Entries in Celebrities (6)


Hotel Adds $99,000 Bed for ‘A-Lister’

File photo. Hastens Vividus(TORONTO) -- Celebrities are famous for their extremely specific requests when they’re on the road. Mariah Carey, for example, requests a $200 bottle of cabernet sauvignon, two dozen white roses and vanilla aromatherapy candles in her dressing room.

But one celebrity guest of a Toronto hotel, in town for the Toronto International Film Festival, seems less concerned with aromatherapy and more with getting a good night’s sleep -- very good night’s sleep.

The Hazelton Hotel said it received a request for an ultra luxurious, expensive bed. How expensive? $99,000. The hotel was happy to make it happen for their V.I.P.

The $99,000 gem is a Hastens Vividus bed. According to the company web site, each Vividus bed takes 140 to 160 hours to build and is made entirely by hand.  It’s made of “...different combinations of horsehair, cotton, flax and wool to find the perfect balance.”

While the hotel won’t reveal the name of the guest who requested the bed — or any guest for that matter — they do say it was one of the “more unusual requests” they’ve received.

“While we will never reveal which one of our A-List guests ordered the bed, we can tell you that the experience has a positive note, as we will be extending our relationship with Hastens to secure their products within our suite mix,” said David Mounteer, general manager of The Hazelton Hotel.

The hotel is a celebrity hotspot, especially during the ten-day film festival, taking place Sept 6 – 16 in 2012. Past hotel guests reportedly include Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm and Blake Lively.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Oprah Winfrey Leads Top Highest-Paid Celebrities 

Heather Wines/CBS via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Oprah Winfrey's talk show may have called it quits last year, but her earning power certainly hasn't. The owner of Harpo productions, television network OWN and O Magazine, whose syndicated talk show ended in late May of last year, tops Forbes' Highest-Paid Celebrities list for the fourth year in a row.

Now that her talk show has ended, Winfrey has some close competition on her heels, beating the second highest-paid celebrity by only $5 million, and earning $125 million less than a year ago.

"Although the show ended it was still in reruns, so she still got some money from it," said Forbes' Los Angeles bureau chief, Dorothy Pomerantz.

Most of her money is now coming from the rest of her empire, which includes shows by Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, and Rachael Ray, and a lucrative radio deal. Her network has laid off employees as she leads with shows like Oprah's Lifeclass and Oprah's Next Chapter.

"She'll still continue to make a lot of money, but without the syndicated show, she'll take a big hit," Pomerantz said.

Here are the big-earners who round out the rest of the top five highest-paid celebrities:

Michael Bay

Michael Bay's third Transformers film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, earned about $1.1 billion at the box office.

Pomerantz called Bay a "smart director" who made a "fantastic" deal with the film by getting a share of the profits, including a share of the toy sales.

The film director and executive producer is working on a number of other projects with some big money-earning potential, including Pain and Gain with Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, and Ken Jeong, which is expected to be released next year. The throwback film Ninja Turtles isn't expected to be released until 2014.

Steven Spielberg

With two Oscar-nominated films in theaters last year, War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin, director Steven Spielberg has proven time and time again he still has an eye for critically-acclaimed movie hits.

Forbes reports Spielberg is likely going to return to their list next year with two other films, Lincoln starring Daniel Day-Lewis, and Robopocolypse, a sci-fi thriller based on the book by Daniel Wilson.

"Spielberg is a 'perennial' toward the top of our list," Pomerantz said.

The director, who receives tens of millions of dollars each year from residuals from his past hit films, also served as a consultant for the Universal Theme Parks, so gets a share of ticket sales.

Jerry Bruckheimer

Jerry Bruckheimer made waves last year with the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth installment of Disney's film series and one of the highest-grossing films in 2011, earning $1 billion at the box office. Bruckheimer is expected to reap in millions more with additional sequels, such as Top Gun 2, Bad Boys 3, National Treasure 3, and yes, additional Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Pomerantz calls Bruckheimer another perennially highly paid celebrity.

"The Pirates films are what's keeping his earnings up really high now," Pomerantz said, but Bruckheimer also has a large television empire, which includes the CSI series and The Amazing Race.

Dr. Dre

The only musician in Forbes' top five list, Dr. Dre didn't produce or write a hit song last year, but he did make millions from his line of headphones, Beats by Dre. In August 2011, HTC Corp., Asia's second-largest handset producer by market value, bought a 51-percent stake in Beat Electronics LLC for $300 million.

As part of the deal, the Taiwanese company passed along $100 million to co-founders Dr. Dre, whose legal name is Andre Romelle Young, and record label Interscope's chairman Jimmy Iovine, who each owned about a third of the company, Forbes said.

After mega-hits like "Still D.R.E." from 2001 and producing for big-name rappers like Eminem and Snoop Dog, Dr. Dre announced he was taking a break from music last November.

Forbes has the full list of the highest-paid celebrities.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Tiger Woods Takes a Hit and Other Celebrities Who Sold Homes at a Loss

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Tiger Woods' strong start in the 2012 PGA Championships may be making up for the fact that he recently sold his condo in Corona del Mar, Calif., at a loss.

The PGA champion sold his home, which he bought for $3 million in 2004, for just $2.2 million, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Here are seven celebrities who took a loss on the sale of their homes or mansions. Fortunately for them, most have second or multiple homes to give them shelter from adoring fans and paparazzi, and all but one of these homes sold in the multi-million dollar range.

1.Tiger Woods -- Corona del Mar, Calif.

Tiger Woods' condo with beach views, reportedly one of the locations for Woods's infamous affairs, was first listed in April 2012. The property, near Laguna Beach and south of Los Angeles, has three bedrooms, three bathrooms and spans 2,000 square feet.

The listing showed a price cut in June before it ultimately sold for $2.2 million. Woods' main residence is an estate with a golf course in Jupiter, Fla., Zillow reports.

2. Britney Spears -- Beverly Hills, Calif.

Pop princess Britney Spears reportedly took a hit on her Beverly Hills home that she bought in January 2007 for $6.8 million and first listed in September 2008 for $7.9 million.

Zillow reports the listing sold for $4.5 million in April 2012 after six price cuts. Spears bought the five-bed, six-bath home for $6.75 million after her divorce to Kevin Federline in 2006.

"Built in 2001, the Mediterranean-style villa is located in the high-security, prestigious Summit neighborhood," Zillow reports. The 5-bedroom, 6-bath home has a master suite with his-and-her bathrooms and a fireplace.

3. Jennifer Aniston -- New York, N.Y.

Actress Jennifer Aniston bought two New York City apartments in 2011 for $7 million with the intent to combine them.

A year before that, Aniston told ABC's Good Morning America she was looking to return to New York City.

"I grew up here. I miss it," Aniston said in February 2010. "There's nothing like being in the city … [it's] the city of every man. It's all walks and I love that."

Fast forward to April 2012. Aniston has said she felt overwhelmed by paparazzi in New York City. She sold the units with a loss of $500,000, the New York Daily News reported.

4. Rihanna -- Beverly Hills, Calif.

Singer Rihanna sold her Beverly Hills eight-bedroom home in December 2011 for $5.03 million. She listed it in November 2010 for $4.5 million after paying $6.9 million in September 2009. The home reportedly has water damage from the roof and windows and was described as a "major fixer," which previously led to legal wrangling against her landlord.

The gated, three-story home spans 8,520-square feet and has eight bedrooms, 10 bathrooms and three fireplaces.

5. Penelope Cruz -- Los Angeles, Calif.

Actress Penelope Cruz sold her 3,334-square foot home in Los Angeles for $2.88 million in December 2011, after buying it for $3.14 million in May 2005.

On the market for over a year, the final sale price was $807,000 less than Cruz originally sought and $250,000 less than what she paid.

"The 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom Balinese-modern style home was built in 1956, and as since been completely updated by the star and husband Javier Bardem," Zillow reported. "The unique piece of Hollywood Hills real estate is tucked in a cul-de-sac near Sunset Strip and features high ceilings, carved-wood doors, private courtyard, bamboo floors, and an in-ground heated pool with a luxurious tented cabana."

6. John Krasinski -- West Hollywood, Calif.

The Office's John Krasinski bought a two-bedroom, two bath home in West Hollywood in March 2006 for $1.05 million, just one year into his role as "Jim" in the popular mockumentary. Krasinski's career took off while the economy took a turn for the worse.

He listed it in March 2011 for $945,000 and it sold for $880,000 in June 2011.

7. Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott -- Encino, Calif.

Despite being featured on television, the home in which Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott's reality television show, Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood, was filmed for the Oxygen network sold at a loss.

The couple bought the home in Encino, Calif. for $2.95 million in October 2008 and listed it in April 2011 for $3.20 million. They sold it for $2.5 million in December 2011, according to public records.


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ryan Gosling, Other Celebs on McDonald's Egg Suppliers: I'm Hatin' It

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Hollywood stars Ryan Gosling, Zooey Deschanel and Steve-O are urging McDonald's to improve animal welfare and do away with farming chickens in battery cages at their egg suppliers, saying of the practice, "I'm Hatin' It."

In a letter, which takes a swipe at McDonald's famous "I'm Lovin' It" tagline, the celebrities criticize McDonald's for receiving eggs from egg factory farms "that confine hens to most of their lives in cages," and call on the company to recognize its "moral responsibility" and switch to cage-free suppliers.

"On behalf of compassionate people everywhere, I implore you to help end the needless suffering of these animals by adopting strict and meaningful animal welfare policies worldwide, including the commitment to prohibit the purchase of eggs produced by hens who spend their miserable lives crammed into tiny wire cages," says the letter, which is addressed to McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner and is also signed by celebrities Alicia Silverstone and Maria Menounos. "While McDonald's brags about the 'billions and billions served,' millions of hens exploited for your restaurants are being grossly underserved."

The letter, dated Monday, follows an ABC News 20/20 report in November that showed undercover video shot by the animal rights group Mercy for Animals of one of McDonald's former largest egg suppliers, Sparboe Farms, that showed purportedly cruel conditions including hundreds of chickens packed into small battery cages, sometimes apparently living on top of the remains of other trampled birds.

McDonald's, which dropped Sparboe as a supplier after the ABC News report, said that Skinner had not yet received the letter, but the company has been looking into cage-free options already.

"McDonald's cares about how our food is sourced and we have a long history of action and commitment to improve the welfare of animals in our supply chain around the world," the company said in response to news reports on the letter. "In the United States, we are a founding member of the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES) and are participating in an unprecedented three-year study that compares traditional, cage-free, and enriched laying hen housing systems on a commercial scale. For our customers, that means we're working with scientists and suppliers to determine the most optimal hen housing method considering impacts on hen health [and] welfare, food safety, environment, and other important factors. As a result of the study, McDonald's USA is purchasing approximately 1 million eggs per month from each of the housing systems, including cage-free."

"Scott," the activist who shot the undercover video at Sparboe Farms, said that five to seven birds were kept in each small cage, with their beaks cut at an early stage so they wouldn't peck each other, and that each bird lived its life in an area smaller than a standard sheet of paper.

"There were [dead] birds that were left in the cages that were decomposing for weeks or months at a time," Scott said. "[They] had just been left there . . . in the battery cages with birds who were still alive and laying eggs for human consumption."

The videos also showed workers apparently breaking chicks' necks and swinging birds around by their necks. The investigation, according to Mercy for Animals executive director Nathan Runkle, "illustrates that McDonald's lacks the basic policies and oversight to prevent blatant animal abuse at its egg suppliers."

Battery cages are "the model of efficiency but they place an emphasis on profit over animal welfare," Runkle said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Consumer Reports: Are All Celeb-Endorsed Foods Star Quality?

Mario Batali. ABC/ Ida Mae Astute(NEW YORK) -- Celebrity-endorsed foods may cost two or three times as much as other brands, but that does not mean you’re getting star treatment, says a new taste test from Consumer Reports.

Among 26 foods tasted by trained sensory experts, only three products received Consumer Reports’ highest rating of “excellent”: Mario Batali Marinara sauce, Giada De Laurentiis Tomato Basil pasta sauce and Wolfgang Puck Tomato Basil Bisque.

Tod Marks, senior editor with Consumer Reports, said the group tested products from television chefs, including Batali, who owns 17 restaurants and co-hosts the upcoming ABC daytime talk show The Chew. The tested products also included those of famous restaurants, such as those of Chef Puck, and products with celebrity names, like director Francis Ford Coppola, and actors Paul Newman and Paul Sorvino.

Consumer Reports tested for characteristics such as flavor and texture, freshness of ingredients, based on an “objective criteria.”

“For a lot of items, people get caught up in a name. And if there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s don’t be swayed by a fancy name or package. Let your taste buds be your guide,” Marks said.

Marks said some celebrities use “great” ingredients while others can skimp on quality.

“Just because you’re paying an A-list price, doesn’t mean you get an A-list product,” he said.

“Giada’s is very inexpensive, balanced, fresh tasting and had a buttery taste. Turns out it did have butter and we loved it,” Marks said.

Giada De Laurentiis Tomato Basil pasta sauce is sold exclusively at Target.

Ten products were rated “Very Good,” including Lidia’s Marinara from Lidia Bastianich, and Rao’s Homemade 8 Star Balsamic Vinaigrette, from the exclusive New York City restaurant. Half of the products tested were only rated average, with some no better than cheaper mainstream brands such as Kraft, Campbell, and Progresso, according to Consumer Reports.

Some items were noticeably more expensive than national brands, and sometimes for naught.

Consumer Reports found the Original Soupman Tomato Basil, based on a Seinfeld television character, costs 36 cents per ounce while Progresso soup costs 11 cents per ounce.

A half-cup of Ragu is 42 cents while Rao’s marinara sauce can cost $1.41, according to Consumer Reports. For two tablespoons of balsamic vinaigrette dressing, Kraft cost 18 cents while that of Delmonico’s,  a steakhouse in New York City, costs 39 cents. Delmonico’s also ranked lowest among the dressings tested.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Jeweler To The Stars Arrested in Alleged $217 Million Fraud

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Jeweler Ralph Esmerian sold luxurious baubles to the stars, but Monday his dark gray pinstriped suit was offset by a simple pair of Peerless stainless steel bracelets, slapped onto his wrists by a federal Postal Inspector who arrested Esmerian for an alleged $217 million bankruptcy fraud.

Esmerian, a fourth-generation jeweler and the owner of the posh Fred Leighton jewelry business, allegedly borrowed $177 million from Merrill Lynch and $40 million from Acorn Capital Group, according to a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court Monday, and then "almost immediately" sold the jewelry he'd used as collateral for the loans, shipping the millions in proceeds to an offshore bank.

Esmerian, 70, used the loans to purchase Fred Leighton, a high-end line long associated with celebrities, in 2005, gilding his own family's established wholesale jewelry business. In just the past year stars sighted wearing Fred Leighton creations have included Sarah Jessica Parker, seen in Leighton jewelry at the 2010 Oscar ceremonies, as well as Jennifer Aniston, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Tina Fey.

Though Esmerian had a reported $192 million in inventory, he soon failed to meet the obligations on the loans he'd used to purchase Leighton. By 2008, creditor Merrill Lynch had declared him in default and arranged a jewelry auction in an effort to recoup its money.

In 2008, on the eve of the scheduled Christie's auction of the collateralized jewelry, Esmerian filed an eleventh hour bankruptcy. Immediately afterwards, according to an affidavit filed with the complaint by Postal Inspector Eleanor Berry, he "repeatedly and systematically embezzled property belonging to Fred Leighton and other debtor entities."

According to the complaint, after getting the loans Esmerian began to sell off the jewelry he'd used for collateral and wired the money to Switzerland. The complaint, which also charged Esmerian with wire fraud and concealing assets, said he used the same jewelry to obtain more than one loan. Esmerian allegedly stole or double pledged at least $40 million in assets used to collateralize loans.

One piece of swag used to secure a loan, the Boucheron "Endymion Butterfly Brooch," was sold in secret for $2.45 million, federal authorities allege, with Esmerian pocketing the proceeds. When Merrill Lynch discovered what he'd done, authorities claim, Esmerian sold another set of jewels valued at $10 million for a fraction of their value in order to repurchase the brooch.

The exquisite items Esmerian allegedly embezzled from the Fred Leighton business itself and its lenders and creditors included a Lalique Art Nouveau brooch worth $1 million, the Boucheron diamond and ruby butterfly brooch, and assorted diamond, emerald, opal encrusted pendants, necklaces, rings, and earrings.

"Ralph Esmerian allegedly lied and looted to maintain his personal and financial status," said Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, "by tricking his lenders, stealing from investors, and deceiving the bankruptcy court."

Postal Inspector Tom Boyle, contacted by ABC News regarding the arrest and complaint, referred all queries to the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan.

Esmerian's attorney, Patricia Pileggi, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio