The pop stars who are going for a song

Pop stars who'll sell their souls for a private party

Pop stars never used to do private gigs. They were too busy or too rich to bother. If you wanted to hire one for a private party, your best bet was a has-been band down on its luck. Nowadays, though, says Imogen Edwards-Jones in The Guardian, with record sales plunging and touring costs soaring, you can hire almost anyone: oligarch's knees-ups and footballers' weddings are perfectly acceptable ways for Grammy award winners to line their pockets.

And very rewarding it is is too: Rod Stewart and Robbie Williams cost £1m each; Amy Winehouse also pocketed £1m to serenade Roman Abramovich in Moscow; the Rolling Stones played a Texan billionaire's 60th birthday bash at the Hard Rock hotel in Las Vegas "for a sweet £3.5m"; Paul McCartney sang for an American TV executive for £500,000; Sting charged Bill Gates £250,000 to sing for his supper club.

Elton John, another £1m-a-go man, refers to all this as "giggle money", or "bank raids", and, given that he does six of them a year, one can understand why. Nor is it just the top bands that benefit, according to Edwards-Jones. Sexy, if less well-known, girl bands hired by rich tycoons do very well too the leather-catsuited Girls Aloud can make £200,000 for 20 minutes at a party, while the Pussycat Dolls get £500,000 per gig. Not surprising, I suppose, given that most of the party-givers, many of them Arabs or

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Russians, are men.

There are some acts, however, that can't be bought, among them Annie Lennox and Coldplay (who recently turned down £500,000 plus a donation to their favourite charity to perform at a birthday party at Cliveden). Good for them.

It's heartening to know that not everyone is prepared to gratify the whims of modern billionaires.

Why New York has gone to the dogs

I wasn't in the least surprised to learn that the late property magnate Leona Helmsley has left her entire fortune somewhere between $5bn and $8bn to dogs. Britain may be a nation of dog lovers, but in New York, as Tom Leonard observed in The Daily Telegraph, they don't so much love dogs as worship


This is a city with dog bakeries, dog restaurants, dog funeral parlours, dog day-care outlets, dog hotels that play guests dog-themed films and even, says Leonard, dog preparation classes that prepare pets to be interviewed' by the board of a building in which their owner hopes to buy an apartment.

So what explains the phenomenon? Some put it down to the hardness of New York. But Leonard finds the "temporary child substitute theory" more convincing. "This is a city of women who put off having babies, who want something on which to practise and to test the nurturing abilities of the future father of their children."