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Andre Agassi reaches fundraising milestone, talks of film options for autobiography


Sam Morris

Andre Agassi celebrates a point during the Las Vegas stop of the 2011 Champions Series Tennis tournament Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011.

Tennis Champions Series With Agassi, Sampras, Courier and McEnroe

The Tennis Champions Series with Jim Courier, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras at the Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011. Launch slideshow »

2010 Andre Agassi Grand Slam at the Wynn

Steve Wynn, his granddaughter Marlowe Early, her friend Casey Glasser and Andrea Hissom on the Andre Agassi Grand Slam red carpet at the Wynn on Oct. 9, 2010. Launch slideshow »
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The Tennis Champions Series with Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and John McEnroe at the Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV on Oct. 15, 2011.

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Andre Agassi talks with media after giving former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Brian Sandoval a tour of Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in the northern Las Vegas Valley on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011.

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Tennis great Andre Agassi holds his plaque as he is inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., on Saturday, July 9, 2011.

Somewhere in the conversation, Andre Agassi will drop the names of Gene Hackman and Prince.

But not quite in the same sentence.

Agassi is working toward his 16th Grand Slam for Children benefit concert, dinner and auction. The event is Saturday night at Wynn Las Vegas, and the list of performers is customarily impressive for a Grand Slam event: Michael Buble, Jimmy Kimmel, Martina McBride, Smokey Robinson and Train are all scheduled to sing and joke and otherwise entertain.

The event has raised about $92 million over the years, with last year’s show taking in a haul of $8.5 million. The money is put to good use by the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education, which funnels funds to the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy.

The celebrated academy has seen every student from its first three graduating classes of 2009, 2010 and 2011 accepted into college. The Foundation for Education, announced at the 2010 Grand Slam for Children, also is helping to build 75 charter schools across the country over the next two years.

Money is raised through sponsor-funded table seating, but individuals who want to purchase a single table seat can do so (the cheapest would be $1,250, so make sure you soak in every morsel of the experience). For information about individual seating, call 494-3903 or 494-3904.

Agassi was available for a little verbal serve-and-volley (yes, I know, he was a baseline specialist) on the phone this week. The highlights:

Johnny Kats: “Over the years, you’ve had some of the biggest names in entertainment perform at the Grand Slam concert. Anyone out there you haven’t landed for the event who you would like to?”

Andre Agassi: “Well, the whales are the whales. U2, Paul McCartney, Bon Jovi, Prince, those types. But we have been very pleased, over the years, to keep the level of entertainment very high and be specific to our demographic.”

J.K.: “You’ve raised $92 million over the years, which is an incredible amount. The school would seem to be doing really well financially.”

A.A.: “The big news this year is we’ve crossed the threshold of funding our school in perpetuity. That has been the goal, to keep taking us closer to being able to fund my school forever, as a gift to the community, and we’re at the point now where it will live long past all of us.”

J.K.: “Since that’s the case, are you going to be holding these types of elaborate benefit events in the future, the same Grand Slam for Children galas we’ve become accustomed to?”

A.A.: “We look at it one year at a time, not X amount of years. The need to have to do it has always been there, that particular concern that we want to benefit the academy. But there are a lot of synergies we have built, partnerships, and it is a great evening for the community. We’ll get through this and size it up, but the mission is to expand what I’ve done in Vegas and scale this across the country, and we’ll need support to do that.”

J.K.: “Do you have any thoughts on the upcoming election? We’ve had the Republican candidates and the president in town this month.”

A.A.: “I try to keep my agenda out of the limelight (laughs). Don’t you think that’s advisable?”

J.K.: “From where I sit, it would be great if you just started ripping somebody.”

A.A.: (Laughs) “I try to work both sides of the aisle, put it that way.”

J.K.: “Have you had any serious film offers for rights to your autobiography (“Open”)?”

A.A.: “Yes, numerous offers. Let’s just say the best in the business have contacted me, people who have a huge desire to turn the book into a film, a big-screen movie. But turning my life over to be reinterpreted that way requires great caution.”

“My temptation is to reach a bigger audience, millions of people, and that is a great motivating factor. I like that idea, but I have to be careful. I don’t rule it out, and there are a handful of people bidding on it.”

J.K.: “I think we’ve all played the game, ‘Who Would Play You in the Movie?’ Who would play you?”

A.A.: “Oh, I don’t know. There are so many actors I just love, and you’d have to encompass childhood up to age 36 (Agassi’s ages covered in the book). My favorite actor across every field is Gene Hackman, just from an enjoyment standpoint. Edward Norton is also a great, great actor.”

J.K.: “Norton, I could see, and I know who would play Pete Sampras: Adam Carolla.”

A.A.: “(Laughs) OK, I’ll let you make that call. Let me know how it turns out.”

J.K.: “Will do!”

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