We could work any number of cliches about stars over Louisville or just say, it’s Derby time. That means celebrities.
As with every year, the guest lists at Derby Eve parties and in the luxury seats and boxes are filled with newcomers and old friends, current marquee toppers and names from the past.
A surefire way to get someone coming back to the Derby is to get them here the first time as recent first timers now back for more include Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, who will once again be auctioning off a guitar at the Barnstable-Brown Gala, and Dallas star Josh Henderson, returning for a third time to the Barnstables and the big race.
Making a very strong play for its place in the Derby Eve party constel … uh … among the Derby Eve events is the newly minted Hermitage Grand Gala, hosted by 21c Museum Hotels owners Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson at their Hermitage Farm in Goshen along with former University of Louisville basketball standout and NBA star Junior Bridgeman and his wife Doris Bridgeman. The event is a sort of marriage of the two presenters’ previous Derby Eve parties.
Their lineup is topped by entertainers Darius Rucker, who promises a 45-minute set of solo and Hootie and the Blowfish classics; R&B chart-topper Ne-Yo and DJ Cassidy, a New York spinner whose personal style is tres Derby.
Topping the guest list is movie star and comedian Chris Rock, joined by fellow actors Martin Lawrence, David Arquette, Dean Norris of Breaking Bad and Under the Dome, Chadwick Boseman of Get On Up, Oscar nominee Angela Bassett, actor and director Tate Taylor, singer Nick Lachey and his wife Vanessa Minnillo Lachey, TV personalities Andy Cohen and Star Jones, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and The Help novelist Kathryn Stockett.
OK, someone at this party needs to get Bassett and Boseman to channel their Tina Turner and James Brown performances onstage, and it could melt down.
Also on the guest list, according to some sources, is University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari.
Meanwhile, back in Louisville, a number of this year’s thrilling UK men’s basketball team will be at the Barnstable-Brown Gala, now in its 27th year. Cats expected in attendance include Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Devin Booker, Dakari Johnson, Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein. They will be joined by UK’s biggest football alum now in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers’ Randall Cobb and fellow Packers Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews.
The guest list of twins Patricia Barnstable Brown and Priscilla Barnstable also includes Super Bowl champion (again) New England Patriots Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.
As is usually the case, the Barnstables have the longest guest list, including musicians Brian McKnight, New Edition’s Johnny Gill, Boyz II Men, Run DMC’s Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, country star Clay Walker, Michael Jackson guitarist and solo artist Orianthi, country musician Terri Clark, Ron Isley of the Isley Brothers, Salt-N-Pepa, Morris Day, Travis Tritt, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., Mary Wilson of the Supremes, ‘N Sync’s Joey Fatone and newly inducted Kentucky Music Hall of Famers Montgomery Gentry.
Reality TV tends to make a strong showing at the Derby, with stars such as Robert Herjavec of Shark Tank, Kym Johnson of Dancing With the Stars and multi-show star Kendra Wilkinson and Hank Baskett. From the scripted TV world, there is Stephen Amell of Arrow, Liam McIntyre of Spartacus and Julie Benz of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dexter. This party also attracts a smashing model or two and Victoria’s Secret model Lindsay Ellingson is on this year’s guest list.
We didn’t finish the athlete list earlier, which also includes football stars Wes Welker of the Denver Broncos, Vince Wilfork of the Houston Texans and Matt Cassel of the Buffalo Bills, NHL player Erik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche, Ohio State basketball standout and NBA hopeful D’Angelo Russell and NBA players Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers and former Cats Julius Randle of the Los Angeles Lakers and Nerlens Noel of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Also returning this year are Olympic ice skaters and social media and TV personalities Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski, who will be interviewing the stars themselves on NBC’s red carpet Saturday.
That’s where all the stars will converge, including attendees at the Unbridled Eve Derby Gala at the Galt House in Downtown Louisville. The event’s website is somewhat murky on who is coming this year, but the Courier-Journal reports the guest list includes TV stars Sarah Hyland of Modern Family, David Walton of About a Boy, Rose McGowan of The WB’s Charmed and the movie Scream, Diego Klattenhoff of The Blacklist, Don Most of Happy Days, Paget Brewster of Criminal Minds and Friends, Maj Delfino most recently seen on Friends With Better Lives and personalities Robin Meade of CNN and Bachelor and Bachelorette star Bob Guiney.
There are a few film stars coming including Michelle Rodriguez of the Fast and Furious franchise, Claire Forlani of Meet Joe Black and Cheech Marin of Cheech and Chong fame.
Musicians include American Idol winners Ruben Studdard and Kris Allen, Wayne Nelson of the Little River Band and country artist Ray Scott.
Sports stars include jockey Jean Cruguet, who rode Seattle Slew to the Triple Crown; football stars Chris Cantry of the Baltimore Ravens and Warren Moon of the Houston Oilers, and Louisville basketball star Luke Hancock.
Author Nora Roberts is expected along with model Bonnie Jill Laflin and pageant winners Miss America Kira Kazantsev, Ms. Kentucky United States Laura Grant, Miss Kentucky United States Katie Himes and Miss Teen Kentucky United States Adrienne Poole.
And here’s the wildcard: You never know who else might show up.