DENVER — Primed for its week in the world spotlight, Denver is ready to Barack and roll.
The doors to the Pepsi Center open at 3:30 p.m. Monday but the official party scene at the Democratic National Convention starts Monday night with the first of dozens of star-studded parties featuring a diverse lineup of entertainers who are turning out to push Barack Obama's presidential bid.
Up first is the Willie Nelson concert at 8 p.m. Monday at Invesco Field, home of the NFL Broncos and site of Obama's acceptance speech on Thursday.
At 10 p.m. Monday, Fall Out Boy, Jakob Dylan and others headline the Rock the Vote party at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. The Rock to Win party on Tuesday includes Melissa Etheridge, Cyndi Lauper, Thelma Houston, Rufus Wainwright and Margaret Cho at the Fillmore Auditorium.
The Black Eyed Peas perform Wednesday night at the celebrity-laden Creative Coalition at the Fillmore Auditorium at the same time that Kanye West raps to revelers at the party hosted by the ONE Campaign and the Recording Industry Association of America.
The hottest ticket, reportedly, is to the Google/Vanity Fair bash at the EXDO Event Center. It's so hot that the organizers aren't releasing the names of the celebrity attendees, but George Clooney is rumored to be among them. Charlize Theron is expected, along with James Taylor, David Crosby and Graham Nash.
And what would a political get-together be without poker? Ben Affleck and Vegas poker pros Andy Bloch and Barry Greenstein are participating in Poker at the Ballpark, a charity event at Coors Field for paralyzed veterans.
Also expected, some of them at private parties: Sheryl Crow, Earth, Wind & Fire, Dave Matthews, Sugarland, Danny Glover, Angela Bassett and Julia Stiles at a Creative Coalition brunch honoring their new film "Gospel Hill," Chris Tucker at A Season for Change reception, Martin Luther King III, Bernice King and Glover at the 45th anniversary celebration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech; Daughtry, Everclear, and the Flobots at the Grammys Rock the Conventions; Susan Sarandon, Chevy Chase, Moby, John Kerry, and Arianna Huffington at the General Action party.
Others: Ashanti and Fran Drescher at the Every Woman Counts party; Annette Bening, Spike Lee, Alan Cumming, Rachel Leigh Cook, Quentin Tarantino at the Spotlight Initiative Award reception for the movie "14 Women" and Rosario Dawson, Kal Penn, Hill Harper, Kerry Washington, and Tatyana Ali at the Cause Celeb.
James Carville, Harry Shearer, John Larroquette, and Grammy winner Randy Newman at the New Orleans All-Star Jam-Balaya.
Carville, longtime Democratic strategist, and his wife, Mary Matalin, a Republican operative, recently spent time with Las Vegas hotel developer Steve Wynn on his new yacht on the Riviera. Wynn has been backing Republicans, while his wife, Elaine, is an Obama supporter. She is not expected to attend the DNC, however, I am told.
Also missing, Las Vegas boxing promoter Bob Arum, a longtime Hillary Clinton backer and former lawyer who once worked for Robert Kennedy in the U.S. attorney general's office. A dispirited Arum has made no secret of his disappointment over Clinton's not making the ticket.
THE SCENE AND HEARD
Bruce Springsteen will follow Obama with a solo acoustic performance on Thursday after Obama's acceptance speech at Invesco Field, Vegas Confidential learned Saturday. Bon Jovi, we're told, is in negotiations to perform the leadup to Obama's speech. ...
Obama backer Oprah Winfrey has reportedly rented a house for $50,000 for the week of the Democratic National Convention. It is located in a historic neighborhood near Cherry Creek, according to the Rocky Mountain News.
THE PUNCH LINE
"Welcome to Denver, where all your wildest dreams come true." -- A Southwest flight attendant as a Las Vegas-originating flight landed at Denver International Airport on Friday.