Las Vegas celebrity feuds don’t get much bigger than this.
When billionaire hotel developer Steve Wynn and Hollywood’s leading man, George Clooney, sat down for dinner with friends two weeks ago, no one expected it would end with the two heavyweights trading verbal shots over President Barack Obama.
In an interview this week with the Review-Journal, Wynn hit hard, suggesting Clooney’s problem was downing too many tequila shots.
Clooney, via an email to the R-J, called Wynn a “jackass” — and worse — for slamming the president, and he added an f-bomb while exiting Botero restaurant at Wynn’s Encore.
According to Clooney, Wynn called the president an a-hole. Clooney said he responded by calling Wynn an a-hole, among other things.
The New York Daily News’ lead on the altercation: “Good night, and Good Riddance,” playing off legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow’s sign off. Clooney directed the film “Good night, and Good Luck.”
There was no winner in this one. The only surprise is that sparks didn’t fly sooner. Clooney is a steadfast supporter of Obama. Wynn has frequently bashed Obamacare.
Wynn told me he pointed out to Clooney “how insurance has skyrocketed” because of Obamacare and its “disastrous impact.”
“I was explaining how upset the union is with the heath care act, and George didn’t like hearing it,” Wynn said.
Wynn’s longtime friend and former business partner Larry Ruvo, who distributes the tequila Clooney was pitching, had a ringside seat, but “I guess I left 30 minutes before the fireworks started,” Ruvo said.
“The whole time I was there, it was a social, fun evening,” Ruvo said. “It was 2½ to three hours of jokes and fun.”
The next day he ran into Rande Gerber, Clooney’s partner in Casamigos tequila, and Gerber told Ruvo, “You left at the right time.”
Gerber took issue with Wynn’s claim that Clooney was intoxicated, telling TMZ.com, “We weren’t drunk.”
Wynn insisted in my Monday interview with him that Clooney had 16 tequila shots before the fiery outburst.
“No shots were had,” Gerber told TMZ.com.
While Gerber was defending Clooney, telling TMZ, “This wasn’t about politics. It was about George standing up for a friend,” Ruvo made it clear where he stood.
“My loyalty is with Steve,” Ruvo said. “He’s my brother, first and foremost. He’s a consummate professional.”
Where does it rank among Vegas’ most famous feuds?
I’d put it right below Frank Sinatra’s epic falling-out with the Sands that came to a head on Sept. 11, 1967. Irate that Sands’ owner Howard Hughes had cut off his credit, Sinatra confronted casino manager Carl Cohen and went ballistic. Cohen punched him, knocking out two front teeth, or caps, according to some reports. Sinatra severed his ties with the Sands and moved to Caesars Palace.
Other infamous clashes:
■ Mobster Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal’s legal battle with Harry Reid, head of the Nevada Gaming Commission. When Reid and fellow commissioners unanimously rejected Rosenthal’s bid for a gaming license in 1978, Rosenthal, represented by Oscar Goodman, made a scene at the hearing by hurling taunts at Reid.
■ Wayne Newton vs. Johnny Carson. When Carson’s bid to purchase the Aladdin fell through in the early 1980s, Newton bought it with partners. Carson began jabbing at Newton with on-air suggestions that he was gay. Newton said he showed up in Carson’s dressing room one night and said, “These jokes about me will stop, and they will stop now, or I will kick your ass.”
THIS IS PRICELESS
Among the items being auctioned off at Ruvo’s 18th Keep Memory Alive gala on Saturday is a seaside lunch in Cabo San Lucas that includes Clooney, Gerber and Gerber’s wife, Cindy Crawford.
Wynn frequently attends Ruvo’s long-running pet project and has been among the most aggressive bidders.
Will he pass on this item, or join in as a grand gesture?
Also up for auction: A tour of the Australia Zoo with Terri Irwin, widow of “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, dinner by star chef Morimoto at Siegfried & Roy’s Jungle Palace, and a day on the set of hit TV series “House of Cards,” along with tours of Washington, D.C., landmarks.
The gala is at the MGM Grand. The honorees are Gloria and Emilio Estefan.
THE PUNCH LINE
“A pharmaceutical company in Canada is offering $47 billion to buy the company that makes Botox. People at Botox were pretty excited — I mean, you should’ve seen the look that wasn’t on their faces.” — Jimmy Fallon
Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke. “Norm Clarke’s Vegas,” airs Thursdays on the “Morning Blend” on KTNV-TV, Channel 13.