The entertainment world lost one of its biggest personalities last week.
Denver promoter Barry Fey, who booked many of rock ’n’ roll’s biggest names in Las Vegas, died last week at his home.
He crammed about three lifetimes into his 73 years.
The first line in his 2011 book, “Backstage Past,” begins: “Mick Jagger was teaching me how to snort cocaine.”
He introduced U2 to Frank Sinatra at the Golden Nugget. Diana Ross of The Supremes fame insisted he not talk to her. Years later, after complimenting him for his professionalism, she said, “You may call me Ms. Ross” and even invited him to Michael Jackson’s birthday party.
It’s one of the juiciest celebrity tell-alls I’ve ever read, and I wish had I called him and told him that. I also would have told him I now understand why, during most of my 15 years as a tidbit-scrounging reporter in Denver, he was keeping his stories to himself.
There’s the Elton John-Rolling Stones barbecue blowup.
Elton was recording at Caribou Ranch near Boulder in July 1975. The Stones were playing that week in Fort Collins at Colorado State University’s football stadium.
“It turned out to be one of the worst, if not the worst, dates I did with the Stones,” Fey wrote. “Part of the reason was they had some new musicians, like Billy Preston on keyboards, and they weren’t quite in sync yet, but Elton sure didn’t help things.”
Elton, who had promised the boys a big post-show barbecue back at the ranch, was watching from offstage. That was huge to Fey, a serial eater whose 5-foot-9 frame ballooned to 300 pounds.
Early in the show, Jagger announced a friend, “Reg Dwight,” was going to sit in on piano.
A smattering of applause greeted Dwight, aka Elton John, who was wearing a blue Dodgers jacket and a cowboy hat.
Instead of playing two or three songs, the Honky Cat played for an hour, according to Fey.
The Stones were so furious they canceled out of the barbecue.
Fey was crushed.
But Elton was devastated “that the Stones felt that way about him.” Fey said he was told “by people at the ranch” that Elton was so despondent that night he tried to commit suicide.
The last time I saw Fey was in a restaurant at the MGM Grand, where he often worked with his friend, Richard Sturm, the resort’s entertainment guy.
As we broke bread a few weeks after I got here in late 1999, the usually tight-lipped Fey offered a prime morsel.
A deal was in the works, he said, to bring Bruce Springsteen to Las Vegas for the first time. Wouldn’t say where. I ran it, and it turned into my first big scoop in Vegas. The Boss arrived in May 2000, opening his show with “Viva Las Vegas” while wearing a silver-sequined Elvis cape.
I thought of Barry on Saturday during the Kentucky Derby coverage. Oh, how he loved the ponies. He won the 1983 Caesars Palace Handicapping Contest, walking away with the $104,000 first prize.
R.I.P., Barry Fey.
More on that major development I mentioned here last Sunday, regarding the large parcel of vacant land directly west of the Sahara Hotel: Two sources confirmed a production company from Rio de Janeiro has been in town finalizing plans for a “Rock in Rio” event in September 2014.
It will be a “Woodstock” type of venue with crowds of at least 80,000 people per day anticipated.
The organizers would hold the event every two years.
Word has it Electric Daisy Carnival founder Pasquale Rotella wants to move EDC to the site. It would be near the front door of Sam Nazarian’s hip SLS Las Vegas, which is undergoing a $415 million renovation.
THE SCENE AND HEARD
Tony Hsieh’s fire-breathing praying mantis will make an appearance today outside La Comida from 3 p.m. to 4 a.m. Monday. Inside: bartender John O’Donnell is marking Cinco de Mayo, his birthday, with green tequila shots.
Courtney Love, spotted at Color salon at Caesars Palace on Saturday. … At Hakkasan (MGM Grand) on Friday: Hilary Duff and her husband, former NHL player Mike Comrie, and Haylie Duff, “Entourage” star Adrian Grenier, actor/comedian Aziz Ansari and DJ Tiësto. … Former Eliot Spitzer mistress, Ashley Dupre, sipping champagne with asphalt magnate and baby daddy Thomas “TJ” Earle, in the lounge Friday night at Andrea’s (Encore). … NFL veteran Richard Seymour, in a bungalow with a party of 12 people at Encore Beach Club on Friday. … “Shark Tank” star Kevin Harrington, at Startup Weekend at the InNEVation Center on Saturday.
THE PUNCH LINE
“The owner of an ice cream truck named Snow Cone Joe was arrested for allegedly stalking his rival truck, called Mr. Ding-a-Ling. It’s being called the saddest turf war ever.” — Conan O’Brien
Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke. “Norm Clarke’s Vegas,” airs Thursdays on the “Morning Blend” on KTNV-TV, Channel 13.