Las Vegan Billy Gaines is overseeing the World Series of Beer Pong at the Westgate hotel after undergoing open-heart surgery seven months ago.
Gaines is only 35, an engineer who swims competitively, winning four events in his age group at last year’s U.S. Masters nationals.
But his heart started doing something funny/not funny, possibly because of genetics or stress.
It was vibrating.
“It sounded like a cellphone was buried in my chest,” he recalls. “It sounded like, ‘Vrr, vrr, vrrr.’
“My girlfriend could hear it lying next to me.”
At first, doctors thought he was healthy.
So he did his own research and discovered an old medical case from more than 100 years ago of a Denver/Las Vegas guy whose heart sounded like seagulls cooing. That guy died, got autopsied, and the results pointed to a problem also lurking beneath Gaines’ chest:
A valve was leaking, splashing his heart with blood at such an angled force, it caused the vibration murmur and made Gaines sleep 12 to 20 hours.
This would have killed him but he found a top surgeon to repair it.
“It’s now leaking mildly instead of severely,” Gaines says. “I could be looking at three, four open-heart surgeries throughout my life.
“Hopefully, the repair will last at least long enough for technology to (plug the leak). In the future, they’re looking at growing heart valves genetically. There are all kinds of cool things they’re doing in that space.”
He says he wasn’t scared going into surgery, because odds were very low he’d die on the table.
Gaines has an optimistic message for people facing murmurs: Talk to each other.
“One of the things that helped me get through it was talking to other people” who were about to go through the same thing, he says.
Now he’s back to operating his Vegas-based World Series of Beer Pong organization. Friday night promises a pool party at Sapphire Pool and Day Club and a side event at PBR Rockbar & Grill in Planet Hollywood hotel, and that’s in addition to competitions at the Westgate hotel, culminating in $65,000 in prizes on Sunday.
Gaines is determined to get his swim stroke back, too.
“Within the next year or two,” he vows, “I’m going to swim another lifetime best.”
HART TO HART
Kevin Hart has been doing it up in Las Vegas for a while now.
Last Friday, he and his buddies commanded a VIP booth at Chateau nightclub in the Paris hotel-casion, then took on Crazy Horse III strip club, for his bachelor party.
Saturday, they went to 1 Oak with Damien Wayans. Monday: Jewel nightclub in Aria. Tuesday: Topgolf and Heart of Omnia at Caesars Palace.
Wednesday night, he took his birthday party to a private room in Beauty & Essex restaurant in The Cosmopolitan, consuming chile relleno empanadas, chicken meatballs, spaghettini, prime dry-aged sirloin, drinks made with cognac and amaretto, and a Las Vegas-themed birthday cake.
If his bride takes his name, they’ll be Hart to Hart. If so, that wedding cake better be a cheesecake because “Hart to Hart” is cute but cheesy.
BEATLES COMING FOR ‘LOVE’
Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, and Olivia and Dhani Harrison RSVP’d for July 14’s 10th anniversary of the Beatles-Cirque du Soleil “Love” show.
Other RSVPs are actresses Mira Sorvino and Dot Jones, rocker Joe Walsh, filmmaker Ron Howard, “The Bachelor’s” Chris Harrison, musician Mark Foster of Foster the People, actor Christopher Backus, Olympian Nastia Liukin, and “So You Think You Can Dance” judge Arlene Phillips.
That’s quite the powerhouse red carpet heading for The Mirage, especially because the remaining Beatles are probably the most celebrated living figures in the English-speaking world, don’t you think?
Justin Timberlake teed off at Topgolf ultra-golf range on Wednesday with friends surrounded by Timberlake’s own brand of tequila, Sauza 901.
Timberlake, 35, will receive the Teen Choice Decade Award on July 31. That makes him, like, The Legend of Teens. When did you last dream of being the Legend of Teens?
Plus, Timberlake and James Belushi have been cast in Woody Allen’s next movie. Which sounds like it’s not true? But it is.
Late one just came in: Singer Ashanti, rapper Chanel West Coast, actor Dennis Haskins (“Saved by the Bell’s” Mr. Belding), and Chumlee partied at Sky Beach Club in the Tropicana hotel over the weekend.
More predictably, Dennis Rodman drank on the patio of Cabo Wabo Cantina in Planet Hollywood on Wednesday, after drinking there three straight days last week.
Doug Elfman can be reached at email@example.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman. On Twitter: @VegasAnonymous