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May 6, 2009

Celebrity Derby

The best part of star-struck is getting back to normal

After four years as the editor-in-chief of OK! Weekly, working in New York City and being bothered daily by celebrity shenanigans and A-list attitude (I cared far more about Jennifer Aniston’s dating issues than my own), I was excited to move to Louisville in January. I couldn’t totally abandon my life of star-sucking-up, but I certainly intended to do it on more of a part-time basis.

My excitement at being in the city for my first Derby was marred by the onslaught of “celeb names” visiting and hosting events. I had fully intended to drink too many mint juleps on my porch and persuade my next-door neighbor to set up a betting stand. I hadn’t planned on getting sucked back into a life of rude bouncers, overzealous PR people and arrogant Z-listers who possess about one furlong of the world’s talent resources, but act like they’ve won life’s race.

But my parents and aunt and uncle declared they were flying over from London for the weekend, and thinking it would be fun for them (why didn’t I know better?), I RSVP-ed my socks off to keep them entertained with tales for back home.

The Celebrity Lunch at Churchill Downs, run by the Kentucky Derby Festival, was certainly the most joyous event — for me, not just the oldies I was escorting. Why? Well, it wasn’t just down to the brisket and bourbon chicken, or the great views of the track. No, it was because the celebrities attending their (cringingly titled) namesake of a luncheon actually had talent. Father-and-son show Ken and Kenny Perry — the elder wearing a fetching pair of dungarees — mingled politely, while the superwomen of the U of L women’s basketball team stood Amazonian-like among the crowd, graciously posing for photos. They didn’t even laugh at the lady with a flashing Christmas tree of a hat balanced on her head. No, the event was lovely and when people (my golf-mad father one of them) got star-struck, I could understand. Sure, we were all hoping Tom Cruise might be lured to his hometown by the promise of delicious apple pie and a mint julep in a commemorative glass, but we were happy with our lot.

On Derby eve, at the Kim Kardashian party (officially called the 2nd Annual Derby Spectacular) at Glassworks, things got a bit more frenzied. After surly security guards tried to evict our posse from the building and out into the cold rain for the fourth time (to be fair, my mother and auntie did look like they were looking for a church fete, not the bar at Louisville’s hottest party), I got a bit stroppy and demanded to see whomever was running it. Luckily, a charming lady was very embarrassed we’d been treated so shoddily, and gave us all sparkly VIP wristbands. This took us away from the crazy-eyes (the fans who could turn into murderous stalkers at the release of their icon’s big film/album/fitness video) and into the players’ den … where the bonus seemed to be plates of free sushi. The big cocks of The Ville were all here, strutting their stuff and clearly feeling very sexy. I forbade my husband to pay too much attention to the pole-dancer look-alikes dressed in child-size jockey costumes (what a nice gesture — a not-so-subtle reminder as to why we’re all out getting drunk and fighting for taxis) while my aunt expressed her concern that their lashings of fake tans would stain their silks. I assured her they probably didn’t have to do their own washing, and we moved on. We didn’t get to see Kim, but I hear her bottom is as beautiful as you’d imagine. Especially after a bottle of Woodford Reserve. And the game girl even jumped into the DJ booth to spin a few tunes. She also took her mother, so I felt less of a geek for taking mine.

Paris Hilton’s party over on Fourth Street Live was the most hectic. Wherever that gal goes, chaos seems to follow — and that’s just how she likes it. The highpoint for most Louisvillians who are into that kind of thing was spotting Nick Lachey as he swaggered past.

But the ass-licking was a little too much for me and my folks. We couldn’t wait to leave the celebrity set and slip into the Galt House for a nightcap and a bit of quiet conversation.

Thirty-three years old? After my first Derby weekend, I feel more like 73.