Curtis Dahl Photography
Monday, April 15, 2013 | 4:01 p.m.
2013 Keep Memory Alive at MGM Grand
2013 Keep Memory Alive at MGM Grand
As Sir Michael Caine ended a week in Las Vegas and boarded his return flight to London on Sunday night with his wife, Shakira, he said: “That’s an 80th birthday celebration that will never be repeated. That was a musical superstar lineup that we’ll never see again.
“What a night. What a gala. What a party. It all turned out way ahead of what I thought it would be. And the greatest thing is that we were able to make the doctors and researchers of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health the real stars.”
Michael and his celestial twin Quincy Jones were honorees of this year’s 17th Keep Memory Alive “Power of Love” gala at MGM Grand, and with ticket sales and a silent and live auction that went sky high with bidding, it’s hoped that the charity will pass $10 million. Donations and the AXS TV texting are still coming in, and the 2-hour music spectacular airs on our Vegas Channel 14 on Saturday.
Michael told me they’d flown in earlier so they could spend a week of fine dining and seeing shows. They stayed at the Wynn as guests of Steve and Andrea Wynn. They saw two Cirque shows: “The Beatles’ Love” at The Mirage and “Ka” at MGM Grand. They dined at the new Asian hotspot Andrea’s in Steve Wynn’s Encore and at The Country Club at the Wynn.
“Receiving the keys to the city from Mayor Carolyn Goodman was the icing on all the 80th cakes,” laughed the two-time Oscar-winning British actor. “Now I can open all the slot machines and go into any club I want.”
The fantastic Keep Memory Alive weekend spearheaded by Larry Ruvo began Friday night at the downtown Frank Gehry-designed Lou Ruvo Center. Quincy and Michael started with a long TV interview about the work of our Alzheimer’s center and its doctors. Director Steven Spielberg recorded a welcoming videotape pledging his support.
More than 400 of the charity’s biggest donors joined the dinner and a 25-minute show by The Venetian headliners Human Nature. It was extra special with Quincy’s connection to Motown and Smokey Robinson, its star, producer and mentor to the four Australian singers. Quincy also introduced several of the new young talent he’s discovered for his new record label.
Mayor Goodman and the most recent former mayor, her husband Oscar, were onstage to present the keys to the city to the two stars. She proclaimed Friday as “Sir Michael Caine Day” and gave a proclamation to the music maestro for Saturday as “Quincy Jones Day.”
The gala began Saturday night with a red carpet at MGM Grand Garden Arena, and our thanks to Richard Corey for his YouTube videos and Tom Donoghue for his photo coverage.
MGM Grand Garden Arena was totally transformed: The upper level became a richly curtained tunnel of love with silent auction stations for the reception cocktail party. I was on the microphone as off-camera MC and announcer for the night and invited guests to come down the two winding grand staircases of our stage and into the gloriously decorated arena set up with more than 150 tables.
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and star chef Wolfgang Puck’s Las Vegas team of chefs pulled off a dining miracle serving their magnificent three-course meal simultaneously to 1,700 guests, the largest number to date. (When KMA started 17 years ago, it was just 60 people pledging support.)
Many of the guests shelled out $100,000 per table, with individual tickets $1,500. I purchased two as a gift for my doctor and his wife. U2 frontman Bono paid all of his expenses to fly from England and bought a table for his group. All of the stars donated the mandatory union TV broadcast payments back to the charity to perform for free.
Others at the tables included Cirque founder Guy Laliberte and his executive team, Steve and Andrea, his former wife Elaine Wynn, Sheldon Adelson’s Venetian/Palazzo table and Siegfried & Roy, who had been honored at our ABC telecast gala in 2009 with their final farewell performance.
2013 Keep Memory Alive at MGM Grand
Patti Austin and James Ingram
Since then, we’ve had ever-growing star-studded galas with Celine Dion, Barry Manilow, last year’s Muhammad Ali 70th birthday celebration and now this year’s star-studded salute to Michael and Quincy. Our thanks to Denise Truscello and Isaac Brekken from WireImage and KMA photographer Curtis Dahl for their inside photo coverage.
Our night started with the auction brilliantly run with Spanky Assiter from Barrett-Jackson in Phoenix. I juggled the introductions, and Larry brought in $1.2 million from Steve Wynn’s double gift of a week aboard his private yacht never chartered before. That was followed with furious bidding that hit $200,000 for dinner with George Clooney. Supermodel Cindy Crawford told me she was “floored in disbelief” that a dinner with her topped $110,000. Tennis with Las Vegas residents and legends Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf also was up for grabs.
It was an extraordinary lineup of stars, with Larry King and Rashida Jones introducing Larry and Camille Ruvo and Dr. Toby Cosgrove, head of the Cleveland Clinic. I welcomed “Parks & Recreation” star Amy Poehler, who introduced Bono to kick off the concert. During rehearsals, he leaned over to me at the edge of the stage where I had the mics and dual-screen HD monitors to tell me that he was nervous singing Frank Sinatra’s “Got You Under My Skin’ and “Fly Me To The Moon” live for the first time.
“I only taped one Sinatra song previously, and we had time to do that a couple of times to get it right. This is the first time live, and that’s really getting to me,” he told me. He needn’t have worried; it was a flawless, big-band beauty!
Bono was followed onstage by the superb Jennifer Hudson, Chris Tucker, Jordin Sparks performing for the first time with boyfriend Jason Derulo, Snoop Lion (formerly Snoop Dogg) and Siedah Garrett. Arsenio Hall set up the astonishing, riveting jazz tribute with Herbie Hancock and Carlos Santana.
A video tribute to Quincy noted the dozens of musical hits he’s achieved during his decorated career. Nothing could have been more appropriate at that moment than Patti Austin and James Ingram singing the lush and powerful “How Do You Keep The Music Playing.”
Then I introduced Gordon for his salute to Michael, which was followed by a video highlighting his long and successful movie career, with singer Chaka Khan performing “Alfie.” I introduced Whoopi Goldberg for her speech about Quincy, which set up the Ray Charles tribute performance by Bebe Winans, Stevie Wonder and Quincy’s new discovery, Nikki Yanofsky.
Then it was time for Quincy and Michael to walk and run onstage as Stevie sang “Happy Birthday,” and one of the largest birthday cakes ever produced here was rolled onstage by two MGM Grand chefs. Quincy said: “I’m so proud of this night being on behalf of charity. Living, laughing, loving and giving -- that’s what life is all about.”
Michael put it perfectly: “Me and Q have been called legends, but the real legends are the doctors at Larry Ruvo’s brain clinic.” Then Michael and Quincy invited Larry and Camille onstage to join all the artists for the “We Are the World” sing-along finale.
There was only one technical hiccup during the 6 hours of festivities. The giant paintings on rolling easels donated for the auction by George Rodriguez and Romeo Britto became jammed in the crowded backstage area, and we had to jump out of sequence before they were freed to roll on. Michael and Quincy finished the brush strokes of Romeo’s masterpiece and autographed it at the Brain Center only 24 hours earlier.
In between all the introductions, I chatted with Bono, Amy, Snoop, Gordon, Arsenio, Gayle King, Will Smith, Buzz Aldrin and Robert Davi, all of whom hung out with us at stage side. The talent wranglers did an exceptional job of ensuring that everybody was in the right position with us one segment ahead of their own. My thanks to producer Dan Parisi and Ally Taylor on either side of me throughout.
It was a challenging live broadcast. We had to pre-record the first 28 minutes of the night and then start rolling it at 9 p.m. to hit the live concert. Miraculously, and thanks to a promo from our Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority seen nationwide on Ryan Seacrest and Mark Cuban’s AXS, we were on time. You’d never have known the first segment had been recorded 2 hours earlier!
Keep Memory Alive started in 1996 as a simple memorial dinner by Larry after he lost his father, Lou, to Alzheimer’s. Over the years of his personal and persistent quest to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, Larry’s efforts and fundraising led to the groundbreaking in 2007. Cleveland Clinic became its medical partner in 2009, and in the past three years, physicians have provided more than 35,000 patient visits, with now almost 30 continuing clinical trials for a cure, the largest in the nation. Former Presidents George H. Bush, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Mexican President Vicente Fox, Gen. Colin Powell and numerous celebrities have visited the facility, the largest of its kind West of the Mississippi.
The importance of finding a cure is more important than ever as brain and movement disorders are growing at an extraordinary rate. One in every eight adults older than age 65 develops Alzheimer’s by age 65. Eventually, it will be one in every two people. KMA galas keep the center operating, assisting patients and funding the clinical trials for a cure.
“I’m convinced that we will find the cure right here in Las Vegas,” says Larry emphatically. “Thanks to so many wonderful friends and stars such as Quincy and Michael, the generosity and outpouring of support for our goal is the best in the world.”
Our own Vegas Channel 14 on Cox Cable will broadcast the AXS special on Saturday at 8 p.m. Quincy and Michael meet up again for more 80th birthday festivities July 24 at Royal Opera House in Covent Garden London. On July 21, Quincy celebrates at the Montreaux Jazz Festival and on July 31, it’s his final birthday bash with Japanese music executive Tom Nagashima in Tokyo.
As Michael summed up for me: “It was an extraordinary and incredible, magical night nobody will ever forget.”
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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