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Stage fills to overflowing to support chef Simon


Chef Kerry Simon is maybe the sweetest famous person I have ever known, and he has a rare disease ravaging him in the following ways.

In December, he was helping a toy drive for KLUC-FM, 98.5. The disease already had forced him to use a walker.

Soon after that, he was in a wheelchair. Then, an electric wheelchair. His hands were getting rigid.

One day, he could drink water independently. The next, someone had to help him drink.

That has been the destruction in just two months of the health of Simon, Rolling Stone magazine’s “Rock and Roll Chef” who judged on “Iron Chef” and launched the delicious, affordable, swanky Simon at Palms Place and KGB at Harrah’s.

If you are the cynical type, you might be wondering whether I have a soft spot for Simon because he has always been so nice to me, as a member of the media. I wouldn’t blame you. We live in cynical times.

But everyone I ever talk to about Simon, when they hear his name, they smile. Their eyes smile. Before the disease, the mere mention of Kerry Simon could add comfort to a conversation. I have always thought of him as the Vegas Strip’s Zen master.

The villain: multiple system atrophy, or MSA, is like Parkinson’s, but Parkinson’s meds don’t really help. There is no known cause or cure. Simon is an exercise and health nut, yet MSA struck.

In typical Simon fashion, he has not shown outward concern about his potentially quicker death. Instead, he wants to do productive things to fight the disease long term.

Tonight, he is presenting a fundraiser at the Keep Memory Alive Center. The moment Kerry’s people announced the fundraiser, those who know him rushed to offer help and perform. Because of their outpouring, organizers had to start telling famous people something they never hear: The event stage was overbooked.

Bill Murray will assist as emcee. When they were kids, Simon and Murray worked together in an Illinois pizza shop.

Performers: Alice Cooper, Slash, Sammy Hagar, Vince Neil, Todd Rundgren, Matt Sorum, INXS’s J.D. Fortune, Lisa Loeb and System of a Down’s John Dolmayan, plus house band Sin City Sinners.

Chefs: Daniel Boulud, Kim Canteenwalla, Wylie DuFresne, Grant Macpherson, Michael Mina, Rick Moonen, Justin Nilson, Charlie Palmer, Megan Romano, Mark Tarbell and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Auction packages include having Mario Batali or Todd English cook a private meal for the winning bidder.

Tickets, $500 to $1,000, are sold out. There are no comps. If you also want to help fight MSA, a good starting point is KeepMemoryAlive.org.

I was told there will be an expansion program named the Kerry Simon Comprehensive Clinic for MSA at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

I was also told George Maloof and Blau & Associates have donated so much time and resources, it’s hard to measure their contributions at this point.

Those of us who know Simon marvel at how he remains positive. Even in his condition, he has embraced the situation and looked for the greater good in helping people. That is who Kerry Simon is.

Doug Elfman’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Email him at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.