Madison Square Garden Officials Work Hard to Please Knicks' Most Famous Celebs

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Madison Square Garden Officials Work Hard to Please Knicks' Most Famous Celebs
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Forget fancy award shows or television ratings, because you can apparently measure success with where you happen to sit at a New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden. 

The New York Times' Sarah Lyall reports on the intricate and well-planned way team officials seat their more A-list clientele.

Anyone who has ever caught a Knicks or Lakers game has been exposed to the usual "celebrity cam" presented during the proceedings. The broadcast will often take a moment to show off an Andy Garcia here or a Spike Lee there.

Kathy Willens/Associated Press

According to Lyall, there is a method to the madness—at least when it comes to peppering celebrities throughout the more expensive seats at Madison Square Garden. 

The Garden, it turns out, has an ad-hoc celebrity-handling team whose members determine who in fact counts as a celebrity and to what degree; pursue relationships with those people (or their representatives); and deflect demands from lower-level personalities who wish they were celebrities but in fact are not. On game nights, the team also has to contend with such tricky questions as, is Katie Holmes more important than Liam Neeson? And, when you have two rappers with the same last name — Mike D. from the Beastie Boys and Chuck D. from Public Enemy — should you seat them near each other?

And such is the inanity that we all presumed took place behind the scenes but never considered went through such complex measures.

Lyall reports a recent game featured an actual Excel spreadsheet with names of famous celebrities like tennis legend John McEnroe.

The key isn't merely to placate egos but to spread familiar faces through the lower bowl in a way that will satisfy the celebrity as well as energize the rest who aren't so easily recognized.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
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Barry Watkins—who is MSG's executive vice president for communications and administration—had this to say about just that: "If you’re an A-level person and we know the fans are going to go bananas when your picture goes up on the scoreboard, then there’s a value having you there."

For a market like New York, apparently, it's not enough to have big names on the roster. Watkins continues, "We think it’s a big part of the brand. Win or lose, it’s one of the reasons people come to the games."

We leave it to ardent Knicks supporters to sound off as to whether having David Duchovny along Celebrity Row—the portion of courtside seats that usually accommodate the famous—actually takes any sting away from a 15-26 season. 

Who knows; perhaps the recent four-game skid seems all the more tolerable when you spot supermodel Kate Upton enjoying her vantage point. 

Regardless, the show behind the show must go on. 

Watkins would go on to relay to Lyall that staff behind the scenes make sure to spread out their nightly contingent of celebs tastefully. According to the report, there are about 20 recognizable personalities to handle a night.

The most prominent get a seat along Celebrity Row, and the rest are placed to some formula or eye test that is never fully divulged. 

Just know that sitting courtside at a Knicks game means you have finally made it in this crazy landscape we refer to as popular culture.

Lyall does note that you get more than the best seats in the house if you become a "friend of the Garden," a distinction that will only further fuel your jealousy. As for those treats: 

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Among them are a special side entrance into the Garden; a special elevator, so they do not have to ride the common escalators; a special V.I.P. clubhouse known as Suite 200 that is free of charge and that has an open bar, a frozen yogurt station and an extravagant buffet always featuring a special item by Jean-Georges Vongerichten; and a personal escort to usher them to their seats.

So if you needed a slap of obvious to the face, it is very nice to be rich and famous. 

Not that all of this comes from merely being a celebrity, because those who get the "Suite 200" treatment are asked by MSG officials for favors in exchange for the luxurious amenities. The likes of which are usually relegated to filmed promotional videos or nods to the Knicks’ Garden of Dreams charity organization.

Lyall even writes that Woody Allen is no longer allowed in the famed suite 200, a punishment for refusing "small favors for them (MSG officials)."

Now you know when you watch any Knicks game and they show a wide-smiling celeb taking in the game, a lot of thought was given to where they are sitting, and a good amount of hustle and panache takes place behind the scenes to make sure those smiles are permanent. 

 

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