With the running of the third horse race of the Triple Crown, just a few days away, I thought my readers would enjoy a first person story about the Kentucky Derby from a dear friend of mine, Mary Wilson, a founding member of the world famous “Supremes,” who attends the Derby every year. It’s her time to party, rest, and to breath in the cool, crisp air of Kentucky, and to wear a huge hat. Here it is, along with a few photos, just as she lived it and wrote it:
“Why I Lost the 2014 Kentucky Derby Race!”
By Mary Wilson
Why I lost the ‘Big’ race at this year’s 140th Kentucky Derby, is of course that I know nothing about gambling, and I didn’t follow my tips. Well, I have won and lost thousands of dollars in Vegas gambling on cards, in fact, I was a pretty good gambler. I frowned upon anyone who “split tens” or who didn’t “stay” when they had 17, while playing Blackjack. One year I was at the gambling table in Las Vegas with, George Hamilton, and I won enough to buy my 1959 “Rolls Royce.” In the late sixties and seventies, I was a big gambler. However, after getting married and having children, I learned I could no longer be so cavalier with my money, plus times were changing so I just stopped gambling.
Well that is, except years later when my publicist got me invited to, The Kentucky Derby, and I started betting again, however, now it was on the horses which I knew absolutely nothing about. Oh, I had gone a few times to races when we, The Supremes, played at ‘The Latin Casino,’ and there was a race track just across from there in New Jersey. Even then I knew nothing about the proper way to bet. I never looked at the tip sheets or read anything about the horses. I just enjoyed the adventure, and I would choose my bets on sheer luck, and the names of the horses that resonated to me, (you know “eenie, meenie, minie moe”), that was my technique.
The Barnstable Brown Gala
The weekend is filled with all kinds of exciting parties and the City of Louisville lays out the ‘red carpet,’ because they aim to please the thousands of people who are in attendance. Though there are hundreds of parties, restaurants, cafés, and bars that open their doors to Derby goers, the ‘Barnstable Brown’ Gala, is THE primo, pre-Derby invite of the weekend. The Gala is a fundraiser in which all of the proceeds go towards the work to fight against Diabetes. The Barnstable twins, Patricia and Priscilla, always invite all kinds of celebrities to perform at their very ornately decorated home, located in one of the prestigious neighborhoods in Louisville. There are thousands of fans who line the streets to await the arrival of all of the stars from stage, TV, and the music world. Of course all of the limos are filled with big-hats, champagne, and Mint Juleps as the stars and the elite “party” together all night long.
A big incentive that is an allure to celeb’s who attend is that they all have their own personal police escorts for the weekend, who drive them to all of the various parties going on around town. And, the stories they tell are priceless! It’s not like: “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” My escort, celebrity biographer Mark Bego, and I wanted to win the big race the next day, so we got tips for the Derby, and took pictures with all of our celebrity friends as we arrived at the party. California Chrome was one of those tips we were given. California Chrome was a long shot of a horse, so we did not put it down as a winner, but we definitely wanted to bet on it. After arriving and hearing all the screaming fans at The Gala, we went to the “Red Carpet,” and gave press interviews. Most of us singers are asked to perform with the house band on-stage, as this ensures that the guests from around the world, and the drawling Southerners, all have a great time. Plus, they donate more money for Diabetes! No one minds jumping up there to sing a song or two, as the perks and the fun of hanging out with all of the other stars, makes it well worth it. Did I neglect to say that Diabetes is in my family? So, Diabetes research is very dear to my heart. My biological dad had Diabetes, and later in life had to have one leg amputated, so I knew this was a great cause.
The Party Was Jumping
I ran into the former “Doublemint” twins, the Barnstable sisters: Trisha and Priscilla. They always want me to go on early to perform “to get the party started,” they say, but I like to go on later when it is already happening. As we sat down, Jennifer Holliday, was going on stage to sing, and boy did she look and sound great! Her dramatic weight loss makes her look like another person than she did when she starred in “Dreamgirls” on Broadway in the 1980s. That night at the gala, stars were everywhere. It was amazing. We were placed at the same table with, Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora, who was very charming and quite friendly. Boy George came over and gave me a big hug, telling me that he had been to my last concert in London, and that he was sorry he didn’t get time to chat. In fact he was running off to do his gig at another party in town.
Taylor Dane, Joey Fatone, Johnny Gill, Travis Tritt, Boys II Men, and dozens of others were there, including the younger new stars, as well as the TV reality stars of today–many of who I had no clue who they were, but their screaming fans certainly knew them! I performed my two songs to pre-recorded tracks, and one song with the wonderful house band that played with everyone. Around midnight, after most people had sung their song or two, we had a spontaneous jam session. Taylor Dayne was up on stage, Richie Sambora, Joey Fatone, Johnnie Gill and I joined in, and what a fun time we had!
As I mentioned, the whole weekend was one exciting event after another. Thursday night when we arrived in Louisville, we immediately headed out for a dinner given by one of the weekend’s hosts, at Jeff Ruby’s restaurant, where we had our first Mint Juleps of the weekend. We went shopping on Friday before the Barnstable Brown Gala, to buy some materials for the project of redoing one of my old hats for The Derby on Saturday. It was a wonderful hat, but it needed some tulle, and other embellishments to really make it special. Oh, by the way I saw this gorgeous Green hat and bought it for next year. Friday afternoon we headed out to our first race of the weekend, The Oaks, which is the annual “Fillies” race. Mark and I won a number of races that day and we were very happy of course.
The Day of the Big Race: The 140th Kentucky Derby
After staying up half the night working on my hat, which turned out beautiful by the way, we were all ready for the big Saturday race. We even had our list with our horse racing tips. Mark had chosen a very attractive lime green jacket and we finished off my huge black and white hat. We had so much fun that day. We won a few small bets and had lots of Mint Juleps, which I have now sworn off. I don’t see how those Southern Belles can drink them all afternoon. They are made of sugar, bourbon, and mint leaves. Well it all sounds good anyway! Again we took loads of photos with all of the stars, which I’ll include a few if Norm allows the space (Sure, Norm) to show you. By the time the big race came around, I was pooped. Too much of the “sugar spikes” from the sweet drinks I’m sure, When it came time to place our Derby bets I did not check our list, nor did I remember the biggest tip of all. I asked Mark to make the bets as I sat half asleep at our table. The big race came, and it was exciting. Only then did we realize we had not made the bet on California Chrome. What a bummer, maybe that’s why I will never drink another ‘Mint Julep’ again, and why I lost the big race at the 140th Kentucky derby.
The next day Mark and I went to his friend’s lovely home in another part of town that had these beautiful restored Victorian homes, where we stayed a few days to cool off. Our hosts took us to see several of the beautiful homes in the neighborhood, and to some great restaurants too. It was at lunch on Sunday that we ran into Steve Coburn, one of the owners of California Chrome, the winning horse. Steve said he had asked a friend to take him somewhere where he could get a nice cold beer, and it just happened to be at the same place where we having lunch. It was an amazing weekend of fast horses, big hats, Mint Juleps, and one party or event after another…and there I was, right in the middle of the action with the owner of the winning horse.
Does anyone know where I can take some horse betting lessons; I already have my hat for next year.