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Sunday, May 07, 2006

As Promised, Liz Gives You the Star-Spangled Derby Poop

The race, of course, is what the Kentucky Derby is all about, but what keeps drawing a lot of celebrities back to Louisville the first Saturday in May every year are the parties. ‘Cause there are lots and lots of them, all star-studded glamourfests and all benefiting charities. Most take place on Derby Eve, several are by invitation only, and some cost quite a bit to attend.

The Barnstable-Brown party is the big mamajama. (That's a photo of last year's event.) It’s the mother of all Derby parties, since it’s been around for as long as I can remember, and raises tons of money every year for diabetes research. Patricia Barnstable-Brown is one of the original Doublemint Twins and a native of Louisville. (She and her sister graduated from my high school, as a matter of fact.) In years past, tales have emerged post-party about John Goodman taking the stage to sing R&B, George Strait performing for guests, and Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson heavily necking. This year Pam was missing, but her ex-, Tommy Lee, was there. Other attendees included singers Ashanti, ZZ Top, Smokey Robinson and Ludacris, athletes Serena Williams, Bode Miller, Apolo Ohno and Peyton Manning, wrestling diva Stacy Keibler, chef Bobby Flay, newsman Stone Phillips, and actors John Hensley, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Dennis Hopper and...Gilbert Gottfried? Well, why not?

The Mint Jubilee is probably the next most famous, benefitting cancer research. This is the party Nora Roberts attended this year, along with the likes of actors Gary Cole, Taye Diggs and Alyssa Milano, virtually the entire cast of “The Apprentice,” lots of models and pageant winners, including Miss America Jennifer Berry, NASCAR legend Mario Andretti, ex-”Bachelor” Bob Guiney, jockeys Steve Cauthen, Lafitte Pincay, Jr. and Angel Cordero (lots of jockeys attend this party), retired NFL player John Elway, singer Lee Greenwood, professional poker player Phil Hellmuth, Jr., and the voice of Spongebob Squarepants, Tom Kenny. Well, why not?

At the Grand Gala on Saturday night following the Derby, one could brush shoulders with singers the O’Jays, Boyz II Men, Erykah Badu and Usher, Director Spike Lee, actors James Lesure, Henry Simmons, Hill Harper, Anthony Anderson, Regina King, Gabrielle Union and J. Anthony Brown, athletes Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, Jerome “The Bus” Bettis and Dre Bly, comedian Chris Tucker, “The View” co-host Star Jones Reynolds and last, but in no way least, “The Greatest,” Muhammad Ali and his wife Lonnie. Proceeds from the Grand Gala benefit a number of different charities. For more info and pictures, check out grandgala.com.

100 Black Men of Louisville and the Collegiate 100 hosted their first party this year, which included LOTS of athletes--Ken Norton, Sr. and his sports reporter son Keith, Ronnie Ghent, Lionel Gates, J.R. Russell, Kerry Rhodes, Lonnie Paxton, Antoine Harris, Eddie George and local faves Darrell Griffith and Wiley Brown. Also attending were R&B group 112 and Bre from “America’s Next Top Model.” Proceeds from this party go to several scholarship programs.

There were more athletes on hand (and some of the same ones already mentioned) along with a couple of Playboy playmates, for this year’s “Bowl for the Roses,” to raise money for the Kentucky Jockey Fund, which aids injured jockeys. The Derby Bash is another event that raises money for Louisville’s Fairness Campaign, and this year had return guests Carson Kressley and Jai Rodriguez from “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” (My s-i-l got their autographs last year.) “Seinfeld” alum and first “Dancing with the Stars” champ John O’Hurley attended the Derby Eve Gala. Ned Beatty, Lee Majors, Ken Howard and William Mapother were on hand for the Easter Seals Golf Scramble. Magazines Playboy and Stuff also host some serious Derby parties that are beginning to achieve major status.

There are dozens more parties, but these probably drew the most celebs. You can find more coverage and photos of all of them at www.courier-journal.com by clicking on the right links. Hmmm. There ought to be a mass exodus of these celebrities today and tomorrow. Maybe I should go hang out at the airport for a while...
Elizabeth Bevarly, 3:04 PM
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