Derby: Scenes from the red carpet

Actress Debra Messing, left, had her photo taken with Penny Foster, right, as she entered the Downs after making an appearance on the Red Carpet at the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Saturday May 5, 2012. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff HERALD-LEADER

Click here for a HUGE gallery of celebrity photos from the Kentucky Derby.

Click here for a package of red carpet videos from over the weekend, including the shark hunter nabbing the Copious Notes camera.

Rich’s note: Reporter Josh Kegley and I teamed up to cover the celebs who arrived and walked the red carpet – ahem, a group that notably did not include Ashton Kutcher. Here’s some of what we saw.

Joey Fatone, best known as a member of the band N-Sync, goofed off with his friends on the red carpet, dancing and taking photos. You wouldn’t know it from his performance at the Derby, but he was also on Dancing with the Stars.

Debra Messing arrived with a big secret: what will happen in the final two episodes of her hit NBC drama Smash, which centers on a Broadway show about Marilyn Monroe.

“If I told you, I would have to kill you,” she said to a reporter who asked which character would end up playing Monroe. “It’s a big scoop.”

She was wearing a gray Carolina Herrera dress to the Derby, her first time at the event.

Kate Flannery, who plays Miranda on The Office, NBC’s popular sitcom, said she had been in town since Thursday attending events and representing Blessings in Backpacks, a charity that feeds needy kids.

Flannery said it was the second time she’s come to the Derby. “Last time I was here, the Queen was here, so there’s a little less security,” she said.

She looked around and said, “I thought she was going to be here. She never called me.”

Country star Miranda Lambert drew much attention from photographers and Derby goers. She arrived with an entourage of about five people, ahead of a security guard who informed reporters Lambert’s group was celebrating a birthday and would like their photos taken.

In response to the guard’s booming voice, the cadre of photographers lining the red carpet obliged.

Lambert, in a short, white dress and understated black derby hat with a veil-like fringe, didn’t speak with print reporters, but appeared to talk to TV cameras down the line. A Louisville police officer was near her the whole time.

Louisville Men’s Basketball Coach Rick Pitino walked the red carpet hand-in-hand with his wife, Joanne. He picked Bodemeister to win. She picked Union Rags.

Speaking of well-known NCAA coaches, University of Kentucky men’s coach John Calipari snuck down the carpet before the official start of the event, before all the reporters had set up. He talked cheerfully with a couple TV reporters before exiting the red carpet.

Asked why he loves Derby, country music star and Danville native Eddie Montgomery replied “It’s home. That’s the bottom line. It’s Kentucky, baby.”

Montgomery is one half of the duo Montgomery Gentry, which will play a Tornado relief benefit Tuesday at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom with Laura Bell Bundy.

Patricia Barnstable Brown, whose Derby Eve bash is an annual event, said coming to the Derby the next day, “is fabulous, because I’m not throwing the Derby. Somebody else gets to take over.”

Next year is a major anniversary for the Gala, which will have its 25th edition.

“I’ll start planning Monday,” said Brown, who arrived with her twin sister Priscilla in virtually matching golden outfits.

Allison Lundergan Grimes, who was elected Kentucky’s Secretary of State last year, looked every bit the Derby celebrity as she walked the red carpet with her husband, Andrew. Wearing a flowery hat from Del Mar and a blue dress, she said it was unusual to be on the red carpet.

“A year ago, we drove into Derby seeing our (election) yard signs everywhere. Now we’re coming to Derby walking the red carpet,” she said. “This is a day where every Kentuckian is showcased, and I’m humbled to be a part of it.”

Gov. Steve Beshear and his wife, Jane, were accompanied by Medal of Honor Recipient Sgt. Dakota Meyer. Meyer was arm-in-arm with a woman he called a friend, Dana Benedict, from New Jersey.

When asked if this was his first time in Kentucky, Max Adler, who plays Dave Karofsky on the megahit series Glee, said he has been filming a movie in Corbin. The movie, 23 Blast, is based on the true story of Travis Freeman, who played on the Corbin High School football team despite being blind from bacterial meningitis.

Adler said he enjoyed his time in the Bluegrass State, which he spent filming for about a month. A reporter asked him what he had learned about the state.

“There’s like a passion … that Kentuckians have about where they live and where they’re from,” he said. “It’s very family oriented, and they know how to make great drinks, and they have moonbows at Cumberland Falls.”

Comedian Fred Willard, in blue blazer and khakis, feigned surprise when he stepped onto the red carpet, as if he hadn’t noticed the wall of photographers waiting. He struck a pose like the women in the fancy dresses and hats, with one leg crossed over the other and hands on his hips, then reached into his wallet and pulled out a single dollar bill, holding it up sheepishly.

“I’m betting it all today,” he said.

Willard was still deciding what horse to pick for the big win. He said he would choose after finding out who everyone else was picking.

“I’d love to bet on a longshot, but I’ve found that favorites usually do best,” he said.

The normally chatty red carpet came alive with music as jazz saxophonist Ski Johnson arrived.

“I just like to play,” the jazzman said after blowing a few tunes like My Old Kentucky Home on his horn. “Whenever I do the red carpet, I bring it. It’s a part of me. It’s what I do.”

As he arrived, he said he had not picked a Derby Horse yet. But his new album, coming out in June, is called Underdogs on Top, “so whatever horse is the less favorite, I’m going with that one.”

Celebrity chef Guy Fieri, who draws much discussion whenever he comes to town to feature a local eatery on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, said he didn’t know what the buzz was all about.

“I’m just a dude. I’m just a chef. This whole thing on television is kind of a crazy, trippy thing that happened in the first place,” he said.

Fieri said he loved the people and the atmosphere of the Derby, but what about the drinks?

“I love the mint julep. Especially when I drink it out of that glass I paid a bunch of money for,” he said.

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