Ali Answers Celebrity Bell

Muhammad Ali is undoubtedly the greatest boxer in history, possibly the greatest American athlete ever, and a thoughtful man of dignity and easy grace, even in his more difficult, later years.

So is foisting Diddy on his birthday gala any way to treat him? Even money Diddy slipped airplane bottles of Cîroc in the back of Ali’s wheelchair when no one was looking.

Feb. 18 saw the 16th annual Power of Love Gala take over the MGM Grand Garden Arena to raise money for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health downtown and the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Ky., in honor of Ali’s 70th birthday.

Just walking in the door cost $1,500, and the bash netted millions—including $1.1 million paid by Lorenzo Fertitta for the gloves Ali wore in his 1965 fight with Floyd Patterson. For that kind of dough, everyone got a show. Hell, for that kind of dough, everyone was the show.

The guest list started in the back of house with Tom Colicchio, Scott Conant, Michael Mina and Wolfgang Puck doing dinner. From there, attendees ranged from the sublime (Buzz Aldrin) to the ridiculous (Tony Danza).

Stevie Wonder came cross-country from Whitney Houston’s funeral to serenade Ali with “Happy Birthday”; Joe Perry jammed with Raphael Saadiq; LL Cool J had Evander Holyfield, Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy “Hitman” Hearns onstage during “Mama Said Knock You Out”; Slash played with Lenny Kravitz; and Diddy did a number with Diddy’s ego. Those kinds of things can only happen on a magical night.

Among the other attendees: Samuel L. Jackson, David Beckham, the shambling remains of Larry King, Quincy Jones, Snoop Dogg, Cee Lo Green backed by a phalanx of Jubilee! girls, Terrence Howard’s terrible career decisions, Kelly Rowland, James Gandolfini, James Gandolfini sidekick Steve Schirripa, Jim Brown, Anthony Hopkins and Manny Pacquiao, who is more likely to fight Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini at this point than Floyd Mayweather.

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