How did Ryan Dempster convince his Cubs teammates to wear tuxedos and man the blackjack and craps tables at his charity event Wednesday, just hours after the team’s game against the Atlanta Braves?
I’m not exactly sure. But whatever he did, it’s worked for three straight years now.
The third annual Dempster Foundation Casino Night at Palmer House Hilton hotel again featured appearances from the entire Cubs roster -- including Kerry Wood, Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano and Matt Garza -- and Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein.
(To put that in perspective, most athletes are able to get only two to four teammates to come to their charity events.)
The Cubs players shuffled and dealt cards for the guests at their tables with a professional dealer at each of their sides. Some had the dealer routine down while others looked like they hadn’t held a deck of cards in a while (I thought I was the worst at shuffling a deck of cards until I saw Darwin Barney do it). But what matters most, obviously, is that it was all for a good cause, the Dempster Family Foundation, which focuses on raising awareness of 22q11.2 deletion.
In addition to their dealer duties, players posed for photos and signed autographs for the 600 or so guests. Wood was sporting his new crew cut, which he proudly told me he cut himself, and seemed to be the fan favorite, posing for endless photos throughout the night.
WWE Champion CM Punk was dressed down for the festivities, which should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his personality. The Chicago resident and life long Cubs fan threw out the first pitch and sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the Cubs game the previous day and told me the entire experience was “perfect.” He was joined Wednesday by former WWE Diva Lita and friend and fellow wrestler Colt Cabana, who said he has a pilot in the works with Jamie Kennedy Entertainment similar to Comedy Central's “Insomniac with Dave Attell.”
And yes, “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks was also there, as he usually is at Cubs-related parties. No, the Bears’ Israel Idonije was not there, which is unusual since dude goes to everything.
Guests were treated to a performance from former “American Idol” runner-up Crystal Bowersox, who performed Janis Joplin’s version of “Me and Bobby McGee,” and a magician, who performed his card trick for former Blackhawk and current Florida Panther Brian Campbell. The live auction included a baseball signed by Babe Ruth that went for $21,000. Here’s hoping the winner does a better job of taking care of the ball than Smalls did in “The Sandlot.”
Get it? Because Smalls' step-dad owned a baseball autographed by Babe Ruth until the neighbor's dog ... you know what? Nevermind.
Big ups: The Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital named a playroom on its oncology floor after Kerry Wood and his wife Sarah thanks to their contribution to the Heroes for Life campaign. The Woods cut the ribbon on the the Kerry and Sarah Wood and Wood Family Foundation room Friday during a private reception.
Heads up: Actor Charlie Sheen will take part in the Dash for Detection 5K Walk/Run for pancreatic cancer research June 2 in Grant Park. To register, click here (via Kelli Zink) ... Supermodel Cindy Crawford will attend Starlight Children’s Foundation Midwest’s Annual Gala May 19 at The Standard Club. For tickets, click here. … Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer, stars of “Franklin and Bash,” will host a screening party for the TNT series May 17 at the Brew & View at the Vic Theatre. For tickets, email your full name and age to FranklinandBashChicago@gmail.com.
On the record: “If Rahm Emanuel is so afraid of my popularity in Chicago maybe I should run against him in the next election.” – Tom Morello talks to Rolling Stone about the city’s decision to move the National Nurses United rally away from Daley Plaza after it was revealed the former Rage Against the Machine guitarist would be taking part.
“My plate looks different than it did a few months ago.” – Food Network star Paula Deen talks to my Tribune colleague Chris Borrelli about the effects of her diabetes at Paula Deen’s Kitchen in Harrah’s Joliet Hotel & Casino.
Sightings: Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons and members of the British rock band, The Kinks, dined Tuesday at RPM Italian. … “Saturday Night Live” alum Tim Meadows had dinner at Hub 51 Tuesday. ... The Bears J’Marcus Webb partied Saturday with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams from “I Made America” (maybe you’ve seen the weekly webisodes?) at Moe’s Cantina in River North.
Watch this: If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know I’m a fan of R. Kelly’s work. He’s the only artist who can get me to bob my head, shake my head, laugh and then bob my head again all in one song. In his new video for “It’s On,” Kells doesn’t disappoint. He sings exactly what you would expect R. Kelly to sing about: A female who has “more curves than a race track.” Enjoy.