Monday, March 2, 2009 | 2 a.m.
- Ruvo’s dream becomes real (2-17-2009)
- Ruvo's mission is bold, driven by love (2-17-2009)
- Gehry's design elevates awareness of Alzheimer's disease, research (2-17-2009)
- In Cleveland, patients are priority (2-17-2009)
- Aiming to revolutionize dementia research (1-7-2009)
- Brain institute thinking big (12-24-2008)
Beyond the Sun
Montecore sat onstage, uncaged, unleashed. A few feet away stood Roy Horn, donning a Gothic-style, black-and-white stage costume and acknowledging an audience standing and applauding a singular dramatic moment in Las Vegas history.
And with that, Siegfried & Roy were finally awarded the sendoff for which they had been rehearsing for a year. It came Saturday night, at Keep Memory Alive’s 13th annual “Power of Love” gala at the Bellagio, the annual fundraiser for what is now the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.
“The spirit of Siegfried & Roy has left the building,” a distant voice announced to the audience of about 1,100, following the more than three-hour auction, dinner and gala. The Vegas icons performed a brief series of now-you-see-’em, now-you-don’t illusions with Montecore on a giant set assembled especially for the event. The illusionists wore masks until the climactic final moments, with Siegfried and Montecore alternately appearing and disappearing in cages draped in white sheets.
Siegfried & Roy decided about 10 months ago that, in their farewell performance, they would include Montecore, the big white tiger involved in the onstage incident that nearly killed Horn on Oct. 3, 2003.
“This was our best show,” Siegfried told Robin Leach backstage after the show. Leach helped persuade the duo to take the stage one last time at this year’s “Power of Love” event. “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.”
The fundraiser followed by 11 days the announcement that the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute had found a partner in the Cleveland Clinic, which U.S. News and World Report ranks as the fourth best hospital in the country. The clinic’s neurological experts will conduct research and provide clinical treatment for Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases at the Frank Gehry-designed facility.
The Keep Memory Alive Foundation will continue its important fundraising role in the new partnership, and Saturday night’s gala showed the broad support it has nurtured for brain research — a factor the Cleveland Clinic said was instrumental in its decision to come to Las Vegas.
In the audience at the Bellagio were the likes of Teri Hatcher, Leeza Gibbons, Hilary Duff, Danny DeVito and his wife, Rhea Perlman, comic actor (and former Riviera entertainment director) Steve Schirripa, Muhammad Ali, Kristin Davis of “Sex & The City” and Jane’s Addiction front man Perry Ferrell.
As in past years, dinner was prepared by an all-star squad of celeb chefs: Wolfgang Puck, David Robins, Todd English, Martin Heierling and Jean-Philippe Maury.
Leach served as host, and longtime Vegas auctioneer Christian Kolberg directed the bidding traffic. Of course, Siegfried & Roy’s longtime manager, Bernie Yuman, was a ubiquitous presence, saying the event would serve as a fitting farewell because the legendary duo never had a chance to take a final bow after the night of Oct. 3, 2003. “This is how the spirit of Siegfried & Roy will leave us,” Yuman said before the program. “They finally have a chance to say a proper good-bye, which they never had. The curtain fell too soon.”
With a huge boost from the Siegfried & Roy showcase, an estimated $12 million was raised for the Ruvo center.
Highlighting the night of gift-giving — which included the $450,000 bid on a Rolls-Royce trimmed with the Keep Memory Alive logo — was a $5 million donation made by Chuck Mathewson, CEO emeritus of IGT. Steve and Elaine Wynn donated another $1 million.
“This showed just how generous this city can be. It’s the most generous city in the world and it really stepped up to welcome everyone from the Cleveland Clinic to Las Vegas,” Ruvo said in a hoarse voice after staying up until 4 a.m. “We wanted to have a party and celebrate, no doom and gloom allowed, and last night I just looked at the stars and thanked God for everybody who took part.”
The event will be featured on a special edition of ABC’s television news show “20/20” Friday night.