NEW YORK (AP) -- By day, Lori Levine's all girl from Long Island, her head full of Ashlee Simpson-Wentz, Kim Kardashian and the Shiny Toy Guns as she holes up in her office with a smart young staff and a pooch named Sukie.
By night, she's all rock 'n' roll, working a runway at the Hard Rock Cafe having "wrangled" said celebrities for the Power of Leather party, making sure they don't fall off their stilettos, experience a wardrobe malfunction or otherwise screw up in front of the cameras.
Reggie Bush and Kardashian show up 30 minutes late, leaving Levine to work her BlackBerry like a steely pro, never taking her eyes off the staircase until they arrive. She reassures Bush, the private NFL star, he doesn't have to speak.
Levine, 38, commands fees of $10,000 to $25,000 from corporate giants and high-profile charities for the talent booking and brokering services her Flying Television company provides. Through Levine, her clients sometime pay the famous five and six figures for walking through the door, not to mention pricey swag, transport, per diems and lots of other things they ask for this side of the law.
But she's that and more: event planner, publicist, brand marketer through her boutique firm of a decade. That's a lifetime for some in show business. Not bad for the daughter of a fire claims adjuster from Roslyn, N.Y.
"I've actually had to spend a lot of time disciplining myself on my BlackBerry," Levine said. "I used to never be someone who'd shut it off at night, ever. And then I got to a point where I was like, `OK, that's enough of that.' I've had to be careful. My father was a complete workaholic and had triple bypass surgery and three heart attacks, and still worked from his hospital bed until the day he died."
Taming of her BlackBerry aside, the former Conan O'Brien talent booker and Lifetime television producer works 14 hours a day plus as she trots from New York to Los Angeles, Las Vegas to South Beach, Montauk to Dubai serving her clients.
When she's not wrangling celebrities to show up at parties, film festivals and charity fashion shows, Levine turns her attention to other clients. There's popchips and Nickelodeon's SpongeBob and Bethenny Frankel, the Real Housewife of New York who's trying to reach beyond her best-selling "Naturally Thin."
She does it with an electronic Rolodex of 14,000 contacts and counting, including her recent score of Beyonce's e-mail address after one of the singer's Madison Square Garden shows.
It's a sucker's bet that without Levine and the likes of Levine, fame today might look and feel hugely different, perhaps more like the innocent "Breakfast at Tiffany's" block print of Audrey Hepburn that Levine picked up at Ikea for $75 and has hanging above her desk.
Levine recalls her early days when the stakes began creeping higher for the corporate world, and the corporate world came a callin' for help with its hip factor.
"I could see there was a change in the climate of the media and all of a sudden everything became acutely about celebrity, celebrity, celebrity," Levine said. "At these hoity-toity events where you had seen a ton of press they were saying, `Well, if John F. Kennedy Jr. shows up it'll be great but if he doesn't there's nothing to write about.'"
Kit Yarrow, a professor of psychology and business at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, cites the overwhelming choices consumers face for the influence of celebrity to sell products.
"Celebrity endorsements work and that's why businesses are willing to pay big bucks to get their clothes on the right backs, their food in the right mouths and their equipment in the right hands," she said. "This is especially important today as consumers spend less time with words and more time with images."
Levine was a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, which calls itself the "crossroads between commerce and creativity." She was 18. After her father died, her mother remarried and moved to Florida, but Levine stayed put in New York, living with her sister and going to school, working as the manager of a clothing store to help pay her bills.
She soaked up the party life and thought about glamour, the kind of glamour she loves in "Gigi" and "My Fair Lady."
"I knew everything about pop culture. It's what I was interested in and then a friend of mine was producing a show for Bill Cosby and said, `Can you come work here?'"
It was the Cosby spinoff and 1992 flop starring Malcolm-Jamal Warner called "Here and Now." The NBC show lasted only one season and Levine moved on, landing in 1998 at "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" and towering 30 Rockefeller Plaza, home to NBC smack in the middle of Manhattan.
"I thought this was it. I looked at 30 Rock like it was THE best address. I loved it, loved it, loved it, and then you grow not to love it anymore."
So with her contact list expanding, Levine branched out on her own, learning to dissect contracts like a lawyer. In the early days, she brokered retainers and fees for wrangled celebrities about 25 percent of the time. Now, it's more like 50-50.
"Can you pay us in cash? It's the stupidest question I get," Levine said "Cash? I know, because we work at a casino and it's 1950. ... This is corporate America. We're going to pay you by check and you're going to have to pay taxes on it, just like everybody else."
Much of what she does also depends on educating her clients.
"Everyone calls and wants Nicole Kidman. Please. Really. OK, let me explain to you what she goes to and why," Levine said. "We try to be as realistic as possible and say, `Look, this is who you're getting, this is who makes sense, this is how we get them.'"
So what would Audrey Hepburn think about all of this, and about her own mass-produced Ikea image as office decoration?
"I love the idea that Audrey Hepburn at her Breakfast at Tiffany moment, in this kind of shadow is so attainable by so many," Levine said. "It's just kind of perfect. It's just like my life."
- 21 hours ago See all the stars who attended!