Sunday, February 8, 2009

That Odd Pizza Contest I Judged

Gosh, I really wish someone at the celebrity pizza contest I judged on Wednesday had mentioned that I had a thin lock of hair making a smiley face on my forehead. You know, like fellow judge John Katsilometes. But he was too busy, I guess, stuffing his ballot in favor of this man right here, whose work he edits for Greenspun Media...

That, of course, is the inimitable Robin Leach, one of the eight competitors battling it out at the opening of the new Sammy's Woodfired Pizza place in the far southwest area of the Vegas Valley. (Yes, I misunderstood who was contending in my post the other day. I thought those folks were teaming up; that's what the press release said. Instead, each brought their own game.) The winner gets their pizza on the menu for two weeks this month at all five of their locations, with proceeds going to the winner's charity of choice.

Here's Robin, putting in his first honest day's work ever:

And here's one that has someone you know prominently in the background before that lock of hair dislodged itself:

I know what you're thinking looking at Robin's platter: That's a pizza? And the answer is, no, it really isn't. Which is why, despite my affection for Mr. Leach, I could not in good conscience give it high marks. It had cream cheese, salmon and caviar and was both difficult to eat and not especially pleasing. How did it come in second place? This photo should explain it...

Another clunker -- and I really wanted to like it -- was the concoction set forth by "Jersey Boys" stars Erich Bergen and Jeff Leibow who are not, despite appearance in this photo below, gay.

Theirs had a similar problem as Leach's, it was hard to eat -- the big pieces of ham came right off upon biting. But it was nice of them to give it a go.

The event was probably the most successful blatant publicity stunt I've ever seen. By snookering all of these journalists to be judges or participants, they got coverage here, on KLAS and KVBC, on the Las Vegas Sun's site, on Robin Leach's blog and elsewhere. I mean, there was a packed house AND a crowd of photographers for, what? The opening of a new pizza place? See? Some PR folks deserve a bonus.

Yes! That was our old pal George Wallace, frequent "The Strip" punchline for his disastrous appearance in 2005 when he lied to us about where he was and then abruptly ended the interview prematurely. Of course, he probably doesn't remember that and he certainly wouldn't know that I was the host. I did have a very funny exchange with him, though, when he came over to the judging table made up of five or six journalists and told us that his victory meant two free tickets to his show. My response: "Uh, everything means two free tickets to your show! If you vote, two free tickets. If you breath, two free tickets. If your name is George, two free tickets!" He just laughed.

The big winner turned out to be the local duo Zowie Bowie, who made a very tasty little white pizza featuring Gouda cheese, pineapples, pears, arugula, orange blossom honey and truffle oil. Here they are making it...

...and with the second-placer Leach and, at far left, third-placer KVBC entertainment gal Alicia Jacobs, who made a tossed-salad pizza that was surprisingly good. Surprising, that is, because this does NOT strike me as a chick who cooks...

If you honestly care, there's a cute 2-minute video that the Las Vegas Sun folks (read: Kats and Leach) assembled to go along with this probing piece on the event:

And, finally, here's one of the least probable photos you'd ever expect to see:

Again, thanks for everyone who warned me about that stray lock.