Scott Keo at Celebrity Fight Night with David Foster
When you assemble people whose annual incomes, when combined, equal or exceed the GNPs of smaller countries, interesting things are bound to happen.
Throw in a little alcohol and it can be odd indeed.
The rich rubbed tuxedoed and gowned elbows Saturday night during Muhammad Ali’s Celebrity Fight Night at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa in Phoenix. Attendees raised millions of dollars for charity, the lion’s share going to the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center and Barrow Neurological Institute.
But if the only red carpet you’ve been on lately is the throw rug in your bathroom, you did not attend the soiree.
Here are just a few of the moments you missed:
The “Did that just happen?” moment: Power couple and philanthropists Glenn and Mindy Stearns were honored for their work on behalf of children’s charities. Mindy’s acceptance speech included a rooster call. Then a barking dog. Then a crying baby. Even more surprising, each were spot-on. “Can I be on ‘The Voice’?” she asked before leaving the stage. The loud applause was her answer.
The “Such humble beginnings” moment: David Foster, the multitalented musician and producer who directed the evening’s musical number, described coming across a 17-year-old Josh Groban. So impressed with that voice, he invited Groban to help with Grammy rehearsals because of another chronically late performer.
“Here’s this kid singing with Celine Dion and looking scared s—less,” Foster said. “But that voice was amazing. You knew he was destined for great things.”
Groban, who performed about an hour after Foster spoke, showed why great things have since come to him.
The “He’s a nice guy but we still kind of want to see him sacked” moment:Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson graciously accepted a Fight Night award for his charitable work, even alluding to how he and his team came up short against the New England Patriots in the Valley-hosted Super Bowl.
Wilson also complimented the Arizona Cardinals in the audience, including quarterback Carson Palmer, defensive end Calais Campbell and head coach Bruce Arians. Of the three, Wilson was most wary of Campbell.
“Those rooster noises you heard earlier, I’d hear something like that from Calais when he’s chasing me down,” Wilson said.
The “Not a bad way to celebrate a 60th birthday” moment: Country star and emcee Reba McEntire was summoned to center stage as a specially prepared video unfolded on the ballroom’s four huge-screen TVs. Celebrities including Tom Hanks, Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnett and Barbara and George H.W. Bush wished her all the best. McEntire frequently wiped tears from her eyes, and almost broke down when her son Shelby Blackstock appeared from Florida.
The audience favorite was comedian Tim Conway, shown in repeated shots as he fumbled through his greeting while sitting behind an array of liquor bottles.
The “This is a different world” moment: The event featured nine live auctions for unique trips and experiences. First on the block was dinner for four with McEntire.
Opening bid for the evening at McEntire’s home, a date that included first-class airfare and hotel accommodations, was $100,000. A pittance, as it turned out.
Two dinners wound up being sold, each for $1 million. One went to GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons, the second to an unidentified bidder. One would assume the dinners would not include any microwavable meals. .
The two bids were a record for the event, now in its 21st year.
Singer Kelly Clarkson purchased a luxurious trip to Italy for $200,000. A rafting trip in Bhutan with actress Cheryl Hines and husband Robert F. Kennedy Jr. sold for $350,000. A five-day stay at entrepreneur Richard Branson’s private island went for just $150,000, as if found on Priceline.
The “Not a bad way to open a show” moment: Clarkson, a performer unaccustomed to taking the stage so early in the night, provided a rousing opening with her hit “Since U Been Gone.” Her three-song set finished with “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You ),” but she got one of her biggest reactions in between songs.
Commenting on the $2 million bid for dinner with McEntire, to whom she is related by marriage, Clarkson said, “I have dinner with her all the time and it ain’t that great.” When Clarkson later mentioned she hadn’t been drinking, Foster quipped, “But you bought an Italy trip for $250,000.”
“Yes,” Clarkson replied, “but it’s for a good cause.”
The “Oh, it’s OK to dance?” moment: The somewhat staid audience came to its feet when country star Ronnie Dunn launched into “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.” With very little room to dance between cloth-covered, 10-person tables, a mass congregated in the wide center aisle, looking like a refined, well-mannered mosh pit.
The “Please shut up, I just want to listen” moment: Groban’s slow and soaring rendition of “Over the Rainbow” briefly ended the table chatter. Fans listened, mesmerized, as Groban showed why producer Foster believes there is no “next Josh Groban” out there. Few smartphones recorded the performance, as if out of respect.
The “Who was that guy?” moment: Offering a short break after Groban’s breathtaking turn, Foster went into the audience looking for a guy who said he was a talented Michael Buble impersonator. “Scott, are you here somewhere?” Foster said, wading into the seats. “You got 30 seconds. And not on stage. I’ll give you the third step.”
“Scott Keo” started Michael Buble’s “Feeling Good” on the third step, but long past the 30 seconds he was on stage, finishing next to Foster’s piano. Scott Keo then vanished into the audience as David Foster shook his head in disbelief.
The “Dude really can sing” moment:
Foster, acting on a rumor that “Blindside” actor Quinton Aaron could sing, invited the offensive-lineman-size attendee to the stage.
Aaron’s silky rendition of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” made believers of everyone, but not to the point where Foster would invite another sizable football player to the stage. So the world still doesn’t know if the Cardinals’ Campbell can sing.
The “Comic break” moment: Impersonator Frank Caliendo took the stage and in 15 minutes ran through the following voices: George W. Bush, Beaker (of the Muppets), a total stranger, Morgan Freeman, Caliendo’s wife, Paddington Bear, Adam Sandler, movie-voice guy, critical fan, Charles Barkley, Jay Leno, Dr. Phil, John Madden, upset wife of video gamer, video gamer, Al Pacino, Stephen A. Smith, Jon Gruden, Jeff Goldblum, Robert Downey Jr., Liam Neeson (who sounded a lot like Morgan Freeman), Jack Nicholson, NASCAR fan and race-car engine.
The “We charge $1,000 for the cheapest ticket for a reason” moment:
Late into the night, as Blake Shelton sang, four women of questionable drinking age slipped into four unoccupied seats at the back of the room. Spying two untouched though discarded dessert plates sitting on a nearby tray, they feasted upon the leftovers.
The “Audience is showing its age” moment:Everyone was on their feet when Gloria Gaynor belted out 1970s anthem “I Will Survive.” One couple in the back did a brisk country swing to the disco favorite.
The “Of course we’re going to end it this way” moment: Most of the performers gathered on stage to cover Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” a rousing rendition to bring festivities to an end. As the celebs danced off stage, Celebrity Fight Night 2015 slides popped up the big screens, the lights came up and a recording of Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger” played softly.
The crowd headed for the doors, knowing the universal sign for “Th-th-th-that’s all, folks” when they saw it.