by knitting his family scarves?


Let everyone know you love weed with these Cheech & Chong shoes (Photo by JBR/LAist)

Utah-based shoe company SoulKix was offering a series of simple, slip-on shoes with various art on them. They told me they could even put photos of my cats on them.At this particular gifting suite, we saw Wink Martindale and celebrity Pomeranian Jiff. The last time we saw Jiff at the World Dog Awards, we were told he doesn't do interviews, so I kept my distance this time around. I was also told that Ginuwine had been there earlier, but I couldn't confirm this.

I can confirm that Verne Troyer was there to receive a wine glass with his portrait painted on it.

And that's all the 'news' from the awards season gifting suites, where the rich and famous get expensive things they didn't ask for.