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Years before he became known as the controversial businessman at the heart of a record-breaking Department of Justice forfeiture complaint and the man who dragged Leonardo DiCaprio into a billion-dollar international corruption scandal, Malaysian businessman Jho Low was better known as the host of some of the biggest parties Las Vegas has ever seen.
Having only made his bow on the U.S. club scene in late 2009 as a relative nobody — an “international man of mystery” according to one report — the bespectacled Wharton grad’s sole claim to fame was a seemingly inexhaustible bank account (now alleged to have been stocked largely with hundreds of millions of dollars of stolen Malaysian money).
But all of that cash was enough for Low to become a sudden hit.
After racking up $160,000 in bar bills at New York Fashion Week, lavishing Lindsay Lohan with 23 bottles of Cristal champagne on her 23rd birthday at Vegas’ 1OAK nightspot, and throwing himself a bash at Caesars Palace that reportedly featured a swimming pool filled with bikini-clad party girls, Low took things to another level for his birthday in November 2012.
DiCaprio, fellow Low regulars Jamie Foxx and Paris Hilton, plus Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Robert De Niro, Benicio Del Toro and even Michael Phelps were reportedly among the more than 300 guests — including the hoi polloi of Vegas — who gathered under a giant tent on an empty five-acre lot at the north end of the Strip for what has been described as the “party to end all parties.”
“For one night only, they turned it into a carnival, complete with a giant Ferris wheel,” one party guest, who like all others was forced to sign an NDA, tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It was like a bacchanal revisited.”
Among the performers under the vast marquee were Britney Spears and South Korean singer Psy, who had just risen to international superstardom thank to “Gangnam Style.”
“Britney Spears was allegedly paid $1 million to sing Happy Birthday,” says the guest, adding that there were rumors that flying Psy in had cost much more.
“But that wasn’t the thing that knocked everyone out,” the guest adds.
The biggest eyebrow-raiser on the evening, according the guest, wasn’t Spears or Psy, or even DiCaprio rapping on stage, or several hundred “ambient models” for decoration purposes, but three luxury Italian motorbikes and a sportscar — believed to be a Bugatti Veyron — that were “gifted” to Low as birthday presents.
“That took people’s breath away — that must have been a $5 million bill right there,” the guest says.
As for the man of the hour, Low reportedly spent much of the evening protected behind beefed-up security in peculiar Zoolander-like surroundings, not talking to the hundreds he had invited to celebrate his special day.
“He stayed in this private VIP area of the VIP area of the VIP area, and people sort of gathered around the two sets of ropes that kept him from great unwashed and watched as the three motorcycles were unwrapped for him,” says the guest, who, like most, failed to speak to the party host.
“That was the funny thing — nobody did. Nobody knew who this guy was except presuming he was the highest of high rollers.”
When asked about the thought process behind throwing a multimillion dollar party for hundreds of people who don’t know you, where you even have to provide your own presents and pay for someone to sing “Happy Birthday,” the guest is reflective.
“Normally it’s to draw attention to yourself, to prove to the world that you are somebody,” he tells THR. “I think in his case, he’s an overweight man, not traditionally attractive, so this would have been solely gratification that he was the center of attention in the entertainment capital of the world.”
And in a world where you’re only of interest until your bank account runs dry, the paid-for element of Low’s A-list friendships doesn’t appear to be of concern.
“Deep down, there must have been a hostile streak that would say, ‘I can have Leonardo DiCaprio come to my party.’ It was irrelevant that he’d pay for the celebrities, that he’d seduced him there with his money. Although whether you can call that genuine friendship is for a psychiatrist to figure out,” the guest says.
“Low wanted to be the quiet center of attention and wanted the satisfaction of knowing he could buy all the pieces on a chess board and move them around at his whim.”
Almost four years on from the party, still regarded as Vegas’ biggest and brashest, Low’s ability to move chess pieces around at his whim has been somewhat curtailed, with the Department of Justice putting him at the center of a major corruption scandal and looking to seize hundreds of millions of dollars of his U.S. assets. Low himself is believed to be in hiding in Taiwan.
“It doesn’t surprise me, the day had to come,” says the guest. “You can’t spend money at that rate without it being dodgy.”
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