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Paris, LeBron, Bow Wow: Celebrity appearances amping up in D.C.-area clubs

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High-powered lobbyist, hill staffer and — celebrity host? The business of hiring big (and small) names to spin their star power is becoming as common in the dance halls of the District as it is in New York, Los Angeles and Miami.

Just scroll through those e-flyers cluttering up your inbox. By the look of it LeBron James, Bow Wow and soon even Paris Hilton may be popping bottles a few blocks from the White House. But don’t forget they often get paid to show up.

“Celebrities can run anywhere from $2,000 on the low end to $50,000 and $100,000 on the high end,” said Washington-based publicist and talent booker Dannia Hakki of MoKi Media.

According to Hakki, club owners and party promoters around town, that pendulum swing is pretty standard in a name-recognition marketplace based solely on who’s hot and who’s not.

Next month, Hilton — the former arbiter of all things “hot” — is scheduled to make what appears to be her first stop on the D.C. celebrity club circuit.

“I don’t know if Paris would come to D.C. for just a celebrity appearance,” said Antonis Karagounis, owner of the mega venue Echostage in Northeast, which on May 9th will play host to Hilton, a budding turntabilist. Hilton, Karagounis said, was drawn to Echostage because she could ply her (sort of) trade there. 

Karagounis declined to disclose how big Hilton’s check will be, but mentioned other reports that for about an hour-long set, Hilton has been paid $100,000. Based on those numbers, the reality-star-turned-deejay could make more in a few appearances than the president does all year.

“You definitely get something back on your return,” said Mitch Mathis, who owns the nightlife marketing firm DT Nation. “If you’ve got Paris Hilton you can raise the price on your bottle service and your tickets and that’s why you do it.”

For Vinoda Basnayake, who owns Kabin, a small lounge just south of Dupont Circle, shelling out more than just freebies for a VIP isn’t good business. “But if we know they’re going to be around we try our best to get them to come,” he said.

In 2012, when Basnayake owned Eden, the rapper Drake dropped in because the lounge’s head of security knew his counterpart in Drake’s entourage. When Eden first opened, the rappers T.I. and Wale along with Idris Elba (“who was not a big deal at the time”) dropped by because of a text message from a friend.

“The more glamorous a celebrity, the less glamorous our booking has been of them,” said Basnayake. 

So will Basnayake and his partners try to lure Paris to Kabin after her Friday night set?

“Absolutely. 100 percent.”

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