Here's a classic for the "Before They Were Stars" file.
On New Year's Eve 1998, a bunch of show business kids on the cusp of the big time were celebrating on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Limping along in a foot cast was Stacy Ann Ferguson, now better known as Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas. At 24, she was the oldest of the group. 'N Sync was in the group as well.
One of the youngest was Britney Spears, who had just turned 17. Her debut single, "Baby One More Time," would reach No. 1 a few weeks later. For now, she was the opening act for 'N Sync at a New Year's Day concert at Thomas & Mack Arena.
"I was friends with 'N Sync," Ferguson recalled in an interview with the Review-Journal's Doug Elfman.
"This is after Justin (Timberlake) and I dated," said Ferguson, who was with girl group Wild Orchid at the time. "This is right when Britney and he were starting to date. We were also friends. We had common friends. We went to a lot of things. We went to the Pro Bowl. I have a friend, Pantera Sarah, she's the one I introduced 'N Sync to because she knew all the hot clubs in L.A., the club promoters, so she kind of introduced the Orlando boys into the club scene.
"So we used to all go on these vacations. That time, I had a cast on my (left) leg. It was actually from me practicing gymnastics flips. But I still went to Vegas," said Ferguson, who is in town for a New Year's Eve concert at The Venetian and to perform the midnight countdown as host at Lavo in The Palazzo.
"They were performing, and I just thought, you know what, screw it, I'm gonna go anyways with my one legged-dance. It was funny, 'N Sync actually -- part of one of their songs -- they started doing this dance with one leg, because they were making fun of me. It was quite funny. Britney was adorable and young. They were all young."
'N Sync and Britney "were coming into their fame," she said. "It was starting to really get big for them. Nobody cared about me, walking down the Strip with a cast on my leg. I was just a friend. We were all just having fun. I just felt normal.
"I was a normal partygoer, walking down the Strip, screaming 'Woo!' For them, that was their time, and now I can't imagine, after I do the countdown at the club, that I'll be walking down the Strip. I don't know if it would be quite the same this time."
THE SCENE AND HEARD
The verbal deal is done: Crooner Harry Connick will be the featured entertainer for the VIP opening of Steve Wynn's Encore on Jan. 24. It's being called the Chairman's Ball, as a wink to Frank Sinatra, who was known as the Chairman of the Board. It'll be a birthday blowout for Wynn, who turns 67 three days later. It will be another private affair, similar to the opening of Wynn Las Vegas on April 28, 2005, the day of Elaine Wynn's birthday, when Hugh Jackman and opera singer Rene Fleming capped the night. ...
There are rumblings that MGM Mirage is close to announcing the status of the beleagured City Center project, including whether several buildings will be completed. There's talk that The Harmon, the Light Group's boutique condo-tel, with 400 hotel rooms and suites and about 200 luxury condominiums, will be delayed. The bigger concern, I'm told, is the central iconic tower, which was designed to lean about 22 degrees but is now almost double that because of a cabling issue. ...
If MGM Mirage goes ahead with the sale of more Strip properties, á la Phil Ruffin's purchase of Treasure Island for $775 million, there's buzz that Kirk Kerkorian's longtime aide Alex Yemenidjian, former CEO of MGM Studios, might be interested. ...
The wildest rumor of New Year's Eve: Michael Jackson had checked into a suite at Encore, with a monkey tagging along. Not true, said a Wynn rep.
Australian daredevil Robbie Maddison, with friends at Poetry (Forum Shops at Caesars) on Tuesday. Also in the club: Oakland Raiders running backs Darren McFadden, Michael Bush and Justin Vargas and "Dreamgirls" actor Keith Robinson. ... "American Idol" winner David Cook, grabbing an early dinner at Margaritaville at the Flamingo on New Year's Eve. ... Maddison, at Pole Position Raceway on Wednesday for a second time this week, taking in laps just hours before his live TV jump on Paris Las Vegas' replica of the Arc de Triomphe. Earlier, motorsports stars Travis Pastrana and Marco Andretti raced at the indoor venue. ... Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis at the Playboy Club. ... Bruce and Kris Jenner of the Kardashian clan, having lunch Wednesday at the bar at Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab (Forum Shops).
THE PUNCH LINE
"Jim Carrey stars in a new movie where he can only say yes. That's better than 'Liar Liar,' where he played a lawyer who told the truth. That's about as believable as Mel Gibson playing a rabbi." -- Craig Ferguson