After the Oaks on Friday, I’m not in bed until 2 a.m. I’m up again two hours later and am on the backside by 5. Last year, I was working with the chef Bobby Flay, making sure that he got to the right media outlets. By 9, I’m usually set up from a red-carpet standpoint. One year, though, it rained badly on Oaks night, and we were using squeegees and vacuums on the red carpet the following morning because we didn’t want these celebrities to hear their shoes make squishing noises.
Another year, we got here on Derby morning and all of the red roses had died because it was so hot on Oaks Day. The tent over the red carpet was sort of acting like a greenhouse. So we’re there that morning, pulling up all these dead roses and scrambling to get new ones.
The red carpet opens at noon, and you’ve got celebrities funneling in for about three hours. Limos and Hummers pull up, and the onlookers scream. I’m constantly on my cell phone because, inevitably, some celebrity stayed up too late and isn’t at the track yet. People are calling and texting, saying, “We’re 10 minutes away; we’re five minutes away.” One year, Paris Hilton was supposed to do a live red-carpet interview, and we had to stall because she was stuck in traffic. The most surreal moment for me one Derby was when Hugh Hefner arrived. He walked down the carpet and said, “I want to thank you.” And he gave me a hug and a big sloppy kiss.
— As told to Amy Talbott