Recalling the delicious glamour of Kerry Simon

I remember interviewing Kerry Simon in a backroom, many crispy-sesame-rice sushi rolls ago, at his glamorous boutique pool-restaurant Simon at the Palms, where waitresses in pajamas offered everyone cotton candy for brunch.

I told Simon he needed to invent a stationary bike table, where I could be awarded my next delicious bite only after burning 25 calories. It was my dumbest oldest joke, he laughed, we went back to work.

A year later, I ran into Simon at his restaurant. I was eating by the window overlooking the roof pool. I saw a Southern California-looking woman in a bikini drinking Champagne on this Sunday morning in the shallow water. Simon told me in his soft, sweet voice about my idol Bill Murray coming in the other day; they were old friends. Simon said he would call me the next time Murray was in town so I could meet him. I apologized and said I would have to pass; a person should rarely meet his idols. He understood but said to alert him if I changed my mind.

A few hundred restaurant shifts later, I was eating at Simon’s again. I noticed Simon at the bar, and my girlfriend and I went to say hello. But something was wrong: He was moving slow, very slow, he had a cane, he could talk, but something was amiss. He didn’t say what, and we badmintoned small talk. I found out in weeks’ time he was battling a devilish disease intent on slowing a person to a crawl.

Ensuing months brought public attention back to the man Rolling Stone magazine called the “Rock ‘n’ Roll chef.” He had the hair for it. And there would come glowing tributes, wealthy fundraisers, experimental treatments and stories of Murray visiting Simon, by then in a wheelchair, while the Palms dismantled his restaurant because it’s Vegas, after all, new, new, new.

Now Simon is gone, he went Friday morning, as many of us discovered by scrolling photos people posted of themselves with Simon, on Facebook, where many called him a friend.

I was never close friends with Simon. We texted a few times, but I tried to keep a journalist’s distance. We were friendly acquaintances, that’s what you’d call it in a different city, so in that way we were “Las Vegas friends.”

Goodbye, Kerry. I will never eat cotton candy without thinking of you. I will always imagine your quiet, Zen smile, flowing hair, by the pool, Britney in the cabana, Avril in PJ’s at George‘s table, “Real Housewives” filming by the chandelier inside, the aroma of tempura talking me into indulging a second serving of the high life.

Doug Elfman can be reached at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman. Find him on Twitter: @VegasAnonymous

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