Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 | 1:46 p.m.
When Priscilla Presley received accolades and applause during last night’s Woman of the Year gala, four generations of the family attended. Obviously Priscilla, the radiant queen herself, but also her mom, Ann Boyer; her children, son Navarone Garibaldi and daughter Lisa Marie, with husband Michael; and Priscilla’s granddaughter Riley Keough.
As glittering and glamorous as every Nevada Ballet Theatre Black and White Ball is each year, there were additional magic and miracles at the 27th annual celebration at MGM CityCenter’s Aria. Here are the first red carpet photos of Priscilla and Lisa Marie’s arrival at the reception at Cartier at Crystals. Thanks to contributing photographers Scott Harrison and Erik Kabik for their photographs.
Also at the VIP party: Motley Crue rocker Vince Neil with KSNV entertainment reporter Alicia Jacobs and UFC fighter Frank Mir and his wife Jennifer. (Frank donated an unbelievable VIP UFC package as one of the night’s lead auction items.) Cirque du Soleil performers from Viva Elvis escorted the Presley family throughout the evening. Priscilla told me she’d taken family and friends to see Friday’s performance, and I’ll have her comments about the continuing changes that she’s helping to make in a report tomorrow.
“It was all far more than I had ever expected,” Priscilla told me at the end of the evening. She was presented with a bronze statue of a ballet dancer and a special antique clock from Cartier, plus dozens of floral bouquets from the young ballet dancers.
Priscilla told me she was “absolutely blown away” by the special contemporary ballet piece choreographed by NBT Director James Canfield. “Such professional and polished skills. Incredible. I was mesmerized by the young dancers,” Priscilla said. The well-heeled crowd in black-and-white ensembles obviously agreed, with a standing ovation and nearly 5 minutes of applause.
The actress, beauty and Elvis Presley’s first and only wife was so moved that she decided unexpectedly to make an impromptu speech before her prepared acknowledgments to all who had contributed. Priscilla said that she’d always dreamed of being a dancer, and, as an ever-traveling Air Force brat often danced -- sometimes to the music of another Las Vegas legend, Liberace -- to fill the time and prevent loneliness.
She also told me: “Ballet was the foundation of my life that got me into the arts, which I still support and encourage to this day. I get so emotional seeing it disappear in education budget cuts. It should be in school’s programs and available to every child to help make their future lives better. All of the arts are so important to youngsters to give them a solid future.”
American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance producer Nigel Lythgoe introduced Priscilla after a video tribute that showed scenes from her numerous TV and film appearances, including Naked Gun with the late Leslie Nielsen and Melrose Place. (Her credits also include Dallas, Touched By an Angel and Dancing With the Stars.) Nigel told a delightful story of how one evening here after watching Viva Elvis, they walked past an Elvis impersonator. Priscilla took off her usual extra-large sunglasses and cloak and surprised him with, “Remember me?!” The impersonator not only didn't recognize her, but also didn't know her name, Nigel said!
Vince told the touching story of how in between wives -- and homes -- Priscilla had welcomed him to her house to stay in the chauffeur’s quarters instead of hotels. Vince at the time was doing business with Priscilla’s companion Marco Garibaldi, Navarone’s father. “I was so nervous meeting her the first time I knocked over the water glass,” Vince laughed. “The second time I was even more nervous and knocked over the wine glass. She wasn’t fazed, and we’re still friends.”
The evening’s highlight was without doubt the students’ extraordinary jazz and modern ballet. Everybody agreed that it was incredible and at a performance level equal to the great ballets of New York. I described it as “breathtakingly beautiful and mind-blowing.” Priscilla said, “It was simply magnificent.”
We also raised more than the $150,000 goal to kick off NBT's Live Music Fund for when the company moves into the new Performing Arts Center downtown next spring. I emceed the paddle raise, which brought a total of $155,000 to enable the students to have live music instead of recorded tracks for practice, rehearsals and performances. The money, which began with four wonderful donors giving $25,000 apiece, is already a little more than halfway for the first year’s $300,000 budget for musicians and conductors.
Tomorrow, we’ll post all the exciting and intimate photographs from inside the gala, along with our one-on-one chats with Priscilla and Lisa Marie.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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