Do celebrities get paid to be very special guest stars on TV shows, or do they do it out of the kindness of their hearts? How much do regular actors get paid for guest spots?

By: Emma, Vestal, New York

A.B. Replies: It would be natural to approach this query as a simple, common case of deep-discount Hollywood chumminess. Your working theory might go something like this: Grossly famous people get so many benefits out of popping in and hanging with less famous people that they charge little to nothing for the pleasure. By making that self-deprecating cameo as a bitter pizza-delivery goon, the guest star may end up getting something much more valuable than cash: fresh confirmation of his or her A-list status.

This is a sound and logical theory. It is, however, wrong. Very wrong.

Superstars charge for those brief appearances--especially if their cameos will be used heavily by publicists and promoters.

According to manager Jamie Gold, who claims James Gandolfini and Felicity Huffman among his former clients, the asking price is closely tied to how the star's cameo will be marketed. If producers plan on milking the heck out of it, the star will probably milk the heck out of the producers first.

"It's a case-by-case basis," dishes Gold, who says he has also managed Brandy and Donnie Wahlberg. "But the charge can be $10,000 to $1 million. Even more."

Even if a star wanted to gain favor with a producer and appear at a deep discount, it isn't that simple, Gold says.

"Sometimes the star will charge only the [Screen Actors Guild minimum] day rate," Gold says. But "that's very rare, because an actor's reps won't let that happen."

Now, get out your calculators. According to the Screen Actors Guild, the current performer day rate is about $700. However, there's also a day rate for something called a "major performer," which includes a "special guest star," and that's between $3,000 and $6,200, depending on the genre of the show. Either way, that amount can't even buy you one shot of Restylane, much less a very special big-name guest star.

So, when John Travolta showed up on Fat Actress last year as himself in an episode called "Big Butts," he probably wasn't just "helping" Kirstie Alley "out" as the New York Daily News so casually suggested. Sure, this B!tch suspects that Travolta genuinely wanted to boost Alley's now-defunct show, but I wonder if he also got to "help out" the checking accounts of his manager and agent, who get a percentage of his income.

Ditto, our sources suggest, when Pauly Shore, Bob Saget and Brooke Shields all stopped in on Entourage, and when Kate Winslet and Ben Stiller did send-ups of themselves on HBO's Extras.

For the record, I myself charge $500,000 for a cameo, not including meals catered by Warner over at Dominick's. The B!tchling, of course, comes for free.

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