Celebrities of all types came out to party on Kentucky Derby eve, putting the spotlight on Louisville the night before the world’s best known horse race.
“I come for the food. I come for the parties. I come to meet people from all over, from sports to politics to Hollywood,” said model-actress Molly Sims, from Murray, Ky. “The Derby is more than just a race.”
Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and his three Playmate girlfriends — Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson — were expected to headline a cast of stars Friday night at the Barnstable Brown Gala, one of the biggest parties in a week filled with festivities.
Fans camped out early and were pinned behind metal barricades at the edge of the mansion’s green, waiting through heavy rains and thunderstorms to get a glimpse of their favorite celebrities. About 100 people stood soaked as the celebrities began showing up around 8:30 p.m. EDT, bathed in the camera flashes that lit up the damp night.
“I like Big Brown,” Hefner said, referring to the 3-1 morning line favorite. “I know a good thoroughbred when I see one.”
Others on the guest list included Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton; actor Edward Norton; Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly; and Dallas Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens.
“It’s definitely a different mix of people than we see in Hollywood,” Marquardt said. “That’s what makes the Derby unique.”
Carson Daly, host of NBC’s late-night show “Last Call With Carson Daly,” brought his mother to the Derby as a gift to her — and to help with betting.
“I’ll sit there and crunch the numbers on all the horses, and she’ll be giving me advice,” Daly said. “She picks them based on looks and stuff, but she wins.”
Louisville native Larry Birkhead, ex-boyfriend of the late Anna Nicole Smith, also was at the party, the same event where he and Smith met in 2004.
Birkhead said he bought a new house in Louisville this week but didn’t plan on picking a horse.
“I don’t bet that much, and I really wouldn’t know who I was betting on anyways,” he said.
Patricia Barnstable Brown and sister Priscilla Barnstable — the former Doublemint Twins — were co-hosting the party for the 20th year to raise funds for diabetes research at the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky.
Brown’s late husband, David E. Brown, was the inspiration behind the gala. After a long battle with diabetes, he died in July 2003.