Joe Soucheray: I better not be buying gifts for Madonna

Madonna entertains fans at a sold-out show at Xcel Energy Center on Nov. 3, 2012, part of a two-night stand at the X. (Pioneer Press: Sherri LaRose-Chiglo)


Some of us were kibitzing about the gifts that the Xcel Energy Center staff give to the artists who perform there. It was in the Pioneer Press the other day, a story about how the X, intending to leave a good impression with, say, Bruno Mars, presented him with four pairs of handcrafted sunglasses from St. Paul's Eyes All Over.

Apparently, giving gifts to artists is a custom at many arenas in the country. I did not know that. I did know that acts have riders in their contracts specifying what might be expected to be provided to them backstage: M&Ms with the yellow ones removed, the brands of bottled water and beer, how many cushioned lounge chairs and in what color upholstery, that kind of thing.

But I didn't know the marketing people at the arenas also felt compelled to lavish gifts on the acts. And all we were wondering about, those of us having a chat about this, is who pays for it? I realize, given that the Xcel Energy Center is across the street and down the block from a string of riverfront buildings that cannot attract a private developer, that giving Bruno Mars some sunglasses is among the least of our problems.

Still and all, if I thought 1 cent of my money, or yours, went to purchase luggage with her logo on it for Madonna, why, I would have a conniption. The X is supported by a variety of public moneys, bonds, taxes, what have you.

I tried to reach Kelly McGrath, the arena's director of sales and marketing, but she was out for the day. When I asked whoever answered the phone what I wanted, I am afraid I fell victim to that old game of warning the next person they were going to switch me to not to pick up the phone.

I called Eyes All Over. I talked to the owner, Teri Focht. Her business is new. It's on West Seventh Street, across from Mancini's. I asked her about the sunglasses that she provided for Bruno Mars. It turns out that Bruno got one Buffalo Horn, one Wood and two Italian Acetates. The Buffalo Horn rims are $500, as are the wood-rimmed glasses. The Italian jobs are $400 each. That's $1,800.

"So what happened?" I asked, for now I was getting to the bottom of some hard-hitting reporting. "Did somebody from the X come in and write a check?"

"Actually," Focht said, "I donated them."


She explained about liking the X, I think, on Facebook, saw that the X put together gift baskets for the artists and volunteered her wares.

Now I was really confused. Maybe we aren't paying for these gifts after all, which is a relief. I can see somebody trying to get a gift to maybe Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen, but why anybody would give anything to Madonna is beyond my power of reason. The more I thought about it, the less confused I became. I suppose it is a feather in your cap if the Sophia Graydon Sleepwear Co. can put together a polka-dot caftan for Pink, or Creative Kidstuff can put together a gift basket for her daughter, Willow.

The important thing is that the artists leave with some fond memory of Minnesota, so they end up with custom guitar straps and cowboy boots and backpacks and floral tiaras.

Well, minds at ease, minds at ease. I bet the whole gift thing is on a volunteer basis, which tells me that the marketing people at the X are geniuses.

It might be one of Bulletin Board's Baader-Meinhof phenomena, incidentally, that I came across the Sophia Graydon name in the story about the gifts. I get emails from the Sophia Graydon Sleepwear Co. I don't want to. I have asked them to stop. I don't know how I made their list.

Now, if only we could get those gift givers to put together baskets of treasure for private developers who are our last best hope to come in here and try to save this town from more publicly subsidized central planning.

Joe Soucheray (John Doman, Pioneer Press)

Joe Soucheray can be reached at or 651-228-5474. Soucheray is heard from 1 to 4 p.m. weekdays on 1500ESPN.