Luxe Life Blog
Photos: Andre Agassi’s star-studded Grand Slam raises $8.5 million
By Don Chareunsy, Vegas DeLuxe editor
The Andre Agassi Foundation for Education raised nearly $8.5 million during last night’s star-studded 15th Annual Grand Slam for Children benefit concert at the Wynn. The tennis legend, philanthropist and hometown hero’s amazing concert lineup after a red carpet, cocktail reception, dinner and live auction featured a surprise appearance by legendary comedian Bill Cosby, the Las Vegas debut of The Canadian Tenors, Peter Cincotti, Jason Mraz, Jennifer Hudson, Rob Thomas and, the evening’s headline attraction, Sir Elton John, all under the direction of David Foster.
A.J. Green, the valedictorian of Andre Agassi Preparatory Academy’s first graduating class last year, 100 percent of whom were accepted to college, sang Taylor Hicks’ “Do I Make You Proud,” the crowning song of American Idol’s Season 5 winner, before the live auction, then returned to the stage after Mraz to sing a last-minute “Rock With You” by Michael Jackson, and a surprise duet of “I Am Changing” from Dreamgirls with Oscar winner and newly slimmed down Jennifer Hudson, who stunned with her sexy blue gown and spot-on vocals.
“I am both impressed and thankful for the tremendous support we have gotten for this milestone, the 15th Grand Slam,” Agassi said in a statement. “From the incredible group of artists who gave their time and talents, to the generosity of Genworth Financial and all of our supporters, this is a proud moment for us. The success of the event allows us to make a positive difference in students’ lives as we work to transform education.”
The $8.5 million is $500,000 more than last year, especially impressive in the downturn economy, and the 15 fundraising galas have amassed $91 million, so next year’s benefit is likely to reach the $100 million milestone. During the dinner, Agassi thanked Las Vegas casino resort mogul Kirk Kerkorian in a heartfelt speech that included crediting him for saving the struggling Agassi family over the years.
During the segment in which audience members were asked to pledge $2,500 to support the academic year of a student -- and which was matched 100 percent by the Ralph Engelstad Foundation, Kerkorian and Steve Wynn were among the donors who pledged 50 students, while another donor pledged 10 students for 12 years. Agassi, running throughout the audience in his black suit and understandably breaking a sweat, hugged and kissed donors and even offered up smooches from wife and fellow tennis legend Steffi Graf, who was glowing in an animal-print dress.
Bidding at the live auction during dinner and before the concert with auctioneer Christian Kolberg was fast and furious: A painting by Loppo Martinez and Agassi Prep students Jasmine Robinson, Jada Glasco and Shannel Andrews went for $45,000; a breakfast and studio tour with The CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric and tickets to The Late Show With David Letterman, $15,000; a dinner for 12 at home prepared by New York chef and Top Chef Masters champion Susur Lee, $50,000 apiece to two bidders; Viagogo’s Ultimate Sports Experience (tickets to the 2011 Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals and NCAA Final Four), $65,000; a trip to India and lunch with actress Freida Pinto, $75,000; a lunch and swimming with Olympic champion Michael Phelps, plus an impromptu addition of pitching lessons from World Series champion and Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux, $60,000; lunch and drum lessons with Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, $35,000; a private dinner for six with Robin Williams in San Francisco, $100,000 apiece(!) for three donors; a trip to the Cayman Islands with Agassi, Graf and Michael Mina, $100,000 apiece for three donors; a dinner for four with Emeril Lagasse in New Orleans, $50,000; a custom, hand-blown Robert Kaindl chandelier, $50,000; a Longines watch and a trip to Tokyo, $40,000; and a hockey experience with Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille and the L.A. Kings, $15,000.
Mr. Vegas DeLuxe Robin Leach covered the red carpet, which included Agassi and Graf, Foster, Lee, Mraz, Thomas and wife Marisol (who were celebrating their 11th anniversary), Steve Wynn and Andrea Hissom, Elaine Wynn, Terry Fator and Taylor Makakoa, The Canadian Tenors, David Blaine and Mike Krzyzewski and wife Mickie. The dinner crowd, along with Kerkorian and Maddux, included gubernatorial candidates Rory Reid and Brian Sandoval, The Mirage President Felix Rappaport and CNN Senior White House correspondent Ed Henry. Thanks to contributing photographer Tom Donoghue for his photo galleries and to loyal Vegas DeLuxe reader Richard Corey for his videos from the red carpet posted on YouTube.
Check back right here at Vegas DeLuxe tomorrow for a recap of the once-in-a-lifetime concert after the dinner and live auction. Tomorrow, Mr. Leach will report his red carpet conversations with all the stars, including Agassi’s first comments about his lawsuit against Pure Management Group and Elaine Wynn’s reaction to making Forbes' list of the 400 wealthiest Americans for the first time.
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.
Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.