The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Ralph Scott of Louisville and Sylvia Smith of London – the London — came to their first Derby wondering if they would even bet. But they looked at the odds and decided to put some bills on Orb and Revolutionary.
“I’m here for two more years,” Scott said of Louisville, where he is stationed in the military.
Safe bet, they’ll be back to the Derby. 6:35 p.m.
As the race approaches, people settle into where they are going to be. People who had holed up to avoid the rain all day took their uncovered seats. People unable to actually see the track piled into places where they could see TV screens, including a crowd ascending a picnic table in the paddock.
By the way, the reverent singing of My Old Kentucky Home does not take place in the paddock. They cheer it when it is done, but the singalong is absent. It is a reactive crowd.
One guy, with a Dollar General Bag on his head and swim goggles on his eyes looked at me and said, “My God. This is going to change my life.”
“You don’t want to catch a cold on Derby Day!” she yells, holding her wares aloft. “Get you ponchos!”
If it had not turned out to be a chilly rainy day, McShane and Jessica Ellrick would have been selling T-shirts Event Toyz outside the Downs. But there is always a rain plan to come in, as official vendors, and sell $5 ponchos if it rains.
“A lot of people came prepared to look awesome, they didn’t come prepared for this,” Ellrick said.
Among those types of folks were Armida Hoffman of Tucson, Ariz., and Jean-Paul Rousselle of Springfield, Mo., who looked like they put more than the week they claimed they devoted to putting together their crisp outfits that were under clear Walgreen’s ponchos.
“You do what you can to make it work,” said Rousselle. One of Hoffman’s strategies was a poncho over her flowing hat.
Seated in the grandstands, they said they tried to spend much of the day under cover. But they were making their way back to their seats for the Derby.
“We’ll be out there, even if it’s pouring,” Hoffman said.
- Here’s the fun thing about Churchill Downs in rain: people swarm to the covered areas. There was a point coming back to the press center from the red carpet that I realized no one was moving. It was just interconnected clusters of people standing together that we had to burrow through. It almost makes getting drenched seem like a better option. 3:57 p.m.
- Next to horse racing (and drinking) star-gazing is another one of the hallowed traditions of the Kentucky Derby. Today, it also gave fans about three hours they could stand under an awning, shout for their favorite celebrities, and keep moderately dry.
“If you’re not going to watch horses, you might as well watch celebrities,” said Jordan Moody of Greensboro, N.C. She had just made friends with Pam Allen of Boston on the front row of star gazers, just beyond the red carpet. Among their favorites were Kid Rock, Lance Bass and Michael J. Fox. Hint, stars: fans like it when you stop and smile at them. Ben Yapp of New Hampshire was stoked to see Scotty Pippin.
Consensus is the Derby is a big draw for reality stars, athletes and former boy band members, not necessarily in that order. Lance Bass said his former N Sync band ate Joey Fatone got him interested in coming to the race. “He’s the pro,” said Bass, who added he’ll lean on Fatone to pick a winner.
“And I’m really competitive,” Abby Zern said.
Caitlin Robinson said, “we’re just going around doing anything that’s under a shelter.” Sporting shorts and flannel shirts, the Chicago troupe was a bit more dressed for the weather than other Infield dwellers.
“We know how to dress for the weather in Chicago,” Shannon Phillips said.
Still Kristin Koller, a nurse from Eden Prairie, Minn., worried, “these are perfect conditions for colds.”
Snuggling her Bud Light Lime in her new Dodge Ram coozie, Zern said, “I’m pretty sure that’s not why I’ll feel horrible tomorrow.” 11:37 a.m.
- A snazzily dressed trio from St. Louis invoked a variation of Dori’s catch phrase from Finding Nemo to describe how they were dealing with the wet weather in the Infield Saturday morning: “Just keep drinking,” Bridget Walsh said, cradling her first julep of the day. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Jamie Dupate said of the modest imbibing thus far. Their only concessions to the rain were shoes – loafers for Bridget and Walmart boots for Jamie. But the pink hats stayed. “It’s Derby. You don’t ditch the hat,” Jamie said.
And you don’t change your bachelor party plans. Despite the weather, Colin Toolan of Philadelphia still had his friends gathered in the infield to celebrate his July marriage. Some of the gentlemen were completing a personal Triple Crown, though Al Kane of Denver said, “The infield here isn’t as rowdy as it was at Preakness, at this hour.”
So there you have it, Kentucky Derby Infield, you have some catching up to do. 11:05 a.m. (Thanks to the Vineyard Vines tent for Infield shelter to write this.)
- This is my 15th Derby, but I am still fully capable of turning a corner and wondering, “where the heck am I?” Also wondering if I should interview the guy with a couple beers, already staggering into door posts at 10:15 a.m. — and I haven’t even made it to the infield yet.
- I’ll be roaming The Downs working to give you a sense of the day – with a break to schmooze celebrities around noon. The red carpet is covered, so I may be really looking forward to that. If there’s anything you think I should check out, tweet me @copiousnotes. 9:33 a.m.
- Alright, I did not beat the rain out to Churchill Downs, so the slog starts now. I am on the luxurious media shuttle into The Downs, also known as what appears to be a 1970s era Jefferson County S school bus. Ah, the glamorous life of Derby media. 9:28 a.m.
Everybody loves a hometown hero. UofL basketball star Peyton Siva could barely do interviews for all the fans cheering SIVA! SIVA! as he entered the Barnstable Gala. He said he was enjoying the love and looks forward to coming back, even after he’s moved on to the NBA. Seems the party did save the best for last this year. We’re out. 11:05 p.m.
I was about to go, but Joey Fatone is here. 10:32 p.m.
Perennial Barnstable Brown Gala guest Travis Tritt pointed out that he sang the national anthem at the NCAA men’s basketball championship, which Louisville won. Therefore, he said he is definitely putting money on coach Rick Pitono’s Goldencents because, “he’s on a roll.” 10:27 p.m.
Valerie Harper, who is battling lung cancer, said she was doing well and, “I’m not going to waste my life worrying about when I’m going to die, so I came to the Derby.” Former UK football star and current Green Bay Packer Randall Cobb said he always enjoys coming to his “second home.” 10:17 pm.
When the stars come, they come fast at Barnstable brown. Among things we picked up in the last 45 minutes or so: Emilio Estevez is working on a movie about harness racing at several locations, including the Red Mile. “Thoroughbred racing is the sport of kings,” he said. “But harness racing is the working man’s sport.” He said he was dressed in jeans and a blazer because he lost everything at the Oaks. Josh Henderson acknowledged he drinks plenty of bourbon on Dallas. Stephen Amell acknowledged throwing back a lot of Guinness at Fourth Street Live. Larry Birkhead said he would like to get back on the other side of the red carpet, as a working journalists again. Revenge’s Christa Allen said she knew nothing about the Derby but, “I love horses.”
Accounted for so far: Morris Day, Freddie Jackson, Clay Walker and David Denman. Freddie stopped to talk to us and said he’s happy to have a “return engagement. You don’t always get invited back.” He sang a few Bars of “You Are My Lady” to Christa from the C-J And said he was going to rely on the ladies to pick Derby winner for him. 9:07 p.m.
Just talked to Christopher Brown, Tricia Barnstable Brown’s son, about his memories of the party, which include dancing with Brooke Shields when he was a little boy and getting his picture taken with Mark Harmon when they were both wearing white tuxedoes. Brown, who is now an attorney in New York, says his favorite guests are the ones that come back every year and, “have become family friends.” 8:10 pm.
Generally they don’t put reporters and photographers on the red carpet, but that’s where we are, waiting out a windy, pre-party shower. Some of the journalists are playing around getting shots in front of the branded backdrop, while fans huddle under coats and umbrellas. Not the place you want to have several thousand dollars with of AV or photo gear. 7:20 p.m.
It is hurry up and wait time here at the Barnstable Brown Gala. Media usually start to arrive late afternoon, and then we get to hang around until around 9, when the stars start streaming in. But the red carpet is freshly vacuumed, the tripods are set up, and it looks like we have national press from E! and other outlets. Fans are starting to line the fence lines. C’mon Miranda.
Louisville’s Barnstable Brown Gala will celebrate its 25th edition with plenty of old friends and some new faces Derby Eve.
Among the familiar faces at the home of The ‘Ville’s hostess with the mostess, Patricia Barnstable Brown, will be reigning country superstar Miranda Lambert, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, pop chart-topper Kid Rock, former ‘N Sync member and TV star Joey Fatone, and UK coach John Calipari, according to Louisville’s Courier-Journal.
New stars coming out this year include Josh Henderson, who plays J.R. Ewing’s son on TNT’s Dallas, Krysten Ritter, who plays the title role in ABC’s Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23, Stephen Amell of the CW’s Arrow, model Coco Rocha, twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss of The Social Network fame, Peyton Siva of the national champion University of Louisville men’s basketball team, and UK’s Nerlens Noel.
According to the C-J, Larry Birkhead, whose famously met the late Anna Nicole Smith at the 2004 Barnstable party and had a daughter with her, will arrive with a camera crew in tow documenting his Derby experience.
The Barnstable party always boasts the longest celebrity guest list of the Derby parties, and this year is no different. The celebs can generally be broken down into several categories.
Country music will be well represented by Clay Walker; Kix Brooks, formerly of Brooks & Dunn; Travis Tritt; Lee Ann Womack; and Eddie Montgomery, of Kentucky’s Montgomery Gentry.
R&B and hip hop will be represented by Freddie Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Morris Day of Morris Day and the Time fame, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run-DMC, Taylor Dayne, and Johnny Gill of New Edition. The presence of Tony Award winner Jennifer Holliday means both actresses who won awards for playing Effie in Dreamgirls will be at Derby this year. Jennifer Hudson, who won her Oscar for playing the role in the film is appearing at the revived Grand Gala, Friday night. And Southern rock will be represented by Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Mark “Sparky” Matejka.
The acting attendees include David Denman of The Office and Drop Dead Diva, Terry O’Quinn of Lost, Mercedes Masohn of Chuck, Breakfast Club star Emilio Estevez, and American Pie star Jason Biggs.
And there are always plenty of human athletes in Louisville to watch the horses race: the NBA’s Anthony Davis and Darius Miller of UK’s 2012 national champion men’s basketball team, former UK and current Green Bay Packers star Randall Cobb, his Green Bay teammate linebacker Clay Matthews III, Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Matt Cassel, Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker, New England Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and Olympian Bode Miller.
While not everyone has reported Derby Eve plans as of this writing (11 p.m. Thurs., April 25), celebrity guest lists are starting to shape up for several May 3 events in Louisville.
One bash making a notable return to the scene is the Grand Gala, which was last held in 2009. It has moved to Derby Eve and the Marriott-Louisville East and boasts an honest-to-goodness Oscar and Grammy Award winner in Jennifer Hudson atop the guest list. Sports royalty will be there in the form of basketball great Shaquille O’Neal and newly minted NFL star Robert Griffin III, who Washington Redskins fans (like me) tend to think is best thing to happen to Washington’s team since John Riggins. If you want to go, sorry. This gala is already sold out.
If your tastes are a little more country, the Unbridled Eve Gala may be what you want with Academy of Country Music entertainer of the year award winner Luke Bryan topping the bill. Also on the guest list for the event at the Galt House are actress Jane Seymour, The Hills star Lauren Conrad, country star Jo Dee Messina, and regular Derby guest Jennifer Tilly.
Over at the KFC Yum! Center, modern rock pioneers The B-52′s will be playing at The Julep Ball for a crowd including emcees Tiki Barber and Claudia Coffey. Tickets are still available for this event.
As of now, we still have not heard who’s on the guest list at the Barnstable-Brown Gala, which usually boasts the Derby’s deepest celebrity roster. Watch LexGo.com and this space for word on that lineup.
My job is often to get celebrities to talk to me, not to tell them what they shouldn’t say.
But were I to ever be in the position of telling a celebrity how to conduct himself or herself in public, there is one six-word phrase I would tell them to never, ever, ever, ever say. In fact, I would advise them to train themselves to have an involuntary gag reflex if they start to say it, so as not to permanently relegate themselves to a subset of Hollywood infamy.
And because our beloved Commonwealth will be crawling with celebs next week as the Kentucky Derby approaches, I will dispense this one piece of advice:
Never let these words, or any variation on them, slip from your lips: “Do you know who I am?”
It will never turn out well.
Even if you are Rihanna, who was about to be kicked out of a London club last summer until she invoked the phrase and ended up getting to stay and enjoy free drinks the rest of the evening, the initial positive outcome will sour in this TMZ world, where every slip of the tongue goes viral. It is just difficult, if not impossible, to utter that self-aggrandizing sentiment without coming across as a conceited twit.
The latest celebrity to learn this lesson is America’s sweetheart, Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon, who reportedly asked a police officer, “Do you know my name?” — a variation of “Do you know who I am?” — while being arrested last weekend in Atlanta, where she is filming a movie. Witherspoon and her husband, agent James Toth, were pulled over April 19 on suspicion of drunken driving. Toth was at the wheel, but Witherspoon reportedly became increasingly agitated as Toth was put through a sobriety test and arrested.
According to the arrest report, Witherspoon told the officer, “You’re about to find out who I am” and, “You are going to be on national news,” as she was being taken in for disorderly conduct.
To Witherspoon’s credit, she has since apologized and said she was clearly in the wrong, and she has agreed to a pre-trial program to keep the arrest off her record.
The thing is, her admittedly drunk behavior is now permanently on the public, if not official, record. She will have some work to do convincing fans that the real Reese is not the one who tried to invoke her privileged status when things got tense.
Yes, celebrities at all levels make millions of dollars and achieve lauded status because people pay to see and hear their work.
But fans never want to know that you believe the hype, that you think you are as great as they say you are. And it really irritates people when you pull that on police officers, who make a lot less money than movie stars while doing a job that carries the risk of people sometimes shooting at them. In most cases, anyone who says, “Do you know who I am?” is saying it to someone whose life is less lucrative and more difficult than theirs.
And really, we’re much more charmed when you presume we don’t know who you are. Case in point: At the first Barnstable-Brown Derby Eve Gala I covered, a gentleman came up to me, extended his hand and said, “Robert Duvall” as if I didn’t recognize the esteemed Oscar-winning actor.
In an Internet where most viral video is humiliating, we were charmed last summer with a clip of a young musician on the subway talking to an older woman who clearly didn’t know he was megamogul Jay-Z, and he didn’t presume she did. The equity in the situation was obvious when it was revealed that the woman, artist Ellen Grossman, is famous in her own right.
So yes, Kentucky doesn’t rub right up next to New York or L.A., but we do know who most stars worth knowing are. But if you are here, don’t presume that we do, particularly if you’re being arrested.
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.”
The University of Kentucky Wildcats spotted one of their Big Blue bretheren on the red carpet and tried to wave him into the picture with them.
But the ol’ pro waved them on.
Patterson, who now plays for the Houston Rockets, said he wanted to, “Make them have their moment. People say, ‘Yo, go on down there with them.’ I said, no, that’s the championship team. Let them have their moment. Let them enjoy this as a unit. Let them enjoy this as a team, because they’ve been together. I stay back and do my own thing.”
Patterson is a Derby veteran, and he said he told the team, “Be ready to take thousands of pictures — sign autographs, kiss babies, mingle with the fans. Hopefully you’re wise, you make some good bets, and you’re going to have a lot of fun. You’ll see a lot of interesting people, a lot of celebrities. Pretty much just soak it all in, because this only happens a few times in your life.”
As for the team’s prospects in the upcoming NBA draft, Patterson said, “I’m going to step out on a limb. For the first time in history, all six people from Kentucky get drafted in a row … Watch, it’s going to happen. We’re going to make history.”
The question, what events are a good excuse to drink before noon yields a one-word answer from a number of folks: Derby.
Nursing Bloody Marys, a fairly traditional a.m. drink, Jared Studley (yes, that is his real name) of Nashua, N.H., and Jeff Smith of New York said getting a cocktail to start the day seemed to be the thing to do at their first Derby. Having been here for the Oaks on Friday, they even had the drink services at the Derby figured out.
Avoid the barkers carrying the juleps around, “because they’re kind of watered down after being in the sun a while,” Studley said.
They also aren’t fans of the general bars, and favor the tents set up by spirit makers such as Grey Goose vodka.
“Go with the professionals,” Smith said, adding, “it’s all the same price.”
Bonnie McCabe and Libby Spinella of Glastonbury, Conn., were splitting a Pink Lily, a vodka-based answer to the traditional julep, as they started their day.
“We didn’t want to get too out of hand this early,” Spinella joked. Later in the day, she said they would work up to Mint Juleps.
“Bourbon packs quite a punch,” Spinella said.
That said, it could wake you up before lunchtime.
Elizabeth Cruse and Christine A. Moore looked like a typical pair of Derby goers, snapping photos in front of the Paddock late Saturday morning.
But Moore comes to the Derby each year with her professional eye peeled to the Derby’s signature hats.
“I’ve been designing Derby hats for eight years,” says the New York-based milliner.
Derby obviously is prime time for Moore, who designed several prominent hats for this year’s Derby you probably have seen or will see, particularly if you’re watching at home. Her clients this year include the anchors for WLEX’s Derby Day coverage — Cruse is LEX personality Lee Cruse’s wife — and Mary J. Blige, who is singing the national anthem this afternoon.
“My publicist told me where to go to get a hat,” Blige said, on the
red carpet. “There are so many big hats out here, and I just couldn’t
do the big one, because my head is so small.”
“I made her a smaller rose hat to make sure you could see her face on TV,” Moore said of Blige’s design.
Overall the Triple Crown is good for Moore’s business, though in some unsuspected ways. The Preakness, she says, has generated a lot of business for her because Pimlico Race Course has been trying to pump up the social/fashion aspect of their race. And she gets better Belmont business when there is not a Triple Crown candidate.
“If there’s a Triple Crown horse, people have been planning as they go, but if not, they’re just having fun and are more willing to try something different,” says Moore, who also sells her hats at Keeneland.
This year will be my 15th Barnstable Brown Gala. The first few years I covered it, the media contingent was fairly modest: usually a group of us from the Herald-Leader and a reporter and photographer from the Courier-Journal, a cameraman and reporter from each Louisville TV station and at least one of theLexington stations. A writer from People magazine usually showed up, maybe with a photographer in tow.
Now, it is a celebrity gossip crush that rivals some red carpets I have covered in New Yorkand Toronto, with camera crews from shows like Access Hollywood and Entertainment Tonight as well as numerous other publications and websites. My favorite addition has been the guys from the Bourbon Blog (bourbonblog.com). I’ve stood next to them on the receiving line a couple years now, and asking celebs about their drink preferences seems to be a great ice breaker.
The way we have covered it has also changed. It used to be, being from out of town with noLouisvillenewsroom to run to, we would set up a big operation behind theBarnstablehome next to the caterers. It included a tent and, before the advent of wi-fi and mobile wi-fi, a phone line we had to get the phone company to drop in for us. The last few years, we have sent most everything in from the red carpet via handheld devices.
My firstBarnstableparty, my firstDerbycelebrity was a legitHollywoodA-lister in Robert Duvall, who lingered with me several minutes talking about his horse farms inVirginiaand reaffirming for this newcomer thatKentuckyis, “the mecca of thoroughbred racing.”
The Barnstable Brown Gala is a black tie affair, and that has traditionally included the media. It doesn’t always include the celebrities. When Kid Rock showed up in 2001 in a black tank top with an explicit phrase scrawled across the back, our photographer David Perry commented, “If I showed up in that, they wouldn’t let me through the gate.”
Maybe Rock got a talking to, because the next time he showed up, he had cleaned up significantly.
The 2004 bash was one for the books with streams of reality TV and pop music guests such as Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson in the throes of their Newlyweds celebrity and Nicole Richie at the height of her famous-for-being famous career with Paris Hilton on The Simple Life. Anna Nicole Smith seemed sort of like last year’s news as she had crashed the party the previous year with the crew from her show. Little did we know one of the defining stories of the Barnstable Brown legend was developing as that was the nightLouisville photographer Larry Birkhead met Smith, and they later had a child who ended up at the center of a paternity dispute following Smith’s death in 2007.
This year’s lineup promises to be one of the better ones with current names such as Ashton Kutcher and Kate Upton on the guest list. Time to get the tux out of the closet.
- One of my favorite memories of covering the Barnstable Brown Gala is all the colleagues I have worked with. Our entertainment editor got a lot of us to put together memories of covering celebrities at the Gala and the Derby. Click here to read it.
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