Let Them Eat Foie Gras (Gift Bags Are So Last Year) - New York Times:
BY the glow of candlelight, the Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg and 10 friends dined on foie gras and New York strip steak this week as they looked out over the lights of Los Angeles.
The meal was gratis, and so was the Champagne, elegantly poured by silent, liveried servers at Soho House, a British-style private club practically created overnight in an empty mansion for the week leading up to Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony. It caters to the whims of Hollywood celebrities while marketing an upscale lifestyle to discerning consumers on its guest list.
This is the new swag, a twist on the widespread practice of giving to the already rich and famous. In the wake of a crackdown by the Internal Revenue Service on award seasons gifts, often worth tens of thousands of dollars, Hollywood marketers are relying on a different sort of giveaway: the “branded retreat,” an invitation-only, luxury destination where free products are just a corollary to the more subtle (and possibly tax-free) pleasures of food, drink, entertainment and spa treatments, on the house.