Then those spoilsport Feds decided that the gift baskets could be construed as taxable income, forcing celebrity gifting underground. So-called "gifting suites" popped up at high-end Beverly Hills hotels and other secret locations, where celebs (or their handlers) could pick up fancy items, and it was difficult for the IRS to track who had gone where and accepted what.
But then came the recession and the Occupy movement and a bit of shame (and bad PR) set in for celebs who used to unabashedly enjoy taking freebies, and fewer and fewer visited the gifting suites, which meant the companies that proffered items could no longer brag that Joan Collins liked their lip balm or Taylor Lautner used their toothpaste.
To entice the celebs to please, please accept fancy free stuff, now gifting suites have turned into charity events with sponsors. For every celebrity who shows up, the sponsor will make a donation to charity. It's a win-win!
Case in point: On3 Productions Gift Lounge backstage at the Nokia Theatre on Sept. 22-23 for the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards, sponsored by ... Bertolli Sauces and Frozen Meals! (Previous charity sponsors include I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! PF Chang's Frozen Home Menu and Bertolli Oven Bake Meals -- all Unilever brands.)
For every celebrity who stops by to pick up a Black & Decker Platinum hand vacuum, a renewable one-year supply of Emergen-C, a gift certificate for six Zerona laser body-sculpting treatments, a lifetime TiVo subscription, some New Balance sneakers, fancy denim, hand-crafted elegant dog collars, and more, Bertolli will make a "significant contribution" to charity. However, they never got back to us about to whom and how much.
We are left to wonder exactly why Bertolli is trying to lure Oprah with frozen chicken Florentine and farfalle.