Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Derby Recap: Millionaire's Row Part 1

If you haven't read Hunter S. Thompson's essay "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved," here is a link.

Beyond drink and lack of sleep, our only real problem at that point was the question of access to the clubhouse. Finally we decided to go ahead and steal two passes, if necessary, rather than miss that part of the action. This was the last coherent decision we were able to make for the next forty-eight hours. From that point on -- almost from the very moment we started out to the track -- we lost all control of events and spent the rest of the weekend churning around in a sea of drunken horrors. My notes and recollections from Derby Day are somewhat scrambled. - Hunter S. Thompson

I've been to the infield three times. The last time I went it was $40 to get in, although I hear the price has gone up, which gets you everywhere in the track except the grandstands. You can hang out at the paddock all day, or you can drink all day and get muddy in the infield. The last time I went, I showed up right at 6:00 -- about eight minutes to post -- and the gatekeeper let me in for free. I promised to buy him an ice cream, which I did.

I prefer Derby parties to going to the track, and I always said the only way I'd go to the track again was if I had a ticket to Millionaire's Row.

Yes, I'm aware that I lead a charmed life, and the only response I have to that is that I promise you I never take it for granted.

Thursday afternoon, Peter Searcy called me with an extra ticket to Millionaire's Row for Kentucky Derby Day.

It's pretty much impossible to get a ticket to the grandstands (and definitely not the most exclusive part of the grandstands) on Derby Day because they are legacy seats, sold-out for generations, and only available to those willing to pay thousands and thousands of dollars. You can buy bad seats on eBay sometimes for a few hundred bucks, but the hassle of crowds and parking and rain isn't worth it. Millionaire's Row is aptly named and no doubt the best way to see the Kentucky Derby.

Layla, Peter's wife, was decked out in a short silver dress and a wide-brimmed aquamarine hat with a huge organdy ribbon. Kristy wore a tight black dress with a diamond brooch (I finally know what brooches are for), patent leather heels, and the widest black hat the with biggest silk red rose I've ever seen. They looked like the image of the Derby. Kristy belonged on the cover of a Derby coffee-table book, and Layla looked like a supermodel.

I wore a red and white cotton dress and sparkly red ruby slippers. Rather than don a wide hat (I wear wide-brimmed hats every day ever since I had a pre-cancerous mole removed.), I wore red and black feathers in my wild curls.

We took the tour van to the track so all six of us could pile in comfortably. Driving down Taylor Boulevard was amusing, as we watched barefoot rednecks offer up their front yards to our van for $25. My favorite was a guy in a ripped up Lynard Skynard shirt with a terrible mullet and a cigarette dangling out of this mouth, holding a sign that said: "Sexy People Parking Here." We laughed haughtily and drove straight into the track. Millionaires don't park in lawns. Millionaires valet.

I hopped out of the van -- my ruby slippers have a sensibly low heel -- and giggled wildly at the absurdity of it all. The VIP red carpet entrance was right by the valet, and there was a huge crowd of gawkers snapping photos. We bypassed that and went for another gate. The entire way there, I skipped gleefully and repeatedly thanked Friend-Who-Gave-Us-Tickets-to-Millionaire's-Row. "This is the most awesome thing ever," I told him.

"Wait till you see the seats," he responded, amused by my Beverly-Hillbilliness.

To be continued...

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