Back downtown out front a loft space on Market Street, Stuff magazine had unfurled its red carpet.
“It’s all about the big ass hats,” said the actress Regina King, looking forward to the big event. She said she intended to bet on the horse with the best name. So far IMAWILDANDCRAZYGUY was her frontrunner.
“I would say half our list is New Yorkers tonight,” said Stuff’s publisher John Lumpkin. “We bring that national attention from New York, you see a lot of young people down here from New York that love horses. It makes it that much more of a national event.”
Mr. Lumpkin recalled that a few years back there had been some uproar from Derby traditionalists concerned about Taco Bell and Long John Silvers signing on as sponsors to the Derby. “I mean, if you look at our title sponsor it’s Polaroid. Every celebrity that comes here tonight is gonna walk out of here with their own new Polaroid camera so they’ll all be ready to make their own photo finish, which is great!”
Allan Houston, just having walked the red carpet, said he was surprised to see so many New Yorkers in town. But, said the Louisville native, “Overall I think the Kentucky Derby has an identity that’s attached to Louisville.”
The party happening just down the street was trying hard to be all New York. Stereo, the hipster nightclub with its main incarnation on New York’s West 29th Street, had set up an outpost in the V.I.P. section of the Louisville nightclub, Felt.
Inside—it was around 2 a.m.—Star Jones, clad in a black mini-skirt was getting freaky with her husband Al Reynolds, as Adam “DJ AM” Goldberg burned up the turntables. Mr. Reynolds was gyrating up against Mrs. Jones’ backside, his hand positioned oddly on top of her head, while hers clutched the back of his thigh.
Nearby Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minnillo shared a table with fallen Miss America Tara Connor.
“Did you hear?” gushed a reveler. “Vanessa just tried to have Tara Connor removed from their table. Ha!”
Moments later, Mrs. Jones’ publicist Brad Zeifman handed his client five dollar bills. He had bet her that Paris Hilton would not get jail time. Mrs. Jones, who had just that weekend—right there in Louisville!—inked her new contract with Court TV, threw the bills up in the air. “Spread it around!” she said, making a spreading motion with her hands. “Spread it around!”
Later that night Kevin Federline arrived with a harem of nine blonde girls; Kid Rock took a turn on the turntables.
“I felt like it was a good forum for us to showcase our New York City vibe,” said Stereo owner Michael Satsky the next day, outside the Churchill Downs entrance, which was also equipped with a red carpet. “And when a brand like Pama”—it’s a liqueur!—“comes to the table and they believe in what we do…”
Once inside the gates, however, in the general access areas surrounding the paddock and grandstand bleachers, Mr. Houston’s statement about the event’s Louisville identity began to ring true. Women in big fancy hats and low cut blouses exposing large, low hanging breasts abounded in every direction. Men wore various shades of seersucker and other forms of preppy attire. There were also those without shirts, Mardi Gras beads only.