Anybody out there still following this? You've got one more week. Too much going on in setting up Curtis and co to lay down the finishing touch. Next week, I promise, The Spin actually takes place. And then I take this story on its next journey. But until then...fun times and more questions.
At the Epicenter
of the Whirlwind
From the seed planted by the frustration with his monthly financial statements less than a year ago, it had all boiled down to this for Curtis Stanfield: the night before, the morning after, and The Spin itself.
The night before was nothing less than utopian. The "Who We Are and Wow We Got Here" set-up show ran on Fox and chewed up the overnight ratings. The timing couldn’t have been better—the nation was still reeling from a heart-stopping Super Bowl game that was decided in overtime the Sunday before, the broadcast of which Fox used to incessantly promote the hell out of its two-part The Spin special.
Curtis watched his show on giant HD screens set up in the Wynn’s Tryst nightclub amongst friends, sponsors, media and guests of the casino who gathered for what was called a private party, albeit less-than-intimate with a crush of over 1,500 people. Although originally scheduled for the Encore Theater on the other side of the property, the party was moved to these cozier confines as the theater rattled with preparatory activity for the next night’s main event.
The screening was followed by a Barnumesque ceremony where Steve Wynn himself unveiled a specially-commissioned work of art to commemorate The Spin: a 25-foot-high, steel and crystal roulette wheel that rotated vertically like a Ferris Wheel, designed by renowned large-scale sculptor Will Ryman. The Spin’s gigantic, perpetually turning disc would become—like the brass statue of Elvis Presley a few blocks away at The Hilton—an eternal calling card outside the Encore’s front door. To top off the evening, Curtis sipped Coppola’s Black Label Claret (Official Wine Sponsor of The Spin) from his seat on a specially constructed stage in the club and watched Green Day perform a spirited 75-minute set of their hits in his honor.
While this was the culmination of one of his earliest and most personally exciting demands, Curtis couldn’t resist looking away from the on-stage mania to sneak peeks at two folded documents tucked into his jacket’s breast pocket.
The first was a legal agreement drafted by Sidney Tusk and signed by Miranda for a lump-sum, final financial settlement of $1.5 million. Despite the good fight, she was only entitled to what Curtis had earned while the two were together, and this round figure finally put an end to the squabbling and mounting legal costs.
Good thing, given the contents of the second document, which was a Final Report provided by Lisa. It listed all 32 Official Sponsors of The Spin, ranging from both Johnnie Walker Black AND Red (Official Spirits of The Spin, both now to be mixed with Red Bull as the Official Drink of The Spin) to Verizon Wireless (Official Wireless Carrier of The Spin) to Wrigley’s Big Red (Official Chewing Gum of The Spin). Adweek Magazine had just labeled The Spin “The marketing bonanza of the year…perhaps of the Millennium so far,” and although only February, named Team Curtis “Marketers of The Year.” Lisa’s comprehensive six-page doc also listed spin-off, licensing and ancillary deals like TV shows, story rights, speaking engagements and the like. Finally, most importantly, it listed the sum total of all these deals: $11,785,000.
“How’s that for a Valentine’s Day present?” she wrote at the bottom by hand. “Now what are you buying me?” She overlaid her swooping cursive scribble with a fiery red lipstick imprint.
-- -- --
Given the whirlwind at which he was at the epicenter, Curtis was racing with adrenalin and found it a little hard to get any rest that night before.
The morning after didn’t help.
Even though ensconced in an upper-floor suite, Curtis was woken on Spin Day by the hubbub of megaphones, chants and a strange whirr coming from the ground hundreds of feet below. Looking out his panoramic windows, he gulped when he identified the source of the vocal clamor—a massive protest by the anti-gambling lobby that surrounded the Wynn like a human moat of sign-toting screamers. As for the machine-like hum, he rubbed his eyes at the bizarre vision of hundreds upon hundreds of lycra-clad bodies on exercise bikes. Yup, Schwinn had carried out their PR mission/threat of hitching on to Curtis’s wagon by mounting the World’s Biggest Spin Class, and had rented out space out front of The Palazzo hotel across the street to do just so.
Of course, the red light on his phone was flashing, too.
“Didn’t want to wake you buddy, but figured you’d better know,” Joey’s familiar voice said on the message. “Two small planes tailing ad messages for ‘The Pull’ and ‘The Toss’ crashed in mid-air. One pilot’s dead, the other parachuted to safety, but is in hospital with eight cracked ribs and a ruptured spleen. Kleinman says serves ‘em right for trying to step on our event, but told me to tell you that if anyone asks, you just say how saddened you are.
“Don’t let this get to you!” he continued, amplifying his voice and injecting it with a soupcon of upbeat. “We’re almost there! See you at rehearsal!”
After enjoying a half-hour multi-head, multi-directional shower (“Feels like a horizontal thunderstorm,” as Lisa described it) in his 400 square foot bathroom, Curtis left his suite, winked at the two bodyguards flanking his door, and made his way with them down a secret express elevator to meet Polly Kamins, Fox’s choice as Stage Director for The Spin’s live broadcast. Looking like a lion with sharp feline features and flowing mane of sandy brown hair, the veteran was waiting to walk him through the detailed and precise process of putting his life on the line in front of millions of rabid viewers.
“Sorry about the planes this morning. And the protest,” she opened.
“Thanks. It’s awful. And silly,” Curtis shrugged.
“Okay, now with that behind us, I have to make sure you’re up for what’s in store. This is going to be like the military.”
“I’m ready,” Curtis assured her with a salute.
With Joey, Lisa, Kleinman and Curtis’s star-struck parents looking on from the sidelines, Polly explained that Curtis would be snuck out of the hotel and into an SUV limousine, which would start the persistent, multi-camera coverage of his every move. The limo would be driven around the block, then down Las Vegas Boulevard through a phalanx of fans; “Kind of like Moses parting the Red Sea,” she explained. After passing directly under the Kanye/Jay-Z performance, the limo would pull up to the front door of the Wynn Encore.
“What about the protesters?” Curtis inquired nervously. “How will we get rid of them?”
“We won’t. Darnell thinks it makes great TV.”
“You’d think that Fox set it all up themselves.”
“Wouldn’t put it past ‘em,” Polly smirked. “Wouldn’t be the first time, either.”
With a path cleared by the combined efforts of private security and the Las Vegas police force, Curtis would then head down a sparkling red carpet (with a distinctive black stripe down the middle), where he would be met and interviewed by Steven “Cojo” Cojocaru, the madcap fashion guru who spices up celebrity entrances at the Oscars, Emmys and other high-profile showbiz events. After an hour kibbitzing with, and commenting on, the parade of stars gathering for The Spin, Curtis would be Cojo’s closing subject.
“This segment is a big plus for your sponsors,” Polly added. “Be ready for him though, he’s probably going to make fun of your outfit.”
“Won’t be hard,” Curtis said under his breath.
“After that, the cameras will follow you as you walk through the casino to the theater doors. We’ll hold you a few seconds, and time your walk-in to coincide with the opening notes of Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘The Red and The Black’. Then, you walk down the aisle, to the stage, bow slightly to each of the ‘teams’ on stage and, voila! Pick your color!”
Curtis breathed a slight sigh of relief.
“Not that simple, though,” Polly cautioned. “We’ve modified the standard roulette procedure because of the star involvement and the one-time nature of your bet. At first, the cameras will focus in on Muhammad Ali as he presses the button to start the wheel. Then they’ll cut to the people pulling the lever to release the ball, then cut over to you.
"And because the ball will take about 10 seconds to slide down the tube and drop into the wheel, we want you to wait until it does before you make any move. The whole thing will be accompanied by a drum roll, starting at Ali. Your cue is the cymbal crash and trumpet blare that puts a button on the roll. Once you hear that, and ONLY when you hear that, can you lay down your chip.”
And what a chip he would lay down. Over and above the collector’s line of commemorative “The Spin” chips the Wynn properties would use exclusively for two weeks prior to the event, Curtis would be given a distinctive token, hand-crafted out of titanium, by show host Ryan Seacrest, to make his bet. The denomination on this chip would be a record $4 million, 40 times the value of the previous most valuable chip ever, the $100,000 baccarat chip at the Paris, Las Vegas casino. It would also mark the singular largest table wager in the history of gambling. (While The Spin was based on Curtis’ earlier net worth of $3,878,422.97, the Wynn group wanted a more media-friendly round number, so they fronted an additional $121,577.03, which Curtis would re-pay if he won…and be irrelevant if he lost.)
“The placing of the bet has to be timed and choreographed to the second.” Polly was almost chiding him now. It’s the way she always got things done—three parts excitement, one part fear, wrapped in a cloak of “been there, done that” expertise comfort. “Don’t ever forget that we’re going out live. Any questions?”
“Not right now,” he said although his head was swimming upstream. “Maybe later.”
“We ain’t got a lot of later left, big boy.”
Curtis looked at his watch. It was 12:43. The Spin was scheduled for 8:00 p.m…but 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, which made start time 5:00 p.m. Vegas time, a little more than four hours away.
The convoy of limos delivering celebrity members of Fox’s Team Red and Team Black had already stared to flow through the hotel’s stately entrance road, bringing flashes from the paparazzi, squeals from the gathered throng and even louder shouts from the protestors.
The hills were alive with the sound of mucus. It was the cacophony of lunacy, the clatter of madness.
Curtis rode up the express elevator thinking that in just a scant few hours, this would all be silenced.
To be CONCLUDED next week...