Westgate founder David Siegel sought a surprise superstar to perform at the inaugural “Evening to Save Lives” gala at his Las Vegas hotel on Friday night.
He didn’t need to look far.
Barry Manilow arrived on the scene, striding under a spotlight, to close the first gala fundraiser for the Victoria Siegel Foundation at Westgate Ballroom.
Manilow, of course, is the resident headliner at the hotel’s International Theater, telling the cheering audience, “I just happened to be in the neighborhood, and I thought I’d drop by.”
Manilow sang three songs, the a cappella “One Voice,” followed by “Can’t Smile Without You” and “Copacabana,” ending the night buoyantly for what we call the “posh pit” near the front of the stage.
Remarkably, the event was assembled in less than four months, led by Cami Christensen, Westgate’s president and general manager, and Victoria Siegel Foundation Executive Director Mina Lu, drawing an impressive sellout crowd of 900. The gala pulled in at least $1 million through table sales, a silent and live auction, and individual donations. Siegel has already set Sept. 19, 2020, as the next event.
“It’s one of the perks of owning the hotel; I get to set the date,” Siegel said at the post-party at the hotel’s Versailles Sky Villa. “I think we exceeded expectations tonight.”
Siegel offset all operation expenses himself, meaning all money raised during the evening was donated to the Siegel Foundation to fight drug abuse, and also to fund Victory Clubs, an initiative that provides services and perks for teenagers across the country who stay clean and sober.
Manilow’s first selection was a nod to the book “Victoria’s Voice,” the inspiration for the event. The book was originally the diary kept by Victoria Siegel, who died at age 18 on June 6, 2015 of an accidental overdose of methadone and sertraline. David and Jackie Siegel have established the foundation in her name to promote the use of naloxone, which halts the effects of an overdose.
Prior to Manilow’s appearance, Scott Stapp of Creed and former “Baz” and Postmodern Jukebox cast member Jaclyn McSpadden, along with the Las Vegas Academy Choir, performed for the sold-out crowd.
“I must say that this organizations most emotional and genuine organizations I’ve ever heard of, because it is so full of heart,” Manilow said as a kind of closing statement. “For David and and Jackie to take this horrible experience, and instead of burying their heads in the sand, they turned it into such a positive experience that will save the lives of so many young people. It is downright inspiring.”
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram