Forget about Oscar-related goodie bags - it's all about "branded retreats," where the already ridiculously rich and famous are being treated these days to the pleasures of expensive food, drink and maybe a spa treatment. The NYT's Sharon Waxman focuses on Soho House, a stone manor built in the 1920s that's been turned into a British-style private club. But there are others - all underwritten by dozens of corporate sponsors.
On Leslie Lane in Beverly Hills on Tuesday workers were busy raising brightly colored Moroccan tents on a stone terrace to create Haven, a three-day retreat at a multilevel house, opening the next day. (The couple living in the house moved out for the week.) “I didn’t want a hotel,” explained Jimmy Floyd, a New York event producer who dreamed up the concept with Jacob Gitzis, his partner. “We wanted daytime elements together with the food, the gifting, the performances. Other houses are just about gifting. That’s just a part of what we do.” But the gifts, as usual, are varied and sometimes outrageous. Along with the jeans and lingerie, one company is giving away several million dollars worth of diamonds, while the toilet company Toto is handing out $5,000 commodes. Those who enter Haven will have to sign waivers promising to pay the taxes on any gifts they accept, since the I.R.S. has made clear they will be treated as income.
It's the IRS that caused high-end marketers to change tactics last year when it warned the recipients of ever-lavish gifts — free cruises, laser surgery and the like — that they would be subject to tax. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences settled with the tax man for past practices and stopped giving out gift baskets to Oscar presenters. But others have taken over. Have they no shame? Obviously not.