A Grand Time

19 May

Diddy was there. So were Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Mayer (minus Jennifer Aniston), Alicia Keys, Josh Groban, Sopranos star Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Quincy Jones, Jon Secada, actor Jeffrey Wright, Village Voice columnist Michael Musto, and DJ AM. Apparently, Nick Cannon (aka the new Mr. Mariah Carey), Kim Kardashian, Whoopi Goldberg, CariDee English from America’s Next Top Model, Pepa from the hip hop group Salt-N-Pepa, and Jenny McCarthy were there too. And you know who else was at the exclusive, black-tie, invite-only Grand Opening of the new MGM Grand at Foxwoods? That’s right: me. I snagged a V.I.P. pass to the hottest party in Connecticut this weekend, and the event certainly lived up to the hype. Here are some highlights.

Superwomen: John Mayer, Alicia Keys, and Josh Groban — plus Michael Douglas and a stunning Catherine Zeta-Jones — were all part of a big concert produced by David Foster. Sadly, Foster overdid it with the self-promotion, and his parade of recently-discovered singing talents got really annoying, but the main attractions sure did bring the goods. Keys (who was joined by Mayer on “No One”) was the best of the trio, and I actually enjoyed Groban too (maybe because he only did five songs). The 4,000-seat theater itself is huge and the acoustics made the music sound really sharp. (By the way, that’s not my photo of Keys and Mayer, but none of the ones I took of the concert came out very well. The rest of the photos on this page are all mine, though.)

Beefy goodness: Before the concert, there was a dine-around where all the invited guests got to sample the Grand’s four restaurants: Michael Schlow’s Alta Strada, Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak, Junior’s, and Shrine. Nina, who joined me this weekend, and I started at Craftsteak, which was so so so good, and worth the 45-minute wait on line. If I had a regret about the weekend, it would be that I didn’t get more of the steak there. It rivaled the filet at Ruth’s Chris, and you know how much I love Ruth’s Chris. Also really really really good was the chocolate mousse cheesecake at Junior’s. It was served in small glasses, and Nina called it “a shot of dessert.” I had two. (What?! They were small!)

Simply grand: I suppose now is as good a time as any to talk about the place itself, which is very swanky. Not quite Vegas-level, but yet nicer than Mohegan Sun and the main Foxwoods Resort Casino, the MGM Grand at Foxwoods reminded me a lot of the Borgata in Atlantic City. They both have very classy, elegant, upscale designs. This, by the way, is the largest casino in North America — if you include the main Foxwoods, which is located adjacent to the MGM Grand and connected by a bridge. The $700 million MGM Grand property alone covers 2 million square feet and there are 825 guest rooms. That’s huge. Nina and I had a room on the 22nd floor, giving us a nice view. The shower was not as good as the shower in my condo, but the bed was one of the most comfortable ones I’ve ever slept in. Every employee I came in contact with was overly friendly, and while there were some hiccups on opening night (most notably, a few novice dealers at the blackjack tables), this is certainly a worthy destination if you’re looking to escape from New York or Boston.

Diddy did it: Speaking of escape, the highlight of the entire weekend was Diddy’s party. Characteristically over-the-top, the room was filled with models in elaborate (though skimpy) exotic dress and wandering Cirque du Soleil–esque performers. In particular, there was one hot pole dancer in incredible shape who was — well, let’s just say she was impressive. When the party began around 10 p.m., the room was filled with many uncool, older folks. By midnight, the majority were younger and decidedly hipper (ahem, Nina and I included). Diddy himself arrived soon after with his entourage and plenty of security, and instantly became the center of attention (no surprise). He stepped to the DJ booth, commanding everyone — whether they were black or white, whether they were married and hadn’t had sex in a year, or whether they had no sense of rhythm, etc. etc. — to get on the dance floor. Nina and I busted a move for a while, I snapped plenty of pictures of Diddy (who was literally inches or a few feet away from me at varying times during the evening), and it was just so cool. As the man himself said, “Ain’t no party like a Diddy party,” and he sure did host a good one.

Seeing stars: As mentioned up front, the place was crawling with stars all night long — some of whom were more visible than others. I never did see Kim Kardashian or Jenny McCarthy, but apparently Nick Cannon was in Diddy’s party. He must have been in the cordoned-off VIP area. DJ AM was at the turntables at the party at Shrine, and we never went there. But others, like Quincy Jones and Jeffrey Wright were just out and about. It was always amusing to catch a glimpse of Michael Musto, who I never saw smiling — despite his wise-cracking on-screen persona when he’s on shows like Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Extra cool was that I just happened to be in the lobby at the right time when Diddy came through to go to the party, and I was also right there when an intoxicated Jamie-Lynn Sigler momentarily left the Shrine party so she could have her picture taken on the red carpet.

Hello, gorgeous: It was very cool to be one of the first people to stay, play, and eat at the MGM Grand. I’m thinking the bed was so comfortable partly because it hadn’t been “broken in” yet. The towels were still luxuriously soft. When the casino opened for the first time at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nina and I were right there, and we helped inaugurate a couple blackjack tables (which started with $25 minimum bets and went up from there as the evening went on). Walking around before midnight, when the place opened to the public, the casino was largely smoke-free. It was all so sparkly new and clean and gorgeous. Oh, and speaking of sparkly, new, clean, and gorgeous, as a gift for being a V.I.P. guest at the Grand Opening, I received two beautiful Waterford crystal champagne flutes, perfect for special occasions, plus cookbooks by Schlow and Colicchio. And when we got back to the room at the end of the evening, waiting for us was a stuffed lion (a lion being the MGM Grand mascot). Nina and I split the loot, of course.

A real winner: I wish I could also say I was successful at the blackjack tables, but I had an off night and the $25 minimum bets really did me in. I’m calling my losses an “entertainment expense,” and given how much fun I had, I would definitely say it was money well spent. I am now eagerly wanting to go back to the MGM Grand. (There are plenty more photos where these came from. Just click here to see them.)

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One Response to “A Grand Time”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. "Breathless?" « Martin's Musings - September 1, 2012

    […] Maybe you’ve come to my blog today via Boston.com, which has been linking all day to my recap of this weekend’s festivities at the new MGM Grand at Foxwoods. […]

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