'Joyologist' gets paid for hugging

How would you like to get paid to hug people?

Tricia Huffman is on the payroll of sex symbol-pop singer Jason Mraz as his staff hugger on tour, which ended Saturday at the Palms.

She is his "joyologist."

Huffman, 28, started in the music biz at age 18 and became a crack tour manager and soundboard operator.

But she burned out, her dad died, she traveled the world on credit debt (she's not rich), and on that journey she went soul searching for positivity.

Mraz missed her and coaxed her back as the crew's "tour mom," their "vibe counselor," his "joyologist."

On each tour stop, she "vibes out the dressing room" -- adding softer lighting, homey furniture, meditation pillows, rugs and tapestries. For the crew, she prepares raw food, teaches yoga, Tweets on Mraz's behalf (under her own name, not his), and she hugs players and crew before each show to help center them.

Another band witnessed her hugs once, and Mraz looked at their surprised faces and joked, "That's right, we pay chicks to give us hugs."

On stage and backstage, she writes positive expressions for all to see, like: "Be Love"; or "The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."

On the road, Huffman has hugged Dolly Parton, Natalie Cole, Jeff Beck, Crosby Stills and Nash (but "probably not Stephen Stills; he's a little crazy"), and Melissa Etheridge once suggested to Huffman that maybe she should "expand your horizons" to consider women romantically. "She was like, 'You never know.'" Huffman didn't expand that horizon.

She has tattoos on her right wrist that read, "Let go" and "Just be"; she and Mraz try to live in the present, as unfettered as possible.

She lives with him and others in a four-bedroom house near the beaches of San Diego, on five acres of an avocado farm, without a TV.

"Some people don't make it out there," she says. "They go nuts. It's so quiet. People get scared."

She gave me a hug after we snuck into rehearsals for Cirque du Soleil's "Ka." It was long and calm, a firm but gentle rubbing of the back, a pause, more rubbing. Peaceful, reassuring, in control, nurturing, strong.

"Jason says, 'You're gonna end up on Oprah,'" but she doesn't believe it. She's just a paid hugger. Who could possibly find that interesting?


Tonight, Palazzo's club Lavo holds a contest called "I Kissed a Girl II, the bondage edition." The "best girl-on-girl kiss" winner gets $5,000. Five grand for making out during a recession! Don't you think this event would have gotten the same press and turnout with a $2,000 prize?


At Lavo on Saturday, Sean "Diddy" Combs drank Ciroc vodka (he's an investor) with his lady Cassie, who just posed nude in a magazine (Google it), while Jonah ("Superbad") Hill (his co-star in the upcoming "Get Him to the Greek") knocked back Coronas. (Coronas?) ...

Stars are sticking to business-class booze: A week ago, Jay-Z drank Ace of Spades champagne at Lavo and Tao, since he's an investor in that brand. ... Venetian headliner David Spade, before Saturday's show, ordered a usual, Jack-and-Coke at Tao, while elsewhere in the joint, Mike Tyson bit into lobster wontons, sushi and shrimp. ... Drew Carey went to Red Rock Resort on Friday night, then checked out Steel Panther at Green Valley Ranch. ...

Holly Madison got exposed all over, first at Friday's Steel Panther show, then she held a beach ball at the Flamingo pool on Saturday, then did Rio's topless-optional pool but spoiled everyone's good times by keeping her top on, and finally made a daytime stop at Hard Rock's hedonist "Rehab," where she forgot to call me to join her friends for strawberry daiquiris (not sure what nearby model Sarah Ashley Barker was sipping). ... Chad Dawson followed Saturday's boxing win over Antonio Tarver by partying at Body English at Hard Rock. ... Chris Evans (Johnny Storm from "Fantastic Four") lounged at Tao Beach Saturday then ate at Asian Bistro. ... Michael Buble took in MGM's great "Ka" show on Saturday night, as did Toronto Raptors' Chris Bosh.

E-mail me at delfman@reviewjournal.com or blog at reviewjournal.com/elfman.