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Andre Agassi and friends make sure kids win again

October 19, 2003|Steve Pratt | Times Staff Writer

The city that usually takes was in a very giving mood at the eighth annual Andre Agassi Grand Slam for Children, which raised a record $12.3 million, easily doubling last year's total.

This is how it's done in Las Vegas, at the biggest single-day fund-raiser of the year and one of the biggest entertainment nights: Tears for Fears' Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal reunited on stage for the first time in more than a decade, and Sarah McLachlan performed for just the second time at a major live event following a three-year hiatus.

Grammy Award winner David Foster produced the Oct. 4 extravaganza. Comedians Dennis Miller and Robin Williams performed. Billy Joel and Sheryl Crow sang. And everyone paid tribute to Elton John by covering one of his songs. The night concluded with John leading a chorus of his "The Bitch is Back."

The night didn't go off without a hitch, however, as John reacted to several of Miller's punch lines, including describing the French people as "scumbags" and deriding those who didn't support the war in Iraq.

"It's not an occasion to air your political dirty laundry," John told the crowd. "When people say, 'Why do they hate us so much ... ?' Dennis Miller."

"This is the largest benefit of the year in Las Vegas," said Perry Rogers, Agassi's childhood friend and advisor. "You're talking about the city of entertainment, and this event stands out above all others. I know there are a lot of big events like this in Los Angeles, but even by L.A. standards, this would be considered an enormous event."

The Agassi Foundation has raised $35.8 million since its inception in 1994. All of Agassi's charities benefit, but most of the money goes to the college preparatory academy that bears his name. Agassi said the weekend costs $1.2 million, a bill he pays himself. "I can't even imagine what they go through in Los Angeles to put on something like the Academy Awards," Agassi said. "This is just a huge undertaking, and takes hundreds and hundreds of people to pull off."

Robin Leach, creator of the '80s television show "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" and a Las Vegas resident, looks forward to the event each year. "Sure, celebrities come here for the boxing matches and other events, but you just won't see this many stars on one stage for a charity event. There is no doubt about it. This doesn't get topped."

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