The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Sometimes life on the red carpet can throw you a curve ball. Like, there was this moment when a limo pulled up, and the crowd surrounding the celebrity entrance errupted in cheers.
A current movie star?! Hit-making recording artist?
No. It was NFL and VH1 star Terrell Owens, who was never referred to by his proper name at Churchill Downs. It was just “T.Ooooooooooooo!” from the crowd, starting the moment he got out of his ride until he disappeared into upper-level suite.
Turns out there was some good reason for Louisville to give T.O. … uh, I mean Owens … love.
Owens’ publicist, Kita Williams, a duPont Manual High School graduate, lobbied Owens to film part of the second season of the show in Louisville.
Celebrity Chef Guy Fieri also attracted a cheering crowd while making his way from the red carpet to the the suites, stopping once in response to a picture request saying, “If you’ve got a camera you can take one now.”
The Secretariat film crew continued its good will tour with movie star Diane Lane arriving earlier in the afternoon and Secretariat owner Penny Chenery, the woman Lane plays, being one of the last to arrive.
“It’s weird to have your life portrayed on a big screen,” Chenery said. “If it helps people realize how wonderful racing is, and how generous the horses are to run their hearts out for us, that’s all I hope for.”
In its first year, the $1,000 Woodford Reserve mint julep was a somewhat audacious indulgence – although it does benefit a charity.
Now, for some people at least, it has become a tradition.
“This is my sixth,” said Lori Kissinger of Berrysburg, Pa. “I have two, actually, from 2007. I bought one the first year to commemorate my wedding. I bought one the second year and then actually won the auction for the one with Sir Barton Triple Crown cup with the rubies in it – so I was the winning bid for that, so I got two that year. Then 2008, 2009, 2010.”
Cradling her sixth K julep, Kissinger said it is well worth it because of the cause – the Barnstable-Brown Diabetes and Obesity Research Center at the University of Kentucky, this year – and the exotic ingredients in the julep, like ice from a glacier. She keeps her commemorative cups in an armoire at her home, though she says, “no one back home really knows their significance. They say, ‘Oh, what’s that?’ and I say, ‘It’s just a cup.’”
This year’s juleps were capped at 73 because, “this is the 73rd year the mint julep has been the official drink of the Kentucky Derby,” Woodford reserve Master distiller Chris Morris said.
And this year, like the four previous, the juleps have been sold out.
It’s probably not what most women want to do: take a carefully selected hat and dress for Derby day and compliment it with a pair of plastic or rubber rain boots.
But faced with conditions dreadfully unworthy of the First Saturday in May, that is the choice many women made, creating an unintentionally cute signature look for Derby 136.
“I thought that was kind of cool, kind of intense, skull and cross bones,” Kate Sheridan of Illinois said, dining near Gate 10 with some friends. She also noted that her gray, piratey boots were fur lined, though warmth wasn’t yesterday’s issue.
And plastic boots weren’t beneath anyone, even a regional representative for Tiffany & Co., working at Woodford Reserve’s $1,000 mint julep kiosk. Susanne Halmi said when she and her staff saw today’s forecast, they went to Target and bought a supply.
Surprisingly, there was little fear of ruining an outfit.
“It’s better than a big poncho,” Candace Marsiglia of Maryland said, standing with her friends, all wearing Saturday’s hottest accessory.
Shawntaye Hopkins played a critical role in reporting this item because, hey, I’m a dude. I didn’t know what to ask.
Several infield dwellers at Kentucky Derby 136 said their bucket lists brought them out to the race on a morning when it was raining buckets.
“The Indianapolis 500, the Derby,” Sarah Hoge of Lodi, Ohio, said and a companion added, “We’re dying.”
The Bucket List was a concept introduced into popular culture by a Morgan Freeman-Jack Nicholson film about a man ticking off the list of things he wanted to do before he died (kicked the bucket).
Having Derby on Toni Klimek’s list prompted her to drive in from Grand Rapids, Mich., and put up with the weather, even it was made the peacock feathers on her Derby hat wilt.
“It’s only a $2 hat,” she demurred.
It wasn’t necessarily a bucket list, but a last little fling of freedom before children and marriage that brought San Francisco-area residents Kevin and Charlie Meng across the country.
“He’s about to have his first child, and I’m getting married in three weeks,” Charlie said. “Our dad was really into horse racing, so this seemed like a cool thing to do.”
And despite the weather, ladies in the infield were not giving up their fancy hats.
“It’s the Derby,” Jessica Gemma said, tugging on her home made chapeau inspired by Aretha Franklin’s hat at President Barack Obama’s inauguration. “You have to make a fancy hat and wear it.”
I already spotted a lot of rain boot fashion walking from gate 10 to the media center. Flowers, polka-dots – it’s sorta like Derby fashion without the fabric.
Right now, forecasters seem to be calling for clearing later this morning, but if the sun comes out, the heat could set up thunderstorms later, like, uh, around Derby time.
Louisville was hammered with pre-dawn deluges and thunderstorms, which judging by the Weather Channel radar, are now on top of Lexington. I am heading over to the infield to catch up with the loons people that were here when the gates opened.
May1While the forecast is calling for possible flash floods for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, it was a flash flood of stars that turned out for Friday night’s 23rd annual Barnstable Brown Party.“This is my first Derby,” said CBS newsman Bob Schieffer, the first celebrity to arrive. “I hear this party is over the top.”The idea of the party is bringing a little bit of Hollywood to Louisville’s Highlands neighborhood.
And those stars were out, including actor Jerry O’Connell declaring his love for all things Kentucky, such as bourbon and the Wildcats.And this year’s gala highlighted local talent too, with Cats Coach John Calipari and members of the University of Kentucky basketball team on the guest list and the UK Opera Theatre on stage.While he is departing for the NBA, Patrick Patterson promied he would be back for events like the Derby.
“I love Kentucky,” he said. “I love the fans.”“JOHN WALL! JOHN WALL!” cheered Louisville fans surrounding the barricades along the front lawn of host Patricia Barnstable Brown’s home.And as the stars kept coming out, the cheers rained down.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich