Kerry Simon surrounded by friends ’til the end

During the final months of chef Kerry Simon‘s battle to live, there was one constant: He was surrounded by people “who truly cared for him. It was continuous,” George Maloof said.

At Simon’s home in southwest Las Vegas or at Summerlin Hospital, “It was like a revolving door. Some nights there would be 30 people in his living room, sitting at a picnic table,” Alicia Jacobs said.

Countless friends rallied around Simon after he was diagnosed with the incurable multiple system atrophy two years ago.

Simon, known as the “rock ‘n’ roll chef” because of the celebrity clientele who flocked to his restaurants, died Friday. He was 60.

Actor Bill Murray, who worked with Simon at a Chicago pizza parlor, invited Simon to stay at his Palms Springs home on numerous occasions for weeklong stays.

“He was able to move in ways he couldn’t move out of the water,” said Jacobs, who spent time with Simon at his home and hospital room.

Someone provided Simon with “a laptop contraption like Stephen Hawking used. He was able to communicate through that,” Jacobs said.

This year, when friends became concerned about the drama created by an ex-girlfriend, Simon was moved to the Palms for almost a week.

Instead of giving in to the horrific disease, Simon chose to join friends at social events.

“A lot of people would have retreated,” Jacobs said. “Some wouldn’t have wanted to be seen like that. The most important thing to Kerry was not being alone. He wanted friends around.”

N9ne Steakhouse executive chef Barry Dakake said, “He came to my restaurant one night with a couple nurses and (salon owner) Michael Boychuck.

On Monday, the day before Simon was moved to Nathan Adelson Hospice, Dakake visited Simon at Summerlin Hospital. “He was very dear to my heart,” said Dakake, who held Simon’s hand. “I’m just glad God gave me the opportunity to see him one last time.”

Jacobs said it was difficult when Simon lost his ability to smile, laugh and talk. “But you could tell when he laughing inside,” she said. “It was like a belly laugh,” but without the sound. “That was golden.”

Maloof, who hired Simon to operate the featured restaurant at Palms Place, said Simon “communicated with his eyes and emotions. You could say something to him and knew he understood.”

One of the happiest moments, Jacobs said, happened in December when Simon dined at Nobu at the Hard Rock Hotel with her and Hard Rock executives.

“The chefs came out of the kitchen and treated Kerry like a rock star. People were coming up and asking to take pictures with him,” she said. “One of them handed him a phone. It was Matsuhisa Nobu saying he was honored Kerry was dining in his restaurant that night.”

Frazier immortalized with statue

Las Vegas VIP host Gene Kilroy was in Philadelphia on Saturday to speak at the unveiling of a statue of late boxing great Joe Frazier.

The 11-foot, 1,800-pound statue shows Frazier at the moment his left hook sent Muhammad Ali to the canvas in the 15th round of the “Fight of the Century” in March 1971.

Kilroy was invited by Frazier’s family to speak at ceremony, held at the South Philadelphia Sports Complex. Also attending were former boxing champions Bernard Hopkins and Michael Spinks.

Earlier, in the company of Frazier’s son, Marvis, Kilroy placed a wreath on Frazier’s grave on Ali’s behalf. On the wreath were the words: “May you rest in peace until we meet again. And when we meet again, we’re not going to fight, we’re going to hug.” Kilroy, who worked for Ali as his business manager, said Frazier’s statue was “long overdue.”

The scene and heard

Larry Ruvo and his wife, Camille, on Friday were presented with the Veronica and Andrea Bocelli Award for their efforts in brain health research through the Keep Memory Alive and Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. The surprise presentation took place at the Academia Gallery underneath Michaelangelo‘s David.

On this day

Sept. 13, 2007: O.J. Simpson and three accomplices barge into a hotel room, hold up two men at gunpoint and take sports memorabilia that Simpson claims belongs to him. He subsequently is arrested and convicted for robbery and kidnapping and sentenced to up to 33 years in prison.

Sightings

PGA tour veteran Scott Piercy, a Las Vegas native, dining at Crush (MGM Grand) on Saturday. Piercy is having a solid year that has him in good position in the four-tournament FedEx Cup competition.

The punch line

“I’m super excited about being on a network that has football twice a week because I’m a huge fan. I’ve got pigskin in my blood. That’s why I’m on Lipitor. My doctor says my cholesterol is slightly higher than a seven-layer dip.” — Stephen Colbert

— Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow him: @Norm_Clarke

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