The forecast called for a chance of severe thunderstorms, and the press release humbly read ‘Maxim and BlackRock Stables invite an influential guest list of celebrities, athletes and taste-makers to an exclusive private bash to experience [The] Kentucky Derby…” making the storm almost sound more dangerous. The torrential downpour did eventually arrive; it closed the red carpet, sent props and riggings crashing to the ground – Mother Nature huffed-and-puffed with all her might couldn’t hold a candle to the annual Fillies & Stallions Party raging late into the night inside the Mellwood Arts Center on Friday, May 4th 2012. Mother Nature didn’t have a ticket.
The party was scheduled to run from 10PM-3AM and I arrived early to try and catch a glimpse of the preparation. I was curious as to how Maxim planned to blend their brand with the Derby experience and learned it comes down to jockey uniforms. At Churchill Downs the brightly colored silk negative-sized uniforms are worn by professional athletes who attempt to harness yet release the power of a the animals they love. At Maxim’s version the same-sized uniforms are worn by professional models who likewise try to harness-yet-not-tame animals of a whole different breed who love them.
The party began slow, just after 10PM as scheduled when a few of the first celebrities arrived. I listened to the security director give a speech to the gatekeepers manning the rope line, “There are two rows,” he said pointing to the velvet lanes at the entrance. “The lane on the right is general admission – they get red bracelets. The lane on the left is for VIPs and celebrities. However if you see someone in the general admission line on your right who looks like they could be a VIP or celebrity, you may send them to the line on the left. Got it?” Apparently if you said you were a celebrity, or attractive enough to be one, you were a VIP - however if you just said you were "good-looking" and then tried to cover by claiming that you meant to say "celebrity", you were GA. Since I didn’t have a row of my own, I wandered back inside near the red carpet entrance before I was noticed.
The first few guests were preparing for the evening by sipping on Derby-inspired cocktails from Bulleit Bourbon and Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea Vodka with anticipation of the first of the celebrities to arrive. There were dancing models on blocks as DJ Best spinning tunes from his perch in the VIP section, ice sculptures in the shape of giant horseshoes, spinning lights, lasers, fog machines – I’m trying to paint a picture of sensory overload but I will never be able to do it justice.
Celebrities arrived to a backdrop of the 2012 super moon slashing through storm clouds seeming to get angrier. Some of the celebrities and atheletes racing to beat the inevitable rain were Aaron Rodgers, Asthon Kutcher, Aubrey O’Day, Bob Guiney, Guy Fieri, Kate Flannery, Lindsey Vonn, Max Adler, Oscar Nunez, Taylor Dane, Tinsley Mortimer, Vicki Gunvalson, Erin Rodgers, Joey Fatone, and Bode Miller among many others impossible to spot on the dance floor.
It was not the Have's or Have Not's enjoying the evening, mingling among the professional atheletes were members of the 2012 National Championship UK Basketball team, D-list personalities mingled with celebrities-for-a-day like Raymond Bryan and the owners of the racehorse, Duhllahan, (who placed 3rd) stood the rope line near me as the owners of pre race favorite Hansen (who placed 9th) arrived with girls wearing untraditional blue 'pony tails' on their bodies where the actual ponies wear them. The last celebrity to run past me and the red carpet to avoid rain was Geoff Stultz of the Fox hit "The Finder". I held out my hand to shake his and he ran past me like I was a house (there's a joke here about not being able to catch The Finder that I am simply not clever enough to write.)
Around midnight the fury outside forced all the doors closed, creating a steamy, loud, humid, bourbon-fueled human Petri dish that even the event planners couldn’t have anticipated. Locked inside hoping the building could withstand the chaos outside, walls came down on the dance floor where locals wildly danced among celebrities as if the night would never end. And perhaps it didn’t, because as sexy and humble of a correspondent as I was, I called it an evening around 2AM. I am told by several that the party raged until daybreak, and from the point of my exit I have no reason not to believe, then again you can have too much of a good thing and it’s sometimes safer (and easier to explain to your wife) if you are more of a witness than a participant.
Other notable moments included as I talked football with A.J. Hawk of the Packers, I was introduced to another large Viking-esque man with blond ponytail who repeatedly referred to himself as "Thor". It wasn’t until after I had told him all about the movie The Avengers my feelings on the movie, and how little I knew of comics that I was informed that I was actually speaking to Chris Hemsworth, the actor who portrays Thor in the film. (That's what I was told, as a rule I don't card Superheros.)
Tucked in a back corner of the room, one of world’s biggest stars Ashton Kutcher happily flirted away with a “hot blonde”, who happened to be one of the Maxim models working the party. Ashton and the young women, who looked to be about 26, only had eyes for each other the entire night. Ashton was dressed casually, in black pants and a white shirt, sporting a scruffy beard.
And it wasn’t until I had tried for several minutes to speak with Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers (or at least get him to do his end-zone victory belt move) when I realized I had been following his brother, Jordan Rodgers, quarterback of the Vanderbilt Commodores.
There are no doubt many more stories hopefully better than mine, and experiences which may never be shared, but one thing is for sure, Race for the Roses may have been the focus of the weekend, but the 2012 Maxim Fillies & Stallions Derby Bash was the party of the year.
Photos: Kit Helton & Steve Long