Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013 | 12:24 a.m.
At 82 years of age, legendary actress, singer and dancer Mitzi Gaynor can still kick up a storm, flash her legs and be hysterically funny. She proved all three when our Nevada Ballet Theater saluted the vivacious star at its 29th annual Black & White Ball as Woman of the Year.
Mitzi followed in the footsteps of previous honorees including Debbie Reynolds, Carol Channing, Celine Dion, Ann-Margret, Rita Rudner, Paula Abdul, Bette Midler, Marie Osmond, Priscilla Presley and, last year, Eva Longoria.
Mitzi, speaking in a French accent, used Franglais to have the dinner guests at the Bellagio over the weekend roaring out loud, and several times didn’t mince words to win her laughs and a standing ovation.
Mitzi invited me to sit at her head table with legendary Hollywood designer Bob Mackie, who served as honorary chairman of the swell-egant affair. Mitzi and I met in the days of my TV series “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous.” She’s still going strong in her 80s with her one-woman show “Razzle Dazzle: My Life Behind the Sequins.”
The Black & White Ball is one of our city’s premiere social events. It began with a VIP reception where the creme de la creme of Las Vegas society was entertained by NBT student dancers. Bellagio President Randy Morton hosted the dinner with co-chair Nancy Houssels, NBT co-founder. James Canfield and Beth Barbre introduced George Balanchine’s “Rubies Pas de Deux” performed by two NBT dancers, with education and outreach program students performing “Let’s Go.”
Christian Kolberg was auctioneer with Morning Zoo DJ Chet Buchanan raising funds for Future Dance with a paddle raise. Our thanks to contributing photographer David Becker of WireImage for his beautiful photo gallery.
Mitzi is an Emmy Award-winning star of stage and screen and won global fame for the film adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “South Pacific.” She has 17 films to her credit and debuted as a concert artist in 1961 for a record-breaking run at the Flamingo.
Mitzi greeted the hundreds of guests, including singer Pia Zadora, CityCenter chief Bobby Baldwin, Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health chief Dr. Jeffrey Cummings, reality TV star Holly Madison and “Pin Up” starlet Claire Sinclair. She also paid tribute onstage to former American Ballet Theater’s principal ballerina Cynthia Gregory, who moved here two years ago to work with NBT.
It was a night of extraordinary glamour, and the adorable Mitzi summed up the five-hour celebration perfectly: “This was an absolutely fabulous night. I never dreamed when I came to Las Vegas first in 1961 -- that’s 50 years ago -- that I would be invited back for this honor. I couldn’t feel more proud or be more happier.”
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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Inspired by the beautiful villages of Europe, the AAA Five Diamond Bellagio overlooks a Mediterranean-blue, 8 ½-acre lake, where fountains perform a magnificent aquatic ballet choreographed to music and lights.
Within Bellagio are award-winning dining experiences including two AAA Five Diamond restaurants, Julian Serrano's Picasso and Le Cirque from the renowned Maccioni family.
Bellagio is home to an impressive collection of luxury retailers including Louis Vuitton, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Tiffany & Co., Breguet, Prada, Fred Leighton, Chanel, Dior, Fendi, Bottega Veneta, Hermès and OMEGA.
A world-class art gallery, the exquisite Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, the stunning “O” by Cirque du Soleil, a luxurious spa and salon, dynamic nightlife at The Bank, Hyde Bellagio and Lily Bar & Lounge and an elegant casino all add to the extraordinary Bellagio experience.