What I loved and hated—and felt suspiciously neutral about—at the newly renovated, $500 million Horseshoe Casino, floating just off Hammond, Indiana. I checked out the spot Friday on opening night, along with about 6,000 other partygoers. Is this Chicago’s next nightlife destination? You be the judge.
• Maybe I still have a thing for Beaches, but the fabulously spunky Bette Midler (she’s 62!) rocked the house in the casino’s music venue, called—wait for it—The Venue. Midler’s 2,500-seat show sold out online in five minutes, possibly because she’s awesome; possibly because it’s a rare non-Vegas performance for the Divine Miss M, who’s booked five nights a week at Caesar’s Palace for the next few years. She seemed as surprised as the rest of us that she was taking a night off from her regular high-paying gig to play Hammond, which she joked about relentlessly, to relentless laughter. The Venue has great sound and sightlines, and a lineup of big shows, including Sarah Silverman on August 29th and Alicia Keys on September 13th.
• The stars from my guiltiest TV addiction ever, Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New York City, Bethenny Frankel and Countess LuAnn deLesseps, were kibitzing before Bette took the stage—just like real girlfriends—over Frankel’s Skinny Girls’ Margarita. Frankel insisted on fixing the drinks herself at the manned bar in the suite. No wonder both women are rail thin.
• I spotted Oprah’s former personal chef and Table 52 honcho Art Smith roaming the casino with a small entourage and a big smile. I wonder if he liked the free roast beef as much as I did.
Tara Reid was on her best behavior.
• Cheryl Burke took time off from Dancing with the Stars to be a total pain in the ass on the way to the casino. Hey, we don’t like the aroma of garbage that is the eau de Hammond either, but you won’t hear us complaining about a free ride.
• Rumors were flying that Kim Kardashian was hanging out in the Seven Stars VIP Lounge, where all of the highrollers retreated after Bette’s show. But we’re pretty sure it was Burke in disguise as an overdemanding C-lister. Oh, wait. No disguise needed.
• Josh Kelley, aka Mr. Katherine Heigl, performed on a small, exposed stage, right next to an overcrowded all-you-can-eat popcorn shrimp buffet. Needless to say, his show stunk.
• The casino boasts 350,000 square feet of space, 108,000 of which is dedicated solely to gambling, with more than 100 tables—and we still couldn’t get on a damn one.
• The hot mess that is usually Tara Reid was in our suite for Bette’s show, but, unfortunately, she was on her best behavior—she even caught a 7 a.m. flight to make it to Hammond on time—save for an embarrassing wardrobe mishap: a boring LV shoulder bag paired with a dowdy patterned dress. Tara, fire that glam squad you brought with you, ASAP.