You like "Jackass" skateboarder-stuntman Bam Margera? For 40 bucks he'll wish you a happy birthday or bat mitzvah. TV personality Carmen Electra? She'll do the same for $100. Or for $25, you can send your dad a greeting from June 1985 Playboy Playmate Devin Devasquez — all through the website Cameo.com, a service allowing fans to have fan faves record brief personalized videos.
"You just basically shoot a video wishing someone happy anniversary or someone's having a baby or someone wants you to say 'hi' to their friend and wish her luck on her audition," says Merrick's Dina Lohan, 55, mother of actress Lindsay Lohan and herself a former reality-TV star ("Living Lohan"). "You can either send it to Cameo," which sends a link to the recipient, "or you can send it personally from you to them, which is what I do most of the time."
The downloadable videos generally each run 30 to 60 seconds. Each celeb sets their own price, with Lohan — whom Cameo CEO Steven Galanis calls "if not the first then one of the first" celebrities on the service when it launched in February 2017 — charging $75.
Dana Nolan, 24, of West Babylon, got a Cameo video from a friend for her birthday last month. "It was Dorinda Medley from 'The Real Housewives of New York City," Nolan says. "She wished me happy birthday, she talked a little bit about some of the stuff my friend had told her about me, she made it pretty personal. I love the 'Housewives’ franchise; it's my guilty pleasure and Dorinda is one of my favorite people on it, so it was a very nice surprise."
Galanis, 30, says the idea for Cameo arose after he and New York Knicks player Lance Thomas, a college friend, were chatting about personal-appearance fees. Realizing selfies were "the new autographs," they took the concept a step further to personalized video. With engineer Devon Townsend and producer-agent Martin Blencowe, they formed the company in October 2016.
Long Island celebs on the service include actress Nikki Blonsky ($20) and "Bar Rescue" star Jon Taffer ($149), both of Great Neck; "Real Housewives of New York" stars Jill Zarin ($75), from Woodmere, and Luann de Lesseps ($100), who has a home in Sag Harbor; and Bethpage singer Nick Tangorra ($20). Two of the 77 categories are "Howard Stern's Wack Pack" (regular callers and guests of the Roosevelt- and Rockville Centre-raised shock jock) and "Summer House," Bravo's Hamptons-set reality show, which offers Lindsay Hubbard, Stephen McGee, Carl Radke and Lauren Wirkus at $30-$35 apiece.
The categories aren't all so categorical. "Author," for instance, is stocked with people best known, if at all, for things other than books, such as rugby and rap. Children's-book author Dan Gutman, of the popular "My Weird School" series, was dubious when shown the site, which prospective Cameo stars can join via their Instagram accounts or through an online enrollment page. (Cameo, which handles all the transactions, takes 25 percent of the celebrity's fee.)
"At this stage, it seems a little cheesy and I could just as easily ask my Facebook and Twitter fans' parents if they want a video and make one for them," says Gutman, 62, who would use a service like PayPal and donate any proceeds to environmental causes.
Still, recipients seem to enjoy the videos as the website's reaction videos, shot by recipients’ friends and posted with permission, attest. And people are finding uses for the service that the founders never expected. "One guy was quitting his job and used Bam Margera to tell his boss he was a terrible boss, and that's how he quit," says Galanis. "And we've had people use celebrities to help them come out to their parents as gay."