Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014 | 2:04 p.m.
It was a glittering 30th anniversary celebration, a night of glamorous legends topped off with a $1 million donation from our leading lady Elaine Wynn. The annual Black & White Ball for our Nevada Ballet Theater at Aria sparkled from start to finish.
It began with the gorgeous gems and beautiful baubles at the VIP champagne reception at Cartier in Crystals at CityCenter all the way to the huge birthday cake wheeled onstage to celebrate Woman of the Year Florence Henderson’s 80th birthday on Valentine’s Day.
Flamingo headliner Marie Osmond sent a video greeting from her hotel showroom where she was performing, and stunning Mitzi Gaynor, last year’s honoree, returned to pay tribute to her friend Florence.
Best known as Carol Brady on “The Brady Bunch,” Florence was escorted by one of her daughters and her “Brady Brunch” co-stars Barry Williams and Christopher Knight.
Also on the red carpet: Venetian headliner Rita Rudner, Rio headliners Chippendales, Excalibur headliners Thunder From Down Under and Stratosphere headliner Claire Sinclair (“Pin Up”).
Our thanks to Denise Truscello for her photo gallery and Scott Harrison for his red carpet coverage. Florence told me that she had just visited the ballet company to talk with the teachers and students.
In her speech Saturday night, she had guests roiled in laughter with a couple of risque jokes. She talked of her wish for the man with the 4-hour erection from Viagra to stop by her home on the way to the emergency room!
Then she suggested that big-money donor Elaine should have a naughty and sexy night to celebrate the big gift. Florence’s biggest laugh was when she revealed that she once asked comedy legend George Burns if he still had sex in his 90s, and he said, “Yes, but an orgasm at my age is dust!”
The graceful and elegant future dance students and the professional company of NBT performed several choreographed routines during the evening, and their beautiful “Swan Lake”-esque ballet to the music of violinists Bella Electric Strings was pure joy and beauty.
Christian Kolber conducted the auction and raised more than $20,000 for an at-home dinner catered for 12 by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and purchased by CityCenter chief Bobby Baldwin. Las Vegas radio DJ Chet Buchanan raised $100,000+ with a drive among guests that he conducted from the stage.
In keeping with the Black & White Ball, guests were dressed in fashion-fabulous tuxedos, long designer gowns and eye-popping jewelry, and tables were decorated in black-and-white sequined cloths.
I had an exclusive one-on-one chat with Elaine about her $1 million donation — and her outright admiration for the Francis Bacon trio painting of Lucien Freud purchased by a mystery buyer at a Christie’s auction in November for $143 million. Elaine won’t comment on the identity of the purchaser, even though The New York Times has named her as the buyer.
I’ll post our full conversation right here at Vegas DeLuxe on Monday and leave you to draw the conclusion as to if she is its proud owner. She did wink, saying that she knew the owner would really care for it and probably had some exciting plans for it that could involve Las Vegas.
Be sure to check back for the full story Monday in her first interview about the artwork since news of its sale rocked the art world.
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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