Thursday, August 12, 1999

'P' in ATP might stand for pampering

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hanging around the party tents and beer gardens at the Great American Insurance ATP Championship ...

        • Player Vince Spadea spent Tuesday night working the room in the Time-Warner party tent. Most players don't do that — they like to stay focused on tennis — but Spadea was eliminated earlier in the day after a loss to Nicolas Lapentti, so he shifted to a party mode.

        “I plan to stay all week, right through every party there is. I love to party,” he said. Then hauled out that deliciously dry wit of his and gave no one a serious answer: “I'm totally opposed to anything fun,” he said when invited to the Beach. “Oh no, I don't like pretty women at all,” when someone asked about the constant parade traipsing to the table — even as he was leading a chorus of “Happy Birthday,” showing that Pavarotti has nothing to worry about.

        • Tennis coach John Skelly, a veteran of 72 million tournaments, talking about how tournament directors Paul and Bruce Flory and their staff pamper them: “They won't let you spend a dime. I got here five days ago with about $20 in cash. I still have $18. They feed you, water you, give you cars, free tickets to anything. I don't know what I'd spend money on.”

        One more thing about pampering from Skelly: “Lasy year after Vince beat (Andre) Agassi, he had to play (Pete) Sampras. But after four days of eating here, he couldn't get into his shorts. Had to wear practice shorts when he played Pete.

        “I had to ask Adidas for an extra-large shirt, too. I blamed the dry cleaner,” Spadea added.

        • Know what Sampras is getting for his 28th birthday today? Lots of people at the tournament do, but it's a surprise and he doesn't get it 'til later today.

        But ... seems a shopper showed up at one the the exhibition booths surrounding the stadium Tuesday night and dropped close to $400 on a, well, er, gift. Nice gift. Small. Powerful. Ought to really ring his bell.

        • E.J. Hilvers, commanding a small army of servers, bartenders and cooks from the family catering business, was talking about how the party scene has grown: “Every year is bigger. We have more than 30 parties tomorrow (Wednesday) alone. Do you have any idea how many hams and turkeys that comes to? I can't keep count anymore.”

        DOWNHILL SLIDE: Meanwhile, over at the Beach, the staff is still talking about Andre Agassi's Monday visit.

        He and an entourage of about 15 — “several women and all gorgeous,” one staffer said — showed up about 9 p.m. for a late-night slide or two after the park closed.

        Problem is, Beach lifeguards go off duty when the park closes, so management had to ask for volunteers. “Funny thing,” says public relations consultant Alliea Phipps, “even though they were supposed to be off, they were all yelling "me, me, me' when we asked if anyone would mind staying late.”

        Agassi posed for pictures, signed autographs and, of course, went downhill fast on any number of water slides.

        The same staffers who volunteered hand over fist to stay late for Agassi are now lining up for a rumored Sampras visit, which Beach people won't confirm — “They ask for no media,” Phipps says — but that everyone thinks will be tonight at closing time.

        Knip's Eye View appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Have an item to report? Call Jim Knippenberg at 768-8513; fax: 768-8330.