Sunday, March 1, 2009

An Exclusive SARMOTI Encore Pictorial

[UPDATE: For backstage coverage and lots of photos, visit Robin Leach's LuxeLife blog.]

Tonight at the Bellagio, Siegfried and Roy made their triumphant return/final performance in a massive ballroom as the focal point of a benefit for a $70 million brain research institute opening in downtown Las Vegas later this year. Also on stage -- or so they tell us -- was Montecore, the 380-pound white tiger who mauled Roy on stage at the Mirage in October 2003 and ended their 13-year headlining run there.

You can read my piece for Agence France Presse or you can read my pal Kathleen Hennessey's version for the Associated Press, which includes a lot more detail than mine on the performance. It was quite a moving event, as we'll discuss in greater detail on the next episode of "The Strip" and, hopefully, in my Weekly column.

For the moment, the photo above of me and Kathleen is one of the few I took at the event that actually has Siegfried & Roy in the image. No photography was permitted during their 10-minute performance and a promised image courtesy of ABC, which is doing an exclusive report on the duo on this Friday's "20/20," has not yet materialized.

We were actually not supposed to take any photos at all beyond the red carpet. Stars in attendance: Teri Hatcher, Hilary Duff and Danny DeVito. Here's a clevage shot of Duff for those of you who like that sort of thing:

Anyhow, I begged and cajoled and annoyed the organizers until finally S&R Manager Bernie Yuman gave me permission to shoot inside the ballroom, although not the S&R appearance itself.

Now, I've been to lots of big Vegas thingies and this was some event, at least for a charity dinner during a decession. Here's what the ballroom itself looked like:

It was a massive expanse with about 100 tables, a stage, a pair of large screens, several very fancy vehicles for live auction (including a $509,000 Rolls Royce with "over $42,000 in custom and unique features) emcee'd by Robin Leach. Our table included me, Hennessey, People Magazine writer Mark Grey, the R-J's Norm Clarke and his "leggy blonde" Cara, Las Vegas Sun medical writer Marshall Allen, Greenspun Media editor/writer/blogger/etc John Katsilometes and some German reporters.

This was what the table looked like:

This was perhaps the most over-set table I've ever sat at. Each place had about seven glasses of pre-poured wine to go with a three-course meal that included a chilled Maryland blue crab salad by Wolfgang Puck, a braised Kobe short rib by Todd English and a dessert by the Jean-Phillippe Maury that we'll get to in a moment.

But first, about those centerpieces. Each table had a slice of a tree trunk decorated with flowers and a red metal heart framing a plastic white tiger glued to a disco ball. I was among the last one to leave because I was filing my story, so I took a bunch. Here's what it looks like up closer:

Cool, huh? Not real sure what I'm going to do with three of them, but I figured they'd end up in the garbage if I didn't take them.

There were also costumed entertainers wandering about. Here are two images of that:

Hey! That last one's not of the entertainment although there was this one particular moment when I (a.k.a. Shecky Friess) cracked up Mayor Oscar Goodman on the red carpet.

Hizzoner was bloviating about how great it is that S&R were performing and how amazing the Frank Gehry-designed brain center's going to be. The world will be trumpeting it, it'll be like a clarion call, it'll be like the shofar sounding on Passover. He was clearly losing his mind, and I jumped in to note that, in fact, we Jews don't blow the shofar on Passover. The mayor was stunned silent -- not an easy task -- and he looked at me with a mock-hateful glare. His wife, Carolyn, jumped in to say, "You're absolutely right!" Much laughter ensued among those members of The Tribe present. (I've told this story twice now and it doesn't quite work, so I thin ya hadda be there.)

Back to the party. As elaborate as this event looks, it was not a black-tie affair. In fact, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., didn't even wear a tie and often doffed his jacket and he had the duty of announcing big donations from Vegas notables. (Steve & Elaine Wynn gave $1 million, IGT ex-CEO Charles Mathewson gave $5 million.) Ensign seemed to me like a strange choice for this deal considering that all the leading brain-disease researchers are champing at the bit to get going on embryonic stem-cell research and Ensign has always been a stalwart against it. Also, it was odd that Ensign was involved with honoring Siegfried & Roy even though he's also never supported anything remotely akin to gay rights.

But I digress. We reporters on the red carpet didn't have time to take in the cocktail reception with all the silent auction bidding, but here are some images from that and the red walkway into the ballroom:

The second image above was a rack of S&R's ornate coats for display. I don't believe they were being sold. And the last image is not a nod the "Love," the Cirque show that replaced S&R at the Mirage, but to the theme of the benefit, "Power of Love." That also explains the red heart on the table centerpiece.

The annual benefit for the brain center is called Keep Memory Alive. That brings us to dessert. Here's what it looked like.

According to information on the table, what you see there is a peanut gelato lollipop with dulce de leche caramel and crunchy brittle, a raspberry French Macaroon atop a rose petal-infused chibouste and a chocolate tiramisu with guanaja pearls and espresso cake. I'm just copying what the table card said. I'm not sure what most of that is.

Most interestingly, though, that oval plate that all of that was on was solid chocolate. Here is evidence that Norm tried to eat it with a fork:

I, of course, did it the easy way:

Good night, everyone!


Anonymous said...

This is why we read your blog, Steve. Good stuff. Thank you.

Jeff in OKC

Anonymous said...

Great coverage. That dessert looks yummy, but too much. It kind of looks like a chocolate surfboard that it was sitting on. As for the centerpieces, EBay (I'd bid; not a lot, but I would, it looks really cute).

Cathy in Oakland

Anonymous said...

Make the centrepieces part of the swag for the podcast. I'd make a pay-pal donation!

Bryan said...

They could sell those peanut gelato lollipops -- they were outstanding. You forgot to mention the glasses of Danny DeVito's limoncello and the other sweet dessert wine they passed out -- truly a drinkfest worthy of Larry Ruvo. I wasn't brave enough to eat the plate, but I'm glad to see someone was!