Oscars Swag Bags: A History of Edible Gifts Since 2003
Once upon a time, in a magical land called California, presenters and performers at the glamorous Academy Awards received gift bags to thank them for their time and talent. From the 1970s through 2006, this munificent Eden persisted. Then the IRS came along and ruined all the fun, declaring these expensive tokens income and thus subject to taxes. In 2007, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences discontinued the gifts. By then, private companies had already swooped into the coveted swag space, distributing goodies to everyone from award-winning actors to unnaturally tan reality stars. The most elaborate of these offerings have been put together since 2003 by marketing company Distinctive Assets, whose “Everybody Wins” gift bags ensure that nominees who don’t get a golden statue still walk away with armloads of consolation prizes worth thousands (one year over $100,000).
The swag bags feature an array of beauty and fashion finds (this year’s most extravagant include a hair-transplant procedure worth $16,000 and a $2,700 O-Shot to rejuvenate a woman’s…well, you can probably guess), plus fancy vacations like a $9,000 “Best of Las Vegas” trip. Bon Appétit, however, is, of course, only interested in the edible items. Here’s what the A-list has taken home in recent history:
SEE MORE: How to Boil an Egg
2003: The Year of Dinner for Two
Some actors have trouble snagging an Oscar, but surely most can scrounge up a willing dinner date. That seemed to be the thinking behind the first “Everybody Wins” gift bag, which offered dinner for two at eight different Los Angeles restaurants, including: Opaline, Spanish Kitchen, Sona, Sonora Café, Mirabelle, and Fenix at the Argyle Hotel. BA‘s own restaurant and drinks editor, Andrew Knowlton, remembers Sona as “one of the first places that was doing Asian-inspired crudo dishes. Oh, and it was the first time I heard about a guy named David Myers.” But since then, all of these restaurants have closed. Call it the swag bag kitchen curse…
2004: The Year of Alcohol and Chocolate
Effen vodka from Holland, Kron choocolate from New York, tequila from…Sammy Hagar? It was all in the 2004 bags. And in case those items didn’t satisfy the nominees’ sweet tooth, there was also a Champagne-and-chocolate basket awaiting them in the complimentary penthouse accommodation at Caesars Palace, where they were also given $3,000 to spend at Palace restaurants.
2005: The Year of No Food
Effen Vodka made the cut again in 2005, but there was nothing else edible included. Perhaps that was because the swag theme that year seemed to be oral hygiene. Included were Crest Whitestrips, the Intelliclean System from Sonicare & Crest, and a complimentary dental consult with “America’s Dentist”—perhaps to remove all the damage from last year’s alcohol and chocolate bonanza?
2006: The Year of Fancy Water
Celebrities’ delicate digestive systems are not equipped to handle the crusty old tap water us Normals drink. Instead they must hydrate their finely tuned bodies with a higher order of liquid extracted by beret-wearing French elves from a golden-ash-spewing volcano—or wherever Volvic comes from. A case of H20 newcomer Hint, the now ubiquitous naturally flavored water, was also included.