For seasoned showbiz veterans Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith—middle-aged men long past worrying over their perceived “legitimacy”— the offer of a $2 million appearance fee for a 45-minute performance at a private event in New York City must have been a true no-brainer. For Curtis James Jackson III, on the other hand, there were likely competing impulses. Jackson—better known as the rapper 50 Cent—had built his professional persona on the image of a street-hardened former criminal who was tough enough to survive being shot nine times at point-blank range in 2001. So there were legitimate concerns that his image might take a hit if word leaked out about the event in question.
Ultimately, however, Mr. Jackson made the decision that the title of his multi-platinum 2003 album Get Rich or Die Tryin’ suggested he might: In exchange for a multimillion-dollar fee, 50 Cent took to the stage at New York City’s famous Rainbow Room in the early morning hours of this day in 2005, joining Tyler and Perry as headline performers at the $10 million bat mitzvah of Long Island 13-year-old Elizabeth Brooks
According to the ensuing coverage of the event in the New York Daily News, guests at the Brooks bat mitzvah began their celebration unaware of what lay ahead. When a soprano-sax player who looked suspiciously like Kenny G turned out, in fact, to be Kenny G, the bizarrely star-studded event was only getting started. In the hours preceding the appearances of Aerosmith and 50 Cent, former A-list stars Don Henley, Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty all graced the stage at the Rainbow Room, entertaining guests who had been given gift bags containing upwards of $1,000 in personal electronics, including digital cameras that 50 Cent’s bodyguard reportedly tried and failed to stop guests from using to snap keepsake photos of the event. Within days, however, those photos had appeared on numerous Internet blogs, along with thousands of snarky comments about 50 Cent’s questionable “gangsta” credibility.
The father who spent $10 million celebrating his daughter’s coming-of-age was defense contractor David H. Brooks, CEO of DHB Industries, a Long Island company that manufactured body armor for the United States military. Two years after the lavish event, Brooks was served with a 71-page federal indictment featuring charges of insider trading, tax evasion and raiding his company’s coffers for personal gain—including for the $10 million he used to pay for his daughter’s lavish bat mitzvah