It's Derby Week in Louisville!
Well, actually, it's Derby Week everywhere, but Louisville is the only place that pays any attention.
Still, it's exciting around town, made more-so by the arrival of the nice-to-meechoo-where's-the-buffet B-List celebrities that use Derby as a kind of last stand before hustling off to the hell that is shopping mall openings and state fair appearances.
Last week, deep-pockets party bookers announced that Paris Hilton would be appearing momentarily at both the legendarily awful Barnstable-Brown Party and at a downtown nightclub opening. The over/under on her total time as a stye in Louisville's public eye: 18 minutes, just enough to pose for pictures, surely to include one with Louisville's soon-to-be-scandal-ridden mayor, Jerry Abramson. It has not been revealed how much Ms. Hilton will be paid for her appearances, but we're guessing: a lot. And it would be just like Louisville celeb wranglers to pay top dollar for someone like Hilton, who is just sooooo three years ago.
This weekend brought the revelation that the galaxy of stars (Meat Loaf!) visiting our fair city will include -- where's the drum roll when you need it? -- Valerie Bertinelli. That's the same Valerie Bertinelli who fueled adolescent fantasies back in the 1970s while starring in...oh, whatever that sitcom was. She later married Eddie Van Halen (before he turned into a screeching old woman), reproduced and put on a buttload (literally) of weight. Her recent comeback is a model of the Celebrity Three Step: trim down, sign a weight loss endorsement, and make a camera-hungry trip to the B-List mother lode, the Derby Festival.
There are lots of A-Listers here, too, but they arrive on private jets and don't allow themselves to be paraded around for cover-charge-paying rubes. I ran smack into Morgan Freeman a couple of years ago, and he excused himself politely and disappeared behind closed doors as quickly as possible without so much as a tantrum about my clumsiness. But the B-List: you can't avoid them if you try. They're everywhere. Make one wrong move and there's one of them demanding that you hoist their luggage off the airport carousel or insisting that you're sitting at their table. The only way to get away from them is to give them what they want and ask them to please pose for a picture. That brings a smile to their faces, and most of them are drunk enough they don't even notice that the camera your'e holding is really a wadded up napkin.
Anyway, the B-List contingent this year includes ostensible comedian Joe Piscopo and Raymond's mom, Doris Roberts. Piscopo has already threatened to do his Frank Sinatra impersonation, which has never, ever been funny.
For those of you who like to bet on celebrities, here are the early lines:
Celebrity most likely to have some kind of embarrassing outburst. Socially retarded professional poker player Phil Hellmuth is an early favorite, but as you know you never get rich betting on the favorite. I'm putting my money on perpetual also-ran Kid Rock, whose outstanding antics have traditionally taken place so late that local photographers are already tucked away in their beds. The question with kid Rock is not whether he will act-up, but whether there will be sufficient documentation of whatever embarrassing thing he does to sway the judges.
Celebrity most likely to take a local lover. For years, the winner has been a former sitcom star who adopted as her boytoy a local, hair-aware sportscaster. This year, I don't think she's attending, so we're going to have to go with someone new. I say: Marg Hellgenberger of CSI, an actress getting to that "certain age" that usually implies imminent career death. I like Marg; she doesn't seem the type to go all Norma Desmond on us. So: romance with a wealthy fan outside the Hollywood circle who can, when the time is right, provide her the trappings of insulated retirement and a People magazine spread that implies gentility rather than pathos. Someone in the horse business would fit the bill nicely; I can just see the pictures of Marg looking out through the two story plate glass window at the rolling bluegrass hills. That I'm picturing her in jodhpurs wielding a riding crop is none of your affair.
Bar or restaurant most likely to make the news. A couple of years ago, local beefatorium Jeff Ruby's Steak House made news when Jeff Ruby himself refused to serve O.J. Simpson. Simpson played the race card, which Ruby countered by playing the murderer card. The restaurant errupted in cheers, and has been standing room only ever since. I'm thinking this year it's time for something untoward to happen at Proof On Main, the stylishly artsy restaurant downtown where one of the waiters -- the little fat one who needs a shave -- insists on calling me "my good man" whenever he inquires if I want more water. Of course I need more water, you twit. Do you think my glass is empty because I'm not thirsty? Anyway, maybe it's wishful thinking, but I'm guessing one of the washed-up pro football players in town to suck up the last photons of fame's spotlight is going to blast that guy right in the face.