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October 23, 2014

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Q+A: Celebrity booker Mike Esterman launches Las Vegas high-roller service

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Mike Esterman, Nelly and Ricky Lopez at Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013.

Nelly at Rehab and Body English

Nelly hosts and performs at Rehab and Body English in Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Own a nightclub? Want a headline star to host a special night? Throwing your daughter’s 21st? Want a reality TV star to help cut her birthday cake? Celebrating a mega-bucks acquisition? Want an A-list celebrity to join the party?

Entertaining a high-roller group? Want heavy-hitters to join in the action? Willing to spend $1 million or more for a celebrity to appear for five minutes to cut your red ribbon or $10 million to privately sing their hit song to an at-home dinner party of 12 people or $50 million for a private concert?

One man has the biggest black book of Hollywood showbiz names, and Mike Esterman can get them to come to you — if, of course, you have the mega-bucks to afford his talent-booking services.

Mike has been booking it across America and from Dubai to China for years at Esterman.com. He can call anybody at any time, from Ne-Yo to Dennis Rodman, from Maksim Chmerkovskiy to Derek Hough, from Kim Kardashian to Jessica Simpson.

Now with the demand of recording artists at Las Vegas clubs, he’s opened a service here with Las Vegas party king Ricky Lopez, and their first venture together was last weekend with Nelly for two appearances at the Hard Rock Hotel.

I talked with Mike before the Nelly festivities began:

Working on the assumption that you can provide any star to any club or to any person anywhere in the world, how many Hollywood people might you have working somewhere in the world on any given day? Have you kept a record of the largest number of celebrities you have had at once?

That’s a great question, Robin. I have had many people in various parts of the world, but on the same exact day, that’s a challenge. Maybe only three or four at the very same time somewhere in the world. But on a weekly basis, it can be China, maybe someone in Dubai, and of course someone here in the USA. We are spread across the world in various places on one given weekend.

How many stars are you up to at the moment?

There’s never an exact number on any given second because they always come and go at different times. Sometimes they are on tour or shooting a TV series of filming a new movie, so it’s in their downtime they let me know they are available for private or nightclub events. We have a lot of celebrities in Vegas for the big fight weekend and Nelly at the biggest party of them all Sunday. There are a lot of celebrities on the roster. To keep an exact number; it changes so often. There’s hundreds, if not more.

In addition to your regular booking of stars for nightclubs, openings, lectures and high-rollers, you have further expanded and started a Vegas company?

Yes, I’ve joined with Ricky Lopez for Vegas Celebrity Bookings, which is a two-tier of exactly what I have been doing for the past 13 years. We combined my celebrity-appearance services with Ricky’s concierge service of taking care of those overseas people coming to the No. 1 destination in the world, Las Vegas and the U.S. That’s always been a big pitch of his.

Carmen Electra 41st Birthday at Crazy Horse III

Carmen Electra celebrates her 41st birthday at Crazy Horse III in Las Vegas on Saturday, May 4, 2013. Launch slideshow »

So why not combine this when one of those high-rollers or a party is in town? They want to bring a Carmen Electra to the party, or they want to hang out with a celebrity at their table or suite or cabana. We can bring them that while they’re here for an added experience. It’s a best of both worlds.

So how did you start this together?

Ricky has been doing nightclub stuff for a couple of years. Everybody knows I’ve been doing what I do for over a decade, so he approached me and thought the union would be a great idea. Here we are. We put it together within the past few months, and Nelly for the big Hard Rock after-fight party is our first celebrity show concert. It’s our launch event, and it doesn’t get any better than doing it in Vegas. I’m calling it our kick-off. How can you launch it any bigger way than with Nelly?

Your phone can ring at any time of the day or night from anywhere in the world from somebody who might want somebody?

Pretty much so! So long as there’s a signal for cell service. When I’m on planes, I use Wi-Fi to stay connected through email. I love it. We’re like the eBay of celebrities. Requests and offers come in all day long. I just love the fact that they’re coming in from everywhere in the world.

Does the business keep growing?

In different areas. Not really so much on the club side because they aren’t opening many new ones at any given time. Names change, but venues remain the same. Vegas is a whole different city, though, than middle-America clubs that don’t book celebs like we do in Vegas. It’s a totally different ball game. However, in other parts of the world, it’s worth it to them to bring in these American stars they want who never get over to those countries.

We even had stars booked into isolated islands off the coast of Norway because of the new oil money there. Who would have ever thought that somebody there would want somebody from here? But we book people everywhere to places that you would never know. They all have requests for American stars.

I read a tweet about one hip-hop star earning $1.5 million for just 15 minutes rapping along with a Middle Eastern sheik. Does that really happen?

Beyonce at Super Bowl XLVII

Beyonce performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013. Launch slideshow »

You know, it’s funny, but it’s true. Whether it’s Justin Timberlake doing a private concert for millions or Jay-Z and Beyonce for a private party, but those guys with a lot of oil money at hand, to spend a million dollars is nothing for their daughter, for their family member; they want to go all out. So the cost of a mega star to them is like us going to the local department store to get a gift.

I’ve got a guy in Dubai who comes to Vegas on a regular basis for his parties, but then back home he’ll even book celebrities to ride in on camels to the club where he parties. Talk about over the top; they just want to go all out. They spend money without caring. We don’t have those every day, but it’s fun when it happens.

Is the overall business of booking celebrities still on an upward trend?

Well, it’s all based on the economy, of course. We’re always crossing our fingers that the economy is getting a little better, but I understand this is a pleasure-type business, not a necessity. But it’s on the rise. People and corporations all want to see their events become notices or talked about on social media, so celebrities have obviously always been a good way to get noticed. Or unveil or launch something.

The business is growing in different countries around the world, too. I get to go with the Pussycat Dolls to South Africa soon, so we do see economies picking up in different countries.

In the old days, it used to be called the black book, then a Rolodex. Now that we live in the digital age, what do you call your address book or email file?

My database? I call it the database cloud. All of our phones are so connected with the digital world, so I have our contacts, our contracts, our materials all in cloud form now so that I can access it from my Android anywhere I am in the world.

Take a guess at how many names and numbers you’ve got in there.

I haven’t counted, but I wouldn’t say thousands. I’d say in the hundreds into the first thousand. They’re good-quality people who everybody knows and loves. That’s what keeps it interesting.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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