It’s the run-up to the Grammy Awards, three days of sound checks and rehearsals before the big event. Sam Smith has been tuning up his formidable vocal chords. Elton John and Miley Cryrus have been practicing their duet. A fleet of sparkling Escalades lines 33rd Street next to Madison Square Garden, and a marquee tent mid-block flaps in the wind, a flimsy sheet of glamour between the street and backstage. A piece of A4 paper with “Talent” typed in large font is displayed at the entrance at a rakish angle—fame can be precarious, after all.
Past these markers of celebrity difference, a stroll though the heavily guarded entrance and up an escalator leads to MSG’s Lexus Terrace and the famous “gifting suite,” arranged every year for performers and presenters. Here a spread of expensively rented stands is laid out for stars to have meet and greets, take selfies, and receive freebies, a happy union of commerce and promotion, with a sprinkling of charity fairy dust thrown in. At the exit, goody bags, or make that goody trunks—the wheeled blue duffels crammed with vouchers and giveaways are around 5 foot long—are neatly stacked like luggage for a class of eighth graders departing for camp.
Cruising the sickle-shaped space, which is a bit like cutting a tight swathe through the first floor at Saks, the visitor notices certain themes emerge: Luxury travel, of course. Alpha Priority cards provide a VIP valet service to help celebrities, or at least those not yet traveling by private jet, get to the airport and through security while avoiding the paparazzi. “Frictionless” is an important word in this parallel famous-person universe. The McLear stand, for example, is touting wearable tech in the form of a ring that unlocks your house and car, pays your bills, and rounds up the tab for charity. Beauty is big, in particular hacks such as Oxygenetix, a product said to “reduce social downtime” after laser treatments, hiding the evidence while…