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What kind of cell-phone plans do the stars get? How famous do you have to be to get the stellar rates?

By: Sanford, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

A.B. Replies: If by "stellar rates," you mean a free mobile phone--one quite possibly encrusted with Swarovski crystals--and equally free service, you need only be famous enough to get backstage at any major awards show and find the gifting lounge.

Most major backstage retreats have a cell-phone company as a cosponsor. Traditionally, the cell-phone company offers each visiting star one phone and roughly six months to a year of service--gratis. The company is usually wedged between the people giving away Swarovski-encrusted handbags and the people giving away Swarovski-encrusted iPod cases.

At this year's Grammy lounge, run by Lash Fary's Distinctive Assets, Verizon offered its newest V-Cast music phone for free to celebrities, along with six months of unlimited service.

"They could call China six times a day, and it would still be free during that time," Fary explains to this B!tch.

The stars also received unlimited music downloads.

Usually, after their free talk time runs out, celebrities are, technically, on their own. But by then, they've probably found another gifting lounge and have managed to get yet another free phone--and the cycle just goes on forever.

I hope I didn't shock you. This year, every Hollywood reporter was talking about the free things that celebrities got in advance of the Oscars, but very few people talked about the free services. (By the way, why, yes! I was writing about the celebrity freebie train two years ago. Thanks for noticing!)

No, awards-season graft does not stop with vegan makeup, crocodile-skin clutch bags or gold-tone Manolo Blahniks. Stars--or, at least, the Hollywood barnacles who manage to worm their way into gifting retreats--can also get free plane tickets, massages, facials and other services. Celebrities can even get free TV entertainment. If they're lucky, they can get it for as long as they draw breath.

Back to celebrity cell-phone intelligence: Some stars do their best to get their one- and two-year deals stretched to forever. According to a Cosmopolitan magazine exposéa; from last year, a greedy, unnamed female TV personality recently made a bitchy phone call to a cell-phone company, demanding that her temporary free service be commuted to lifetime status.

The daytime personality had already enjoyed three years of free yapping--eating up about 3,000 minutes a month--despite the fact that the phone company, which was also unnamed, usually limits free service to three months. The star also demanded new phones--which would cost ordinary people a good $500 each--with all the grace and humility of a wolverine on crystal meth. Finally, the cell-phone company had had enough and tried to cut the star off.

"You know what she said?" Cosmo quoted a cell-phone salesperson as saying. " 'I was promised free service for life!' "

"I knew this couldn't possibly be true because we never promise things like that, so I got brave enough to tell her that she had to put that request in writing. She said, 'Well, I guess it's been a great ride.' "