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Singer Tony Bennett got an early present in advance of his 90th birthday.
Luminaries from the music and art worlds such as Andra Day, Darius Rucker, Herbie Hancock, James Corden, Jeff Koons, Dale Chihuly and Peter Tunney converged on May 21 to celebrate the icon at Keep Memory Alive’s 20th annual Power of Love gala at MGM Grand Garden Arena. The charitable event of the year in Las Vegas, Power of Love benefits Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, founded by Southern Wine and Spirits of Nevada’s Larry Ruvo, and dedicated to fighting diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases, multiple sclerosis and multiple system atrophy.
The night started with a flawless version of “Steppin’ Out With My Baby” by Andra Day, who says that as a jazz singer, Bennett has influenced her tremendously. “Tony is the epitome of Jazz charisma, his timing, his phrasing, where he places words, how he delivers a song, he has helped me to approach vocal delivery in a nontraditional way,” Day says. When asked about her thoughts on other performer’s non-traditional styles, she was quick to gush with admiration about Beyoncé.
“I thought Lemonade was great,” Day says. “If it is true, good for her to liberate herself and get it off her chest. As an artist, you have a truth to tell and you don’t want to deliver it the traditional pop route. I look at it as Beyoncé’s opus and I think she did amazing work. And if it’s not true, it is a brilliantly crafted story and still extremely creative. She does it flawlessly.”
JAZZY COUPLE: Tony Bennett poses with singer Andra Day. (Photo: Getty Images)
After Day’s musical appetizer, the first auction item of the night was presented by Jeff Koons, who gave away a trip for 10 to his New York studio, followed by dinner with the artist himself. The package went for close to $300,000.
“I’ve met Tony Bennett over the years and I worked on projects with Lady Gaga so there’s been a connection there,” Koons says. “I always appreciated him as a singer and as an artist.”
Recently Koons’ famous friends, Gaga included, have been touting his new Live Case, an interactive smartphone accessory that triggers a wallpaper of the New York City ballet performing scenes from Swan Lake using Gazing Ball, a blue spherical shape featured in many of his works. Gazing Ball Ballet is his first-ever live-action video artwork. It has garnered buzz on social media with Bono, Pharrell, Miley Cyrus and the Lady herself, all posing with a large shiny object as part of the Gazing Ball Tour. The world’s top selling artist is now selling $40 phone cases and he couldn’t be happier about it.
“I’ve been friends with some of the leaders of Google — Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen — so we always talked about doing projects together and then someone from Google called and asked if would I be interested in a creating one of the Live Cases. I saw what Skrillex had done [it] and I thought this would be wonderful,” Koons says. “I wanted to make wallpaper that was animated and if you push a button it will tell you where all the museums are around you. I was really so impressed with Google. The power of the search engine — the knowledge you have at your finger tips. I have always had such admiration for the company and they are constantly going in new directions.”
It’s just another step in his commitment of making works for the people. Koons’ Popeye is on display to the public nearby at Wynn Las Vegas. He says he is continually invigorated by how much it resonates with spectators.
“I saw Popeye this morning, if you go on social media and Instagram people take selfies with him all the time and it’s wonderful that the public can come in to contact with work. I am thrilled it is here,” he says.
During the 5-hour event, Minnie Driver paid tribute to Tony Bennett’s visual art career, as he has three paintings in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution.
LOVING DUDES: From left: Larry Ruvo, Tony Bennett, Steven Tyler and Jeff Koons. (Photo: Getty Images)
To close out the night guests were treated to a concert kicked off by James Corden, who sang “Don’t Get Around Much More.”
“I’m not entirely sure why I have been asked to do this,” Corden says. “It’s a decision I may be regretting right now because when someone says, ‘Do you want to come and sing and Tony Bennett’s going to be there?’ you say, ‘Great’ and now you are here and you think this is a terrible decision.”
Performances followed by Darius Rucker, Steven Tyler, Herbie Hancock, among others, and Bennett. At the end, the entire cast sang “Happy Birthday.”
Chefs Mario Carbone, Nobu Matsuhisa and Wolfgang Puck prepared an elaborate 3-course dinner, which finished with a chocolate replica of the Frank Gehry-designed Cleveland Clinic building.
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