Celebrities line up for CES cash

By Peter Nowak, CBCNews.ca

Whenever there's a large amount of money being spent, as there will be at this year's annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, you can count on one thing: There will be a large number of celebrities there with their hands out, looking to get some of that loot. This year's show, which kicks off unofficially on Saturday and officially on Monday, will be no different.

Among musicians scheduled to appear are Yoko Ono, Natasha Bedingfield, will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas and Pat Monahan of Train. They'll be promoting Sony's "John Lennon Education Bus," which is a "non-profit mobile studio dedicated to providing students with hands-on opportunities to make music and video projects," according to the press release. It appears to be a noble cause, but let's not forget the students in question will be using only Sony products, prompting the question: Would John Lennon approve? It's somewhat reminiscent of a bit that now-deceased comedian Bill Hicks used to do about musicians selling out to advertisers, which he likened to an intimate moment with the devil. (Warning: If you decide to check out his clips on YouTube, Hicks wasn't exactly the cleanest comedian to grace the stage.)

Mary J. Blige will be getting some dosh from wire-maker Monster Cable as she headlines a concert Tuesday night. Also on the bill is Sheila E - obviously Prince doesn't pay like he used to.

In a separate performance, Kevin Costner - still reeling from the career suicide that was Waterworld and The Postman - is also playing a show on Monday night with his band for the Consumer Electronics Association's wireless communications division. Wonder if he gets a free cellphone with that?

From the athletic world, Indy car racer Danica Patrick, U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Amanda Beard and WWE wrestler Candice Michelle will be there promoting Godaddy.com. Exactly what racers, swimmers or wrestlers have to do with a site that sells web hosting services has thus far eluded scholars. Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz will also be at CES to collect a paycheque - his $52 million U.S. contract must not be enough - when he visits Sharp's booth.

Last but not least, there's actor Michael Douglas, who will be promoting XstreamHD, a high-definition television-over-satellite startup. Given that Douglas hasn't starred in a hit since Traffic in 2000, maybe the promotional appearance isn't so surprising.

And oh yes, director Brett Ratner - he of the Rush Hour movies - will once again be plugging Panasonic products at the company's press conference on Sunday. Ratner was perhaps the most embarrassingly overt shill last year when he proclaimed that the difference between high-definition and standard-definition television was like the difference between colour and black-and-white TV. Mind you, now that Chris Tucker doesn't want to make any more Rush Hour movies, Ratner may need the work.