Denise Truscello / WireImage / DeniseTruscello.net
Wednesday, May 18, 2016 | 11:59 p.m.
Keep Memory Alive Siegfried and Roy
Keep Memory Alive Michael Caine and Quincy Jones
Tony Bennett and Robin Leach
As every annual Keep Memory Alive “Power of Love” Gala draws to a successful close, founder Larry Ruvo starts to worry. Not just over the final money raised from ticket sales and auction bidding, which must fund the next 12 months of work, research and awareness projects of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.
His fear also is, “How will we top that incredible night in 12 months?” He’ll fret again Saturday night at MGM Grand Garden Arena as the 90th birthday salute to Tony Bennett draws to a close. It’ll be a bigger concern in 2017 because it will be the 21st anniversary, and he knows that he’ll have to pull out all the stops to make it the best show to date.
So far he’s always succeeded. I’ve had the privilege of working with Larry to round up stars and play announcer for the galas over the years. I’ve no doubt that we’ll win again for this fantastic cause this weekend in seeking a cure for Alzheimer’s.
We’ve been blessed with dinners by celebrity chefs including Wolfgang Puck, Nobu Matsuhisa, Giada De Laurentiis, Joel Robuchon, Gordon Ramsay, Thomas Keller, Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali , Buddy Valastro, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Michael Mina, Rick Moonen, Charlie Palmer and more. Mario Carbone joins the list this year.
Our entertainers have included Bono, Barry Manilow, Michael Buble, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, LL Cool J, Carlos Santana, Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Tucker, James Ingram and Patti Austin, Snoop Dogg, Gloria and Emilio Estefan and last year’s pairing of Celine Dion and Andre Bocelli.
Our “Power of Love” Galas have reunited Siegfried & Roy, feted Muhammad Ali’s 70th birthday, celebrated the joint 80th birthdays of Michael Caine and Quincy Jones and now this weekend salutes entertainment legend Tony’s 90th birthday.
It was 20 years ago in a small upstairs room at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in the Forum Shops of Caesars Palace that Larry hosted the first dinner and unexpectedly raised $35,000 from friends as the first step in a then-unknown quest to build a Las Vegas medical center in memory of his father who died from Alzheimer’s.
Hair products king John Paul DeJoria chipped in the first unsolicited $5,000. A year later when chef Nobu hosted, the figure jumped to $375,000. When he’d raised a total of $35 million, Larry secured the services of architect Frank Gehry, who reluctantly but eventually agreed to build the “scrambled brain” building at the entrance to Symphony Park downtown.
The galas have gone on to raise a staggering $170 million-plus. The three days of festivities in the Entertainment Capital of the World, which have grown to be a national sensation, begin Thursday on the Brooklyn Bridge outside New York-New York.
We start with a 21-magnum Dom Perignon salute to Tony at dusk. Hotel marquees along the Strip for their first KMA charity effort will dim advertising and videos to join in a simultaneous tribute to Tony with his image on display. Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak will make a presentation honoring Tony’s 70-plus-year career that includes 18 Grammy wins.
I hope this doesn’t spoil the surprise for Tony, but Las Vegas Boulevard will be renamed Tony Bennett Boulevard for the full day of the “Power of Love” Gala on Saturday. Larry will sit with Tony on the Strip to discuss what our charity and the research mean to him. The public is invited to attend. I talked with Tony for our original promotional video.
On Friday after a day of rehearsals, sound checks and auction planning at MGM Grand Garden Arena, 500 VIPs will attend a private reception with Tony at the Keep Memory Alive Event Center. On Saturday evening, a sold-out audience of 1,700 will attend the gala with performances by Diana Krall, Andra Day, Chris Botti, James Corden, Herbie Hancock, Darius Rucker and Steven Tyler.
Steven told us: “I grew up on songs like ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’ and
‘Shadow of Your Smile,’ so to sing for him on his 90th birthday is truly an honor. His voice is timeless and one that I hold near and dear to my own heart.” Chris added: “Tony’s voice is as iconic and timeless as ever. I feel honored and privileged to step onstage to perform with him and for him.”
Boyd Gaming Chairman Bill Boyd, a decades-long philanthropist, civic leader and donor, will be honored with the Community Leadership Award. Also expected to walk the red carpet: Quincy, Diane Keaton, Christie Brinkley, piano prodigy Dan Orlando, Leeza Gibbons and Siegfried & Roy.
Artists also are taking part in the salute, as Tony is an accomplished painter. They include Jeff Koontz, Dale Chihuly and Peter Tunney, who has created the first painting you can “listen to” that will go up for auction. Peter has donated his painting that incorporates 40 of Tony’s album covers. “The Good Life” also includes the original vinyl records and a Crosley record player to play them.
Auction items expected to raise big bucks include a dinner at Sharon Stone’s Hollywood home with John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston as guests; Andre Agassi and Steffi Graff private tennis lessons; front-row tickets for the next Victoria’s Secret fashion show; and private luxury yacht trips in the Caribbean and along the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
Also, a trip on Mark Cuban’s private jet to Florence, Italy, for an at-home concert by Andrea. Michael Mina is donating 10 tickets complete with a tailgate feast at Levi Stadium when the San Francisco 49ers play New England or New Orleans. Tony will donate his signed painting of New York City in a snowstorm.
It adds up to 72 hours of extraordinary fun and celebration to benefit our world-class brain center in its plan to find a cure for the wretched dementia disease known as Alzheimer’s. Larry knows for next year’s 21st that he has to outdo everything he’s done to date.
But more importantly than anything to him is his ultimate goal: “We are going to cure this disease. If not at the Lou Ruvo Center, then because of the Lou Ruvo Center.” Former President George W. Bush summed it up best after touring the Lou Ruvo Center: “This is a landmark for decades to come.”
Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” fame has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Las Vegas Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.