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John Katsilometes

Stars out in force for gala, Siegfried & Roy performance

2 March 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- OK, kids, this is the first transmission from the Keep Memory Alive "Power of Love" gala at the Bellagio. From what I am hearing, we can expect three segments of a performance from Siegfried & Roy lasting a total of eight minutes. Roy has been fighting a condition today that has caused some bleeding in his lungs but is expected to perform. And, yes, the big cats will be incorporated into the show, and the duo will be wearing masks until the very end of the performance. That happens about 10 p.m.

More notes, taken on the fly:

-- MGM Mirage chief Jim Murren, in a unique instance where he responds to, "Hey! Jim-Bob" from a friend across the room, said of the recession. "When is this going to end? Nobody knows. I believe in the long-term viability of the market and the assets of this town. I see some firming up in convention business in the second half of this year. The best thing we can do is be empathetic right now and take care of each other. That's what I have been telling our people. But this is a town geared toward events, and we have a lot of great events coming up. Tonight is one of them."

-- Sen. John Ensign just announced that Steve and Elaine Wynn have donated $1 million to the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. That announcement was followed by a whopping $5 million from Chuck Mathewson, the CEO emeritus (or, as he says, "retired,") head of IGT, whose fiance Stacie's mother has been suffering from Alzheimer's. They will be married Friday in Palm Desert, Calif.

-- Danny DeVito and wife Rhea Perlman are in the room. So are Steve Schirippa and Hilary Duff. Larry Ruvo is reading off the list from the podium. Teri Hatcher, in here somewhere. Muhammad Ali is expected, too. The show was opened by comic John Pinnette. John Paul Dejoria, who made the first-ever donation to Keep Memory Alive, was just introduced.

-- Name-check of the public servants in the room: Former Govs. Bob Miller and Kenny Guinn, Sen. John Ensign, Reps. Shelley Berkley and Dina Titus, Mayor Oscar Goodman, County Commissioner Rory Reid and City Councilman Rikki Barlow. There are more. I'll try to catch them later.

--Christian Kolberg and my man Robin Leach, sharing hosting-auctioning duties, are offering a dinner prepared by Nobu Matsuhisa. She goes off at $50,000!

-- Hatcher and Wolfgang Puck are offering dinner at her place in L.A. Wolfgang offered to mow the lawn because the landscaper always gets the woman in Desperate Housewives. Down, Wolfie! She goes off at $90,000. Sweet. All of the chefs who prepared the dinner -- Puck, David Robins, Todd English, Martin Heierling and Jean-Philippe Maury -- are onstage. It is a culinary jam session.

-- Quotable Miller: The former governor's advice on dealing with the tough economy? "By stock in Tums and Rolaids." He was joking, I believe, but he did remind of his own experience with a "mini-recession" in 1991. "It was nothing like this," he said. "We just have to make sure we don't allow our entire infrastructure to deteriorate, because we will come out of this, and when we do, we need to make sure we have an educational system and a transportation system and everything else that makes our state livable."

-- Sen. Ensign, also a veterinarian, addressed the protesters from PETA out by the Bellagio water fountains before the show. "I do have a problem with people who own big cats and wild animals, I really do. But not Siegfried & Roy. They care for them; they are well-cared for, and they love them. PETA needs to get a clue."

-- Very odd sighting (and an assist to Kate Bennett for spotting him): Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction. He's a longtime fan of S&R, for their "style onstage," and was asked by event organizers to take part. He performed at LAX last night and said this event is "very, very Vegas ..."

-- In a really animated conversation -- and it could be no other way -- are Yuman and Goodman. They seem to be talking all at once over there ...

-- Women painted as white tigers were crawling all over the silent auction. They were quite lifelike but refused to growl.

10:04 p.m. More from the gala, specifically table No. 93, which would be a good name for a restaurant:

-- More auction, a trip to the Ruvos' home in Tahoe, where you will hang with Robin Williams, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf and Michael Milken. She goes for $250,000. I'm good for it ...

--Yet more auctioning: Chef Tonino Melloino's offer of a trip to his home in Italy for a dinner for 20 just went for $30,000. A trip on the Petron Express, a boozy three-day jaunt on a private train car in total luxury, "one of the best in the world," says Dejoria, goes for $100,000. A Keep Memory Alive-customized Rolls Royce just went for $475,000. It's getting dizzying in here. A Giants game in New York with the Mannings, topped by dinner made by Emeril Lagasse, goes for $150,000. DeVito and Perlman are up, singing the praises of the clinic and offering his-and-her designer watches that go for $35,000. A trip to the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, $15,000. "A Magical Getaway" with David Copperfield at Copperfield Bay in the Bahamas? $60,000, and on and on it goes ...

-- Kristin Davis is here! I was just told. "Sex & the City's" Kristin Davis. Awesome.

-- I swear, Norm Clarke is signing autographs now. What a night.

-- Tonight's entree, by English, is slow-and-low braised Kobe short rib with truffled celery root puree, Hudson Valley foie gras broth, crispy confit pearl onions, mustard greens and pistachio crumble. You know what it all means? It's a tough week to go veggie. Tough.

-- At the cocktail reception, LVCVA President Rossi Rallenkotter said that convention business was at capacity for the last six months of 2009. The LVCVA's "Take a Break" national ad campaign has helped regenerate interest in quick trips to Vegas. "Our challenge is to inform people of what is happening in Las Vegas, still," Rallenkotter said. "We have this event tonight, the NASCAR race and the opening of M Resort tomorrow. The new Joint at the Hard Rock is coming up. It never stops, and we need to keep informing people of that."

-- Former Las Vegas Art Museum Director Libby Lumpkin was cocktailing with Camille Ruvo earlier. Lumpkin said she spent the past week volunteering as LVAM prepped to close (today was its last day). "It's a really sad event. We're having an economic Katrina, and we were on the first levee," said Lumpkin, who stepped down abruptly from her post for economic reasons several months ago. "I don't know, I thought we could have it all here, with contemporary art, and we still have that in the resorts, but the resorts depend a lot on public contributions, for intellectual services and support. They will feel this loss, too." When I asked how long it would be before the LVAM could return as a full-service museum, Lumpkin thought for a moment and said, "A long time. Probably 10 years."

-- The "Dessert Trilogy" is served on a tray made of chocolate, and the media table is stumped at how to attack this dish. I just asked Norm Clarke if he had a chisel with him (read about that exchange in Vegas Confidential).

-- New Planet Hollywood President Tom McCartney, for years an exec with MGM Mirage (most recently at Luxor), said of his new post: "It's nice not to be in construction. (Planet Hollywood CEO) Robert Earl has done a great job of adding a celebrity feel and appealing to a wide range of people. It's been re-invented. I like that we are a self-contained company. Not to put anyone else down, but we have a very seamless way of doing business at Planet Hollywood that is refreshing."

-- Earlier, Bernie Yuman said S & R's performance would be "a final curtain call, because they didn't have a chance to make that curtain call." Robin just begged the audience not to take photos during the performance, which is now about 20 minutes behind schedule. There is a lot of murmuring going on now about what we might see, and Kolberg has asked anyone willing to give $1,000 to stand. The room tops at 43.

10:25 p.m.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the spirit of Siegfried & Roy has arrived," a voice intones, followed by a piano and orchestra arrangement. Horn is onstage, caped in a black hood, white shirt and mask. He opens a silver lid atop a box, and flames pour out. He closes it, reopens, and Siegfried emerges, to applause.

A stage platform is rolled out, and at the left is a caged white tiger. Siegfried drapes the cage with white cloth, then moves to the middle of the set and is also concealed in white. Roy pulls a rope to display a tiger in his place and Siegfried inhabiting the first cage. Roy's voice is heard over the speakers, he is talking of dreams. The tiger is led from its cage by Siegfried and lays near both performers, who pull off their masks.

The tiger is uncaged and off the leash. The crowd stands and cheers. Roy is still moving unaided. Siegfried waves, and the curtain closes.

About eight minutes in length, more than a year in the making, more than five years since Roy's life-threatening injuries. The spirit of Siegfried & Roy has left the building, the voice says. And there is your moment in Vegas history.

10:43 p.m.

Update: Confirmed that the big cat appearing onstage was indeed Montecore, who was involved in the incident that nearly killed Roy in October 2003.

12:26 a.m.

Siegfried & Roy agreed 10 months ago to use Montecore to give the big cat its own send-off; Montecore's involvement was kept a secret shortly before show time. Roy entrusted Siegfried with most of the planning of tonight's show.

"This was our best show," Siegfried told Robin Leach backstage after the show. "It brought back all the memories of the thousands of shows we've performed before. We are exhilarated. There were no nerves, just the emotion and the excitement of tonight."

Several members of Siegfriend & Roy's international fan club were backstage, swept up in the emotion of the moment.

"As for the next chapter, tomorrow is another story," Siegfried said.