Austin’s vital economy

It’s not enough that many Austinites are near-professional human subjects in clinical research trials testing new pharmaceuticals. Chances are good that the co-worker who recently “enjoyed” bunion surgery was testing either a experimental drug intended to combat pain or a was being administered a worthless placebo. It’s not enough that so many seem to live by barter alone: “I’ll trade a mssage for a haircut.” “I’ll paint your livingroom if you’ll cut my hair.” It’s not enough that there are those who can’t be bothered to walk their own dogs, those who sign them up for “doggie day care,” those who keep a dog outside in a fenced yard and pay a service to come by and clean things up periodically.

Austin is the original location (joined now by Los Angeles and to be followed by San Francisco) offering what’s billed as “your very own paparazzi experience.” The operators of this “service” secured an entire page of coverage in this week’s Time magazine (1/28/08; byline Jeninne Lee-St. John). Here’s the subhead: “Want to feel like a celebrity? Just hire people to follow and photograph you for a night.”

The Web site of Celeb 4 a Day has changed since I first looked at it, yesterday. The MyStar cover at the top of the page pictures the Austin couple featured in the article. These revelers were trailed from a performance of the Nutcracker all the way to Qua. Apparently, this sort of star treatment ranges from $249 to $1,499, depending mostly on the number of photographers and the length of time they follow and take pictures. My favorite segment on the FAQ page is the answer to question “Will my Personal Paparazzi follow me anywhere?” because it’s easy to see that an attorney reviewed it.

Instead of “Live music capital of the world,” perhaps Austin’s “brand” should be framed as “defining and meeting hitherto unknown needs.” What prompted the coverage? Maybe a bold publicist affiliated with Celeb 4 a Day fired off a press release and Time bit. I’d like to know.

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