Oscar nominees receive Minnesota products


VENICE, CALIFORNIA—Bette Midler’s Emmy loss to Kirstie Alley (1994) inspired Lash Fary to create a company to help ease the sting of not winning an entertainment award. “Bette said, ‘We get all dressed up, perform and go home with nothing,’” recalled Fary in an interview at the Westminster Photo Studio in Venice.

Fary introduces products and services to the entertainment industry and develops celebrity-oriented promotions and events. His LA based firm, Distinctive Assets, launched the celebrity swag bag craze 15 years ago to console non-winning Oscar nominees.

“Winners get an Oscar, so we give these gift bags as consolations to nominees,” Fary said. The $80,000 Oscar nominee gift bags increased to $85,000 with the recent addition of a $5,000 laser treatment package, said Fary.

Fary presented a display of the 86th Academy Awards gift bag items at the art gallery. This year’s swag bag includes three products from Minnesota: Max Martin luxury shoes, AVIV 613 Vodka and Bee Free Honey.

Fary has a team of staffers who scout for unique items for the gift bags. For example, Minnesota’s Bee Free Honee, $39, is not made from bees, but instead it’s “honey” made from U.S. grown organic apples. “Bee Free Honee is vegan and organic,” said Fary. Bee Free Honee has five flavors: Original, Ancho Chili, Chocolate, Mint, and Slippery Elm. Because of the Oscar nominee gift bag publicity, Fary said, Bee Free Honee has had record sales on their website.

AVIV 613 Vodka, $30, is a brand new vodka imported from Israel by Tzfat Spirits of Israel, Minneapolis. Certified kosher by the Orthodox Union, AVIV 613 is distilled from wheat, barley, olives, figs, dates, grapes and pomegranates. “The best experience begins with the packaging,” said Fary, pointing out AVIV 613 Vodka’s triangular shaped bottle. The words “Celebrate Life” are inscribed on the bottle’s surface in major world languages, along with 73 spiritually charged, hidden messages and symbols. Their website decodes the 73 hidden messages.

William Panzarella, organizer of the Twin Cities’ 2014 Oscar Experience Viewing Party, will have his luxury shoe line, Max Martin, $750, included in the nominee gift bags. “I am a fan of Max Martin,” said Fary.

Fary receives about 100 charity requests a day for finding products to place at charity events. He had done 65 interviews about the 86th Academy Awards nominee gift bags but was just as fresh, talkative and friendly to the Daily Planet as if we were his first interview.

Fary said that because their gifts go to people who have everything, they have to think of gifts nominees wouldn’t have. Some examples: his and her set of Mace Pepper Guns, $120 (hot pink for her and camo for him); a drainwig, $6.49, that you insert into your shower drain to remove hair clogs; organic pet shampoo, $15; hair transplant system, $16,000; walking tours in Japan, $15,000; the O-Shot Procedure that rejuvenates and enhances the genital tissue of a woman, $2,700; Best of Las Vegas package, $9,000; a Rocky Mountaineer train trip through Western Canada, $6,850; and a slow watch that reminds the wearer not to be rushed by minutes, $290.

(Above) Items for the 86th Academy Awards nominee gift bags.

(Above) Fary displays Minnesota nominee swag bag items Bee Free Honee and Max Martin footwear.

(Above) No “honey” vegan, organic Bee Free Honee made in Minnesota; web sales hit record after publicity of inclusion in Oscar nominee gift bags.

(Above) Distinctive Assets founder Lash Fary is a fan of Minnesota-based footware Max Martin, included in Oscar nominee gift bags; he is standing next to one of the $5,000 Gizara Arts painting, also in the gift bags. Gizara Arts paintings are used in the show Mad Men.

(Above) AVIV 613 Vodka, imported from Israel by Tzfat Spirits of Israel of Minneapolis, certified kosher, and has 73 messages surrounding the bottle.

(Above) Lash Fary and his staff seek out unique products for the Oscar nominee gift bags. Price values range from $16,000 to $6.

In addition to its inclusion in the Oscar gift bags, Max Martin footwear will also be featured at the 2014 Oscar Viewing Experience in the Twin Cities.

(Above) Three Minnesota products are in the 2014 Oscar gift bags, chosen by Lash Fary and his staff at Distinctive Assets.