Rates for clocking in on New Year's Eve start at pounds 1,000 per shift. Instead of an excuse for morbid nostalgia, the evening could be a grand step into a brighter future. Start the next century as you mean to go on: sober, with a happy bank balance.
For once the market is in the hands of the underdogs: waitresses and bar staff, child-minders and taxi drivers. These are the people without whom all celebrations will be impossible.
The problem for employers is that because so few people want to work, the rates are going up and up. "There will be a huge shortage of waiters and waitresses," confirmed AM & PM Catering. "We have accepted just one job from a regular client, but it wouldn't surprise me if they end up paying pounds 1,000 per head for the waiting staff."
Prices quoted elsewhere range from pounds 600 to pounds 1,500, but most acknowledge pounds 1,000 to be the starting-point. Many companies, such as Crown Society Events, are being forced to turn down offers.
At least working as a waiter will allow you to be at a party, even if it is not your own, which must be an improvement on seeing the New Year in with a gang of unsympathetic toddlers. For every mum and dad who go out to a party, someone will be left holding the baby.
Hope & Dreams, which runs a babysitting agency and a children's hotel, is setting its sights on a modest triple-time pay rise, to about pounds 24 an hour. Childminders, the world's largest babysitting agency, will be publishing its official rates in April, but estimates between pounds 40 and pounds 50 an hour for that evening. "We can only give rough estimates," says Aunt Jessica Cares, which provides qualified nannies. Current quotes hover around pounds 500 a day, 10 times the usual rate. Come New Year there will be a vast shortage of reliable babysitters; some highly paid female executives are already toying with the idea of running one-off creche facilities for friends.
If the company of other people's children is just too hideous to contemplate, perhaps the prospect of ferrying drunken revellers around town is more attractive. Last week there were news stories suggesting that London will have no public transport; drivers are apparently demanding astronomical sums before London Transport can even start planning a scheme to run the Tube all night. There were even rumours that the whole network could grind to a halt if the staff "phoned in sick en masse". A union spokesman was more reassuring. "Providing the right money is offered, people who have agreed to work that night will do so." And what is this crazy figure that the drivers are hoping for? "The preliminary demand was pounds 500 and a week off."
Trying to find a taxi is always hard over Christmas; on New Year's Eve 1999 it could be impossible. Minibus Hire and Coach Hire both expect their drivers to be asking pounds 500 before the cost of the vehicle, although, as both admit, "It's a matter of finding somebody who will work then." Computer Cabs, which handles 2500 taxis in the capital, is tackling the problem systematically. After the trauma of this New Year they will begin polling their drivers. "When we can ascertain what sort of coverage we might expect we can start talking about cost; anyone working will definitely be paid a premium, but nobody really knows who they will have working; demand exceeds supply".
There are always glitzier options. The Celebrity Lookalikes agency has so far accepted no bookings, but anticipates a 20 per cent mark-up for the evening. Should you possess an uncanny resemblance to Marilyn Monroe, that translates as pounds 1,000 for a guest appearance. All those hell-bent on hitting big-time fame in the next 12 months could do worse than try their hand at public speaking. After Dinner Speakers is quoting a 50 per cent rise in prices for 31 December 1999. Those whose ambitions carry them on to equal status with John Major can expect about pounds 110,000 for a selection of well crafted tidbits over the petits fours. More modest self-promoters, at the level of, say, Lily Savage, could be looking at a tidy pounds 15,000. Not to be sniffed at.
News of the Millennium Bug has struck terror into the financial capitals of the world, and one of the greatest fears is that there won't be enough computer nerds to go round. If you never finished that IT course at college, now is the time to put the Sellotape back on to your spectacles, don your fighting anorak and try again; there is a fortune out there just waiting to be made. Repairs co is already quoting pounds 200 an hour for anyone working as a Global programmer this summer; closer to the time it could go as high as pounds 300. Sally Woodcock of The Final Step thinks this could be too conservative. "They should be able to command any price they want at that point, if people are panicking. Currently call-out is pounds 1,000 a day; the closer you get to the deadline the higher the rate will be."
If the closest you come to technological wizardry is twiddling with the knobs on you stereo, fear not. The prospect of a good knees-up would disappear without a fully paid up smoothie spinning the sounds. And fully paid they will surely be. A1 Discos will be paying its DJs between pounds 800 and pounds 1,500 for a five-hour set, depending on the venue and location, compared with an average pounds 200 for a gig at any other time. Absolutely Fab, which also books DJs, has already taken a number of calls and quotes "anything between pounds 1,000 and pounds 5,000". Meanwhile the bouncers are looking at pounds 50 an hour as opposed to their usual rate of pounds 4.
Famous DJs with a couple of hit singles, a decent reputation in Ibiza and egos the size of Wales can name their price to mastermind the gig of a lifetime. One promoter suggests that for a premier-league dance DJ the bidding would probably start at pounds 20,000. The cream of the crop, such as Paul Oakenfold, Goldie and Norman Cook (aka Fat Boy Slim) are represented by David Levy. "I do not discuss my clients' fees," he comments coyly. "But I can promise you it will be more than you could possibly imagine."
To go any higher, you need magic on your side; the prize for Extraordinary Offer of the Millennium So Far goes to Paul Zenon, an amiable young chap from Brighton with a talent for close-up trickery, seen last week on the Comedy Lab plying his trade on the streets of Soho. Zenon has been offered a millennium gig in Las Vegas. His fee? $150,000.