When Queen Latifah needs a good escort during a particularly stressful night, she has her assistant book Chris Gaida.
In the last few years, Gaida—known professionally as Chris Laslo—has become the go-to guy for big-time movie stars in need of some high-end pampering.
He's the man for the job,” says La Wanda Black, Latifah's executive assistant for the past 16 years. “He's reliable and fast and trustworthy. Oh...” she then adds laughing, “he's not bad-looking either.”
Gaida, 35, is not a high-class hooker. He's what's known in the entertainment industry as a “celebrity escort,” one of a handful of attractive young men and women lucky enough to have landed what could be the most kick-ass gig on the planet: arm candy to the stars. If you watch the Golden Globes on Sunday—or any of the many red carpets in the coming months—you will see these escorts at work (and possibly spot Gaida, too).
Gaida got his big break when he was working as a temp at MTV in New York City. A man came up to him one evening and asked him if he'd be interested in escorting. Thinking it was sexual thing, Gaida told him to get lost. It wasn't until the man explained what the job actually entailed that Gaida said yes. That night, he popped his celebrity cherry with the comedian Ana Gasteyer. Gaida, who until then had never met a celebrity, let alone been with hundreds in one room, was starstruck.
“I tried to hide it as best I could,” recalls Gaida. “I had the best time of my life.”
Since then, Gaida has walked down the red carpet with some of Hollywood's biggest names; Paris Hilton, Fergie, Mariah Carey, Taylor Swift, Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, Steven Spielberg, and the entire band of Maroon 5. He's even spent the day chillin' with Kermit the Frog at the Muppet's personal trailer. Funny enough, it was there that Gaida lost his cool.
“It was one of the few times I ever told a celebrity that I was a huge fan,” says Gaida.
Part babysitter, part bodyguard, part manager, Gaida is hired by the producers of major award shows not only to ensure the stars are taken care of, but to also guarantee they don't miss their rehearsals, or worse, their actual appearance. From the moment their pedicured feet touch that crimson rug, Gaida is there to guide them through the maze of reporters, paparazzi, and stage directors. He memorizes their schedule, knows the location of every emergency bathroom, and more important, which way to bolt when any sicko fans get out of control.
“I won't talk about drugs, infidelity, and I won't out anyone,” Gaida says.
During one of his first gigs, when he was assigned to escort Cyndi Lauper to the VH1 Divas show in Las Vegas, the limo driver dropped them off at the wrong entrance. Gaida soon found himself lost in the middle of the MGM Grand with a celebrity by his side, and not a red carpet in sight. It didn't take long before a crowd started gathering. What happened next is a scene straight out of a movie: Gaida and Lauper running through a sea of slot machines frantically trying to escape a mob of screaming admirers. “It was scary,” recalls Gaida. “Fans can get really excited and don't necessarily know their limits or realize they're intruding.” (Eventually, Lauper made it in time for the event, and without a scratch.)
There have been some other unforgettable moments. Like the time, he says, when Sharon Stone asked him to walk three steps in front of her and never look back. At first, Gaida wasn't sure he heard right. But then he realized his hearing was not the problem. He spent the rest of the evening walking around The VH1 Vogue Fashion Awards like a modern-day Lot. Gaida says that Stone's own makeup artist, the late Kevyn Aucoin, was so horrified by the request that he apologized on her behalf. “He couldn't believe she was so rude to me,” says Gaida. Years later, when Gaida was assigned to her a second time, he says she pulled a 180 on him. “She gave me a big hug and acted like we were best friends. I still don't know if she thought I was somebody else or whether she felt guilty.” (An email to Stone’s manager asking about Gaida’s story went unanswered.)
One of his favorite moments was when Paris Hilton's rehearsal at an event called the Extreme Sports Awards went later than expected. It became clear she wasn't going to have enough time to go home and glam up. Her assistant was sent off to bring her outfit to the venue where the event was held. After she changed in her dressing room, Hilton and Gaida hopped into a limo and drove it around the block, pulling up at the red carpet as if they had just arrived.
Over the last decade, Gaida estimates he's been to more than 125 shows. But before you run off to apply for his job, you should know it ain't gonna make you wealthy. Escorts typically get paid anywhere from zero to a few hundred dollars a night depending on the show. But Gaida may have found a way to cash in on his run-ins with the rich and famous. These days he's shopping around a tell-all book about his experiences. Would a book end his career as a celebrity escort? Not necessarily, Gaida says. “I won't talk about drugs, infidelity, and I won't out anyone.”
Still, celebrities are known to have delicate sensibilities. And some of Gaida’s stories aren't exactly flattering. Like the one about Casey Affleck, a hard-core vegan, who, according to Gaida, threw a hissy-fit after spotting chicken sandwiches in a green room at a benefit. (Affleck's rep denied to the The Daily Beast that the incident ever occurred, while confirming that the actor is, indeed, a vegan).
Gaida says he's not looking to trash celebrities but to pull the curtains back on Hollywood's glitziest award shows. He hopes the book will offer fellow mortals a fun glimpse into what happens when the cameras aren't around.
“It never gets old for me,” he says. “I've worked every award show there is and I never take it for granted. I always look at the screaming fans and think if it weren't for that one guy who approached me and gave me that first break, I would be one of those screaming fans trying to get a glimpse of these people.”
Itay Hod is a broadcast journalist with CBS where he reports on a range of topics from breaking news and politics to lifestyle and culture.