ESPY’s Party with Jocks, Bunnies and Hef, Oh My!
Celebrations leading up to the ESPY Awards had party-loving jocks and sports-loving celebrities having a good time all over town. There was an ESPY pre-party at the Playboy Mansion, which also featured a poker tournament presented by TruePlayers® to benefit the Sports Dream Foundation. With an entourage of lovely playmates, Hugh Hefner was (as always) the perfect host.
What’s the secret to throwing the perfect party for pampered pro-athletes? “The right ambience, lots of pretty ladies and the grotto doesn’t hurt,” Hef smiled, referring to the famous spot for romance at the mansion. His girl friends (Crystal Harris and twins Kristina and Karissa Shannon) were by his side, and bunnies were hopping around. If that eye-candy wasn’t enough, the Pussycat Dolls performed and DJ Samantha Ronson, along with ESPN’s NFL analyst Marcellus Wiley, were spinning tunes all night. There was dancing, and some folks even jumped in the pool, but the favorite activity seemed to be playing poker for a good cause, thanks to Sports Dream co-event producers Linda Mackay and Jennifer Beaver. Among the celebrities at the Texas Hold ‘Em tables were Zachary Levi, star of NBC’s “Chuck,” and Michael Vartan, star of TNT’s “Hawthorne.” ESPN commentator Jesse Palmer, the ex-Giants quarterback who tried to find true love on the fifth season of “The Bachelor,” was hoping to have better luck at the poker table.
The special GBK Productions lounge was set up for showering gifts on the ESPY nominees and presenters. It was lush with “bling” from Rafaello & Co. Jewelers, fashions from Astor & Black, Roar designer shirts and other goodies. TruePlayers soft-comfy tees were very popular. And NY Jets’ Darrelle Revis loved the comfort food that the Johnny Rockets gift cards offered, along with the milkshakes a lovely rep was serving. Yummy.
The Red Carpet arrivals ran smoothly thanks to the Crimson Marketing folks who made sure the stars were shining. On the scene were Adam Carolla and “Dancing With the Stars” champion Mark Ballas with singer Joanna Pacitti. From the sports world were NBA twins Jarron Collins (with the Utah Jazz) and Jason Collins (Minnesota Timberwolves), who boast of being graduates of Harvard-Westlake in North Hollywood. They were known as the “Twin Towers” when they played basketball there. Also having fun at the Playboy Mansion were NFL legend Warren Moon, Tyson Chandler (Hornets), Chad Ochocinco (Bengals), Andre Igudala (76ers), Chester Pitts (Texans), Danny Granger (Pacers) and the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp.
On another day, another ideal place for an ESPY party was Dodger Stadium, site of the UPP Sports Lounge Gifting Suite. Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, die-hard Cubs fan Joe Mantegna and “Heroes” Greg Grunberg stopped by to see everything set up in a corporate skybox that had the most magnificent view of the baseball field. It was a big “Wow!” Kudos to Burbank-based UPP’s Evelyn Duarte who produced the event. It was a great experience for all the athletes and celebs who checked out the latest products, such as the electronics from Latte Communications, the next generation of high-tech must-haves. The stars and jocks really love their “toys.” High-tech casual shoe designs were featured by Rider After Sport Footwear, from Grendha’s environmentally friendly company. Virtual DJ, Lush Jewelry, Pony running shoes, Helly Hansen active gear and La Costa sunglasses were popular, too. Hope Family Wines were served, along with really good Badass Coffee that was so great with Godiva Chocolates.
My big treat at the UPP event was enjoying the lovely lunch, and catching up with one of my favorite actors, Ernie Hudson, who confirmed that a new “Ghostbusters” movie is in the works. “I just talked with Bill Murray, and saw Harold Ramis last week, and we’re all looking forward to it.” Taking on the hero’s role comes natural to Ernie, who once was a volunteer fireman. He likes movies where the good guys win.
In case you missed it, the big winner at the ESPY Awards was the golden boy of the Beijing Olympics, swimmer Michael Phelps, who made a splash picking up five trophies, including Athlete of the Year. The pint-sized champion of “Dancing with the Stars,” gymnast Shawn Johnson, got an ESPY for Best Female Olympic Athlete. Samuel L. Jackson hosted the ESPY’s from L.A.’s Nokia Theatre, next to the Staples Center. Best coach and team honors went to Phil Jackson and his Lakers, to no one’s surprise.