September 26, 2003
The Indianapolis Star
By Susan Guyett
The celebrities heading to Indianapolis this weekend for the U.S. Grand Prix festivities are widely known -- but not to most Hoosiers.
A French film director and Serbian royalty round out a lineup that reflects Formula One's tendency to attract the rich and famous with European, rather than American, cachet.
A name many Hoosiers will recognize is designer Tommy Hilfiger, an F-1 racing fan. He'll be staying Downtown to attend Sunday's race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Grand Prix in past years has lured to Indianapolis the likes of Great Britain's Prince Andrew, Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, Kid Rock and supermodel Heidi Klum, but there's been less buzz this year about VIP arrivals.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway spokesman Ron Green said it's too early to predict the star power that would show up in Indianapolis this weekend.
"Often times (celebrities) are guests of teams and sponsors or F-1 management," Green said. "The Speedway might find out during the event or after the fact that they were here."
He said the U.S. Grand Prix needs time to develop its own celebrity following for the race, which is in its fourth year. "Compared to the month of traditions involved with the Indianapolis 500 during May, the USGP is still in its infancy," Green said.
Indianapolis will be graced with royalty this weekend as Prince Alexander II and Princess Katherine of Serbia and Montenegro attend tonight's Evening of Angels gala hosted by Christel DeHaan. DeHaan is using the race as a backdrop for the event. By Sunday's race, the royals will be gone.
Other famous folks expected here are golfer Tom Watson and actor Anthony Edwards, who will be guests in Speedway President Tony George's suite Sunday.
Actor/model Antonio Sabato Jr. and X-Games star Travis Pastrana will be here to drive in the Porsche Michelin Supercup race Sunday. Look for Sabato today on the Circle near the Batmobile, raising money for the Christel House.
"Beverly Hills 90210" star and former race driver Jason Priestley planned to be here for the race but won't arrive until Sunday night. Priestly and Oscar-winning producer Jonathan Shestack, who co-founded Cure Autism Now, are scheduled to play in a golf tournament that raises money for local charities, sponsored by Standard Management's Ron Hunter.
The Ferrari Team is hosting French movie director Luc Besson, whose movie titles include "La Femme Nikita," "Taxi" and "The Big Blue."
Chris Clifford, St. Elmo Steak House's general manager, said the Downtown restaurant is expected to be as busy as ever this F-1 weekend, hosting private dinners for teams and business executives who are entertaining clients.
Clifford said he's found Grand Prix visitors prefer keeping a low profile because they are here to enjoy the race, not to promote a movie or a project as they often do during the Indianapolis 500. The Speedway and the 500 Festival traditionally have worked together to attract celebrities to the annual May race to boost its appeal.
Does that mean we shouldn't be on the lookout for some superstar Formula One fans?
Bradley Lord, spokesman for the Mild Seven Renault Team, said schedules change, and some fans might decide to make the trip at the last minute.
Caterer Wendall Fowler, whose firm normally fuels the private jets with snacks and meals, said he has come to expect calls at the last minute from these elusive jet setters.