Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012 | 11:06 a.m.
Muhammad Ali's 70th birthday party set for Feb. 18 at MGM Grand Garden Arena is turning into a celebration for the masses.
“Ali 70th From Las Vegas” will be broadcast on ABC at 2 p.m. on Feb. 25 and again on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. The event honoring Ali is the 16th Annual Keep Memory Alive “Power of Love” gala, expected to draw 1,800 guests to the arena.
The night is a benefit for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and the Muhammad Ali Center. KMA is the Cleveland Clinic’s fundraising organization.
The show is shaping up as one of the grandest events of any kind in the city, given Ali’s worldwide appeal, the nationwide TV audience and the lineup of star performers and celebrities who have committed to attend.
According to the most recent news release issued this morning, the list of supporters scheduled to take part includes (and you might need to take a breather at some point in reading this lineup): Stevie Wonder, Samuel L. Jackson, David Beckham, Larry King, Ken Jeong, Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J, Common, Lenny Kravitz, Sean Combs, Anthony Hopkins, John Legend, Chris Cornell, Cee Lo Green, Joe Perry, Slash, Terrence Howard, David Copperfield, Siegfried & Roy, Andre Agassi, Stefanie Graf, Jim Brown, Randy Couture, Brad Garrett, Kelly Rowland, Dave Koz, Robin Leach, James Gandolfini, Steve Schirripa, Chazz Palminteri and Sammy Hagar.
Word is that Wonder is expected to sing “Happy Birthday” to Ali, who turned 70 on Jan. 17. Organizers also are attempting to lure President Clinton and Oprah Winfrey to the celebration.
Boxing icons scheduled to appear include Sugar Ray Leonard, Evander Holyfield, Ken Norton, Earnie Shavers, Leon Spinks, Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini and Tommy "Hitman" Hearns. Additional stars from the entertainment and sports worlds will be added to the lineup, according to the news release.
Robin Leach reported Tuesday that, per Las Vegas-based boxing promoter Bob Arum, Manny Pacquiao is now confirmed to attend the Ali tribute. A limited number of tickets remain available; go to the Keep Memory Alive Web site or call 702-263-9797 for details.
The night after “Power of Love,” Kravitz is hosting a star-packed performance at MGM Grand with special guest Raphael Saadiq. Scheduled to appearing at that show are Lil Jon, Cee Lo Green, Kid Cudi and Slash. The event also is in support of the Cleveland Clinic Keep Memory Alive foundation and the Muhammad Ali Center. Tickets for that show are still available at ticketmaster.com, at MGM Grand's official Web site or by phone at 800-745-3000.
"The event has become so unique, it's an only-in-Las Vegas experience when you consider the amount of stars and things that are going on along with Muhammad Ali's appearance," said R&R Partners Executive Vice President Rob Dondero, who negotiated with ABC and ESPN officials to broadcast the show. "It is a major TV special, a great way to get our message out, our point-of-view that medical tourism is a solid part of Las Vegas' future, and to let people know of the incredible medical advancements happening in Las Vegas."
In a statement, KMA Chairman Larry Ruvo said, "This year's Power of Love gala will bring attention and funds to the important work being done at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health on a whole new scale. We're excited to have the opportunity to shed light on the fight to knock out neurocognitive disorders while celebrating the life and ongoing contributions of the legend, Muhammad Ali."
The last “Power of Love” gala to generate national TV coverage was the 2009 event at the Bellagio, which marked the final performance by Siegfried & Roy. Roy Horn’s recovery was chronicled on ABC's “20/20,” hosted by Cleveland Clinic supporter Maria Shriver.
Ali suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, having been diagnosed with the condition in 1984, and will be featured in a video from the company 23andMe, appearing with his wife, Lonnie. The couple will discuss their joint efforts to help aid the research and cure of Parkinson’s. The Cleveland Clinic focuses on treatment and cure of all brain diseases. Ali is not a patient, instead focusing his energy on fundraising and generating awareness about the center.
Located in Symphony Park across from World Market Center, the Frank Gehry-designed Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health has recently launched a study for boxers who are suffering from symptoms similar to Ali’s. As the release explains, the study is designed to “improve the safety and health of fighters ... the study will help determine whether magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain, along with other tests, can detect subtle changes in brain health that correlate with impaired thinking and functioning.
“Researchers hope the information uncovered by this research will eventually result in better ways to prevent permanent brain injury in not only fighters, but also in others who may suffer from brain trauma.”