Luxe Life Blog
Photo Gallery: Reba McEntire’s butterflies; country stars rehearse and play
Everything is in place for tomorrow night’s all-star lineup for the 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards. Eleven-time consecutive host Reba McEntire promises that the live CBS broadcast from the MGM Grand Garden Arena will be “the biggest and best yet.”
I can confirm now that illusionist and MGM headliner David Copperfield will make his first appearance on the show in a magic sequence with Taylor Swift. The noon rehearsals today are cloaked in secrecy, and only top-line producers, Taylor, her band and the camera crew will be allowed. It’s closed and off limits to all else!
Today will be the third day of rehearsals for the awards. Photographer Kevin Winter shot the official photos for the academy, who provided these photos from the first day of rehearsals. Later today, we’ll add Kevin’s second-day shots.
Click HERE for our coverage yesterday, which includes a list of the scheduled performers. Country queen Reba not only hosts for the 11th consecutive year, but she also will perform her new single “Strange” for the first time live on stage. She’s also nominated for Vocal Event of the Year for “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” with Brooks & Dunn. Reba, who has won 12 ACM Awards, took time out from her rehearsals yesterday to talk with me.
“It is an awesome responsibility to host this show and perform in it at the same time,” Reba told me. “Once you get through the first five words, it ends the fear, and from that point on, it’s like plowing the fields on the tractor to follow the lines. It’s not easy, but I try to remain as cool as a cucumber in the middle of all the pressures of doing a live show of this magnitude. It’s important to deliver your lines, know the words of your songs and still be able to perform it and give a great performance the audience wants to watch of you being at your best. So it is a lot of pressure, but I think I can pull it off.
“I absolutely still get butterflies in my stomach -- and never more so than performing something on stage with a band for the first time. That’s what we will be doing with my new hit ‘Strange.’ I’m nervous: There will be a lot of butterflies floating around. It’s like the first time you wear new shoes. You go slowly and carefully. So a new song on a national television broadcast is certainly going to have me very nervous.
“How strange is ‘Strange?’ It is a strange song for me. It kind of reminds me of my first No. 1 record back in 1982 -- singing the blues in a sassy way. This is the same premise. He left me. I’m crying. I can’t get the blues no more. I toss and turn and can’t fall asleep. Strange -- same kind of thing. But talk about luck, I woke up and the sun was shining. Same premise. It’s a tough woman’s song to prove I can live without you.
“Country music is relatable music, and I think that’s why country music has always been so popular. We live our lives out there on the sleeve for everybody to see and hear! People can relate to it. A lot of people in the audience will say, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s my song.’ She’s singing that song about me. Then others will go , ‘Yep, I left my girlfriend. Sure wish I had her back. People will relate to this song, even if I am nervous about it on the show.”
I asked Reba how the slowing economy is affecting country music. “In every way,” she said. “Record sales are down. With concert tickets, you go to a show and see you had twice as many people three years ago. Look at statistics of people losing homes, losing jobs; you’re lucky you have a job to go sing to them. I don’t care if I have 50 or 50,000 people in the seats. So glad they are there. My job is to entertain them and take their mind off their worries and troubles for a little bit.
“Listen to John Rich’s new song about ‘Detroit Shuttin’ Down.’ I think you will see many more country stars echoing the sentiments of the land at this time. We usually step up when there are hard times. Country music is the one that sings about it the most. We were there for our veterans and the war support. With ‘Detroit Shutting Down,’ that’s what country music does. It sings about our troubles -- and solves problems. When you sing about it, people talk about it, and that helps release stress. Then you can talk and solve problems.”
Reba admitted that she loves both performing in Las Vegas as a country star and also hosting the academy show here. “I just love this city. I don’t know if it’s a country city, but it’s always fun to be around the excitement, the lights, the glitter and the glamour. Everybody is always enthusiastic to be here. It kind of draws us in.”
I asked Reba to think back to her first hosting 11 years ago of the ACM Awards show. “My hair is better today,” she laughed. “So big back then! So messy. So long -- so my hair is definitely better, my clothes look a lot better, my makeup is better, and boy am I in better shape than I was back then. I’m also a lot more at ease in doing the show. I think I pull it off better -- and of course then I had Mac Davis and John Schneider as co-hosts, and today they make me do it all by myself!”
“I can look back 11 years and cringe. What was I thinking then? At least I’ve gotten better and not worse,” she laughed. “ I’m OK about aging gracefully in front of America. I’ve got a lot of help to get me in shape, get me down the road looking like I do. I just turned 54, and I’m loving life, loving what I’m doing, and I thank God every day for letting me do what I do. I’m very blessed and very thankful to be hosting again this year.”
Reba told me that two days earlier, comedy actor Will Ferrell had changed his “Live or Die” Web site to “Reba or Die” as an April Fools’ Day prank. “He put up all my old Hee-Haw skits. I cringed: The big hair, the horrible acting and the worst timing with my jokes. He didn’t have one current piece of video up -- just all the old videos. It was so bad back in those days. He also joked I’d paid $34 million for the company to take over his site! Thankfully, it was all a great joke!”
Since Reba admitted that she’s now 54, I had to ask if she’s slowing down or even thinking about retirement. “Absolutely not,” she declared. “No slowing down. No retiring. We’re busier than ever with my bedding, clothing, bath, luggage and shoe lines, and we’re about to launch a line of silver products, too. The new single is out, and a new album comes in the summer, and I’ve got shows, including a stop in Vegas, coming up.
“My husband is managing Blake Shelton and Kelly Clarkson, as well, so we’re really busy. Shelby is doing great, and all the grandkids are doing well, so I don’t have a complaint in the world, except that I’ll miss the George Strait salute here Monday night. This is my last Spring Break with Shelby because he’s graduating this year, and we just had to spend the time together. There won’t be another one, so I’ll have to watch George get his salute on TV like everybody else. It’s an absolutely great honor for him, and I’ll be cheering him on from the couch!”
Meantime, the stars are out and about on the town: Kenny Chesney hit both The Playboy Club and Moon at the Palms last night. Two Playboy Bunnies presented him with a Playboy Key, which gives him lifetime access to the Palms attractions. Kenny joins an elite group with the key, including George Clooney, Matt Damon, Paris Hilton, Gwen Stefani, Brad Pitt, Michael Phelps and Josh Duhamel. Kenny danced and took photos with fans in between sipping Ketel One and cranberry, Red Bull and Lemon Drop shots with his entourage.
LeAnn Rimes dropped in to see the Bette Midler show at Caesars Palace last night and wound up backstage afterward to chat with the Divine Miss M.
Rehearsals continue today at MGM with Miley Cyrus this morning making her first ACM Awards debut, Taylor Swift and David Copperfield at lunchtime and Faith Hill and Tim McGraw early evening. The stars rehearse for both the awards show tomorrow night and the George Strait salute Monday night.
Fans who want to see the cavalcade of country stars walk the red carpet should expect to see first arrivals at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow afternoon. It will last about two hours, when doors close and the live telecast begins at 5 for the 8 p.m. ET broadcast.
Check back to Vegas DeLuxe all weekend long and again Monday. We’ll have all the photos and stories onstage and behind the scenes, plus interviews with the winners!
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.