Celeb for a night

Soiree de Star Web site

KAI RYSSDAL: The Cannes Film Festival starts tomorrow. You know what that means, right? More pictures than you'd care to look of stars climbing out of limos. Fans lined up on the red carpet. And the pop of paparazzi flashes. Marketplace's latest overnight tracking poll shows most of our listeners don't follow that particular scene. But perhaps you've wondered what it might be like to be on the receiving end of all that fame? John Laurenson found a couple of Parisian entrepreneurs who were willing to give anyone a taste for a night.

JOHN LAURENSON: It's that "Oh my god" moment. This is Nadine's big night out with the girls before she gets married. Sort of like a stag night, but for women. She was probably expecting her friends to organize something a bit embarrassing. She definitely wasn't expecting this. . . .

[Sound: David talking in French.]

As she leaves a cafA© where she's been taken by her friends, she is confronted by David, one of the two directors of Soiree de Star (Celebrity for a Night in English) who explains that tonight she is a celebrity, that this is her limo and that these men with earpieces are her bodyguards.

[Sound: Laughing. Door shuts. Quiet road noise.]

One of the bodyguards, who doesn't seem to think personal security is a laughing matter, shuts the women in the limo with their champagne and they cruise off into the Parisian night.

[Sound: Another car door shuts. Music plays.]

David gives the itinerary. We're following behind. Next stop, Arc de Triomphe. Franck, the other director of Soiree de Star, says they're moving beyond the break-even point now and have three or four bookings a weekend. He explains how he and David, who were unemployed at the time, got the idea.

FRANCK:"We first had to prepare a bachelor party for a friend of us. We wanted to do something else than just striptease and getting heavy drunk . . .

LAURENSON: Striptease is such a bore after all.

FRANCK: . . . And so we wanted something kind of glamour, I would say, so we managed to make a celebrity night for him. It was a true challenge. We had a lot of fun doing it. And some people talked to each other about what we did and asked for us to do it for them too."

[Sound: David tells paparazzo to stand by. Answer comes over CB radio.]

We're getting near the Arc de Triomphe. David gives some instructions into his walkie-talkie and as the limo circles the great monument, a motorbike draws alongside and a photographer on the back leans a big lens towards Nadine's open window and steals paparazzi shots of the star relaxing with friends.

[Sound: Distant shrieking of women in limo.]

By now you get the feeling Nadine's probably a bit worried about what's coming next. She's right to be worried. Back down the Champs-Elysees, the limo pulls up. One of Nadine's friends says she wants to buy something. They get out. Nadine is mobbed by hysterical fans.

The fans -- they're actors -- have been issued photos of Nadine. Once they get them autographed by their idol-for-a-night, they fall back, weeping, into a crowd of real people which is growing, quite alarmingly, by the second. Nadine never should have laughed at those bodyguards. She needs them now.

[Sound: Crowd noise. People asking "C'EST QUI?!"]

"Who is it?""Who is it?" cries the crowd as Nadine escapes back into the limo. Nobody knows of course. Which doesn't stop people banging on the roof to try to stop the celebrity getting away.

Next stop, at one of Paris' more exclusive nightclubs, the manager leads her to a reserved table.

[Sound: Coming into club.]

A drink. Nadine needs one.

NADINE:"It was really, really great. I didn't expect it at all. It was a big surprise. I was surprised every time and it was really crazy.

LAURENSON: What about the paparazzi on the Champs-Elysees . . . the fans on the Champs-Elysees?!

NADINE: Yeah, it was amazing. I shouted like them!

LAURENSON: You were frightened it seemed.

NADINE: I fell also!

LAURENSON: Yeah, I saw that. I wasn't going to mention that . . .

NADINE: No, that was really great. I told them I am going to sleep tonight with a big smile on my face because I will remember everything!

[Sound: Nightclub music]

Spoken like a true star. And let's hope it's true because the evening she's just had was in the top end of Celebrity-for-a-Night's $400 to $4,000 price range. Towards midnight, like in Cinderella, the limo turns into a Peugeot and the bodyguards into passers-by who, quite frankly, don't care who you are. The public is so fickle.

In Paris, I'm John Laurenson for Marketplace.


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